Coding for kindergarten kids is actually much simpler than you think. Kids as young as five can already understand some of the basic coding concepts, even if they don’t know what they are specifically.
Children (and adults) use these coding concepts on a regular basis without even thinking about it. You would be surprised how almost anything you do in your daily life can be used as an example when explaining the concepts of computer programming to kids.
If you are looking to introduce the basic concepts of coding to young kids such as those in kindergarten, here are some super easy ways to do it.
Here are 5 basic coding concepts 5 year old’s can understand.
Coding Concept 1: Algorithm
If you use the word algorithm with a five year old, it probably won’t mean much them. However, they actually use algorithms on a daily basis and the concept is quite simple.
An algorithm is an instruction given in order to complete a certain task and receive a desired result. So, a computer programmer will write an algorithm to tell the computer how to perform a certain task to produce that result.
Explaining algorithms to kindergartens means telling them in their own language. Think of things they do every day, or they see being done every day.
One great example is deciding which clothes to put on when you get dressed. So, if you have just got out of the bath or shower, which piece of clothing would you put on first? You wouldn’t put your underwear on after your jeans would you? Or you wouldn’t put your t-shirt over your sweater/jumper. When getting dressed there is a certain order to put clothes on to make sure you are dressed correctly.
For a simple unplugged activity that teaches about algorithms, check out our blindfolded LEGO maze activity!
Coding Concept 2: Sequence
Teaching kids about sequence is a fairly easy. Sequence is basically completing a task in a certain order. So, if we refer to algorithms above, it means putting those instructions in order.
One example which is great to use is telling a story. If you are using a popular story such as the Three Little Pigs, you could break the story up into pictures. Then mix the pictures up and put them back in the correct order.
The wolf isn’t hanging around at the start of the story is he? That would be after the pigs are in their new houses they have built.
There are so many ways to learn about sequencing! Here is a simple idea for a treasure hunt at the pool which teaches kids the concept of sequencing.
Coding Concept 3: Loop
Mention the word loop to kids and they may already have an idea of what it is about. What is a loop? Something that goes round and round again and again right?
So, if we use the example of something they do every day, it isn’t a hard coding concept for them to understand.
An example could be how they arrive at school every day. If every day the child takes the same directions either by foot or by car, this can be considered a loop. So, the directions could be:
Go out of the driveway and turn left.
Forward 500m and turn right.
Go Forward 200m and turn left.
Now Forward 500m and arrive at school.
If they do this every school day, then instead of being given the same directions every single day, they only need the instructions once. Then the additional instruction that it is the same set of instructions every day meaning a loop.
Coding Concept 4: Branch
Branching basically means checking conditions which determine the choice being made. So, in other words, making a decision depending on what is happening or what has happened.
When explaining the coding concept branching to kids, you can use an example of their school day using different steps. You can start with what you would expect to happen.
5.Go to school
6.Come home from school
9.Read a book
10.Go to bed
Then to go into more detail you could ask things such as:
“But what if on Wednesdays you have tennis practice after school, how would that change your day?
“But on Thursday you are going out for dinner and you will get home late, so there will be no time for reading a book, so what does that mean?”
Using their routines, and the variations of their “normal” routine, can help kids understand what branching means when learning coding concepts for kids.
These ideas can be explained with an if/then coding game. Check out our cause and effect activity to learn about branching in the dark!
Coding Concept 5: Debug
Debugging has nothing to do with bugs and insects that kids find in the garden. Though that’s what they may think though when you first introduce this coding concept.
Debugging is basically fixing an issue that you come across within the instructions in order to produce your desired result.
So, if you are talking about debugging with kids, they basically need to understand that to debug, is to fix a potential problem.
A good example to use for kindergarten kids is giving them steps to follow and making an error in the mistakes. So, write out a “sequence” but put one step in the wrong order.
This can easily be demonstrated using a maze. Giving instructions such as:
Move right one step
then Move left two steps
then Move right two steps
next Move left one step
However to really emphasise the debugging concept, give the directions in a way that the child walks over the maze line or even into a wall. (may want to tell them to keep their arms out for this one) They would soon realise that there is a “problem” with these instructions, and need to adjust them accordingly, to make them correct.
Debugging isn’t always the easiest coding concept to understand though. Most children can become impatient. Many want the answer right there and then. It is an important coding concept to learn though, because problem solving plays a large part in computer programming.
With a simple deck of cards you can teach your kids how to code algorithms and debug them in a simple grid maze. Check out this coding activity for more details
Teaching coding concepts to Kindergarten Kids
All of these coding concepts are important for young children to learn not just when learning to code, but to have as every day skills to use throughout their lives. This is why we must start young. Coding isn’t just for adults, coding for kindergarten kids and school kids is just as important. The more they learn while they are young, the better they are set up for success in the future.
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