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.
So what exactly does coding for 5 year olds look like? As it turns out, we all use 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. Brushing your teeth? Getting dressed? Making pancakes? All of these are examples of real-life algorithms we use daily. We’ll explain how to use these examples below in a kindergarten coding activity for your classroom.
If you are looking to introduce the basic concepts of coding 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 easy to understand. If you are looking to introduce simple coding for kids, the best way to start is with a lesson on Algorithms.
An algorithm is an instruction given in order to complete a certain task and receive the 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.
You can write out this algorithm in steps using a visual schedule. Students will need to put the steps in order to design the correct algorithm that will get them dressed in the proper order. Computer programmers need to break down complex steps and order them correctly. This process is called decomposition and is one of the four cornerstones of computational thinking.
Kindergarten Coding Activity Suggestion
Are you looking for simple coding activities for kindergarten? Check out this simple unplugged coding activity that teaches about algorithms using hotwheels!
Coding Concept 2: Sequence
Teaching kids about the concept of a sequence is a fairly easy task. Sequence is basically completing a task in a certain order. So, if we refer to algorithms above, it means putting those instructions in order. A great introduction to coding for kids is to learn about sequencing, as this is a core skills that is foundational to many concepts across the curriculum.
You can easily integrate a lesson on sequencing by reading a popular children’s book or nursery rhyme. Break the story into pictures that explain the sequence of events in your book. For example, if you are using a popular story such as Little Red Riding Hood, you can ask students to identify the correct order of events when little red goes to grandma’s house. This fun printable activity will help kids understand the sequence of a story.
Have fun with programming for 5 year olds!
There are so many ways to learn about sequencing! Check out our super silly screen free coding activity that is the perfect way to teach a 5 year old to code!
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?
When explaining coding to kindergarten kids, it’s useful if we start with an example of something that they already do every day. For loops, 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.
Have your kindergartens outline the steps they take to get to school. Perhaps these might be:
- Walk out of the house to the bus stop
- Wait for the bus
- Get on the School Bus
- Make 4 stops
- Arrive at school
- Walk to the kindergarten classroom
Wouldn’t it be a lot simpler if we didn’t have to write out all these steps every time we went to school? We already do this naturally, by labeling this algorithm as our ‘getting to school’ routine. Since every day we repeat the same steps, this is a considered a loop. Computer programmers use loops to make their programs more efficient.
When kindergartener students learn loops, they also become faster and more efficient. For example, learning how to get dressed for outdoor playtime goes faster when the teacher only has to say ‘get dressed’ and does not have to tell each child to put on each item of clothing separately.
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.
Kindergarten Coding Activities that Use Branching
Teachng coding to kindergarten can be explained with this 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. Debugging is one of my favorite coding skills to teach in the kindergarten classroom, as this concept teaches skills that go well beyond the computer. There are so many benefits to teaching kids to code, and debugging helps kids build resilience and problem-solving skill essential for their future.
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 simple maze. You can use our simple maze made with a deck of cards below or draw your own. Start out by giving instructions to the students that cause them to run into an obstacle or wall of the maze. They will soon realize that there is a “problem” with these instructions and have to figure out how they can fix them to solve the maze.
Debugging isn’t always the easiest coding concept to understand. Most children can become impatient. Many want the answer right there and then. It is an important coding concept to learn because problem-solving plays a large part in computer programming.
Programming for 5 year olds
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 everyday 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.