Coding for kids is an opportunity to design, think, analyze, create, solve and bring ideas into reality. Forget about everything else, there are very few subjects that have the potential to integrate so many skills of a human-being together to create something from a young age. Therefore, kids across the world love to program because it inherently caters to the most basic needs of a child which is to explore, analyze, and create.
Let your child explore coding
It is important that all children get exposed to coding just like helping them learn a new language or sport. It is not necessary that they will become professionals in that, but they’ll learn a lot of stuff consciously and subconsciously. For example, being a software developer I always look at tech very differently. I look at tech specifications and I know what I need to look at in the hardware before I buy something, rather than just buying it on brand value. I don’t intimidated by any technology even if it is the latest like the genAI. So, there are a lot of conscious and subconscious benefits to learning coding at a young age with the right fundamentals.
Let your child learn and explore programming. Then they can later decide what to do with it. It is just like learning biology – all of us don’t become biologists, but it is important to have a basic sense of biology, medicine, and life sciences. Enroll your child into a solid program that helps him or her gain the best fundamentals in a clean way. With that solid base, they’ll be able to learn on their own later. There are plenty of resources to learn programming – free and paid – and it is important for them to get a good hang of at least one or two programming languages before they move into graduate school.
Help them to experiment with their learnings. Programming provides probably the best opportunity to learn by trial, experimentation, and mistakes. One can do so many experiments with logic, constructs, flow, design, and interfaces. Children can create multiple games, apps, websites, robots, and mini hardware interfaces that can help them learn how the bigger counterparts are really made in reality. They can play with multiple audio, video, processing, design, physics of movements, and more.
Introduce them to the Top-Notch People From the Industry
When I was learning software programming, we folks were tremendously influenced by Linus Torvalds and Dennis Ritchie. Till date, I love those two for what they’ve done. When we used to code in Linux, we used to feel like we were the warriors of open-source software. We used to contribute and help the open source movement. The point is students need somebody to look up to, and you need to introduce them to some people from the industry who are doing the cool stuff and take inspiration from their humble journey.
Challenge your child to do the tough stuff
Ask your child if they can make an app like DuoLingo (a similar simple version of it) or some other favorite app of theirs with some variations. The chances are that they will most likely be able to do a simple version of it. Or they will even go after the bigger challenge itself. They get inspired by the challenge, and even if they don’t accomplish it completely they will have tremendous learning in the process. Make it interesting to them by asking inquisitive questions like what does a hard-disk look like internally, how do we use waves for communication, how can you build a two player maze runner game, how do small transistors become the CPU, and how are prime numbers and encryption related.
Combine them with other kids
Often because programming is not an easy thing to do and sometimes when things are not happening it can be a bit frustrating, it is beneficial to have multiple kids paired up to accomplish a task. Kids will learn from each other’s mistakes and learnings, they will also support each other when one is having the going tough, they will play on each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and ideas to accomplish the overall goal. It helps them understand teamwork very well and appreciate coding and computer-science more.
Combine coding and puzzles
Kids are generally intrigued by puzzles. Imagine bringing home a puzzle, the first reaction would be “I can solve it”. As humans, especially kids, have a tremendous internal conviction that they can do anything. You have to use that to inspire them towards programming. At UnicMinds, we make children solve the popular puzzles and games like Rock Paper Scissors, Mario, SuDoKu, Chess, etc. We ask them to think about how to program games and interfaces like these games. This helps to challenge themselves; coding some of these games is no trivial task. So, they will learn a lot in the process and get engaged into learning a lot of new concepts.
Acknowledge their progress
And finally, please acknowledge their progress. It is important to provide them healthy concrete feedback which will help them to move forward. In the initial phase to the intermediate phase, coding can be difficult sometimes and it is during that phase that they need encouragement from parents and guardians. As educators, we also are cognizant of this and we try our best to make it interesting, but sometimes it is really important to say those encouraging words to them to keep them moving and learning. For example, please encourage them to participate in coding competitions for kids. This enables them to develop a competitive spirit and also learn relatively where are there strengths and weaknesses, giving them more opportunities to learn.
No matter what, learning programming is one of the most enjoyable activities I’ve done in my life. It is the same for a lot of people that I know. And, therefore we know that it will be a fulfilling experience for a lot of kids and teens too. When you pick up a programming book and do the programs and get the output, it is nothing less than a “Eureka” moment for that kid and as adults we know that experience is rare in life. So, put your kids into coding without thinking about anything else – it will benefit them crazily in the long run. And believe us, we’re not saying this because we teach coding. We truly believe it is an extremely important area of learning for kids even in the modern AI world where some of the programming will be heavily automated.
Hope this is useful, thank you.