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How to Explain Coding to a Child

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What is Coding? 

Coding is a process of creating instructions for a computer to follow. These instructions are a type of language that humans use to communicate with machines. 

Coding is used everywhere and by everyone, from the website you are on right now to an electronic car’s engine.

How Does Computer Code Work?

Computer code is a set of instructions written in a programming language. Programming languages are used to create computer programs, which are instructions and routines that can be executed by a computer.

This is a simple example of computer code.

int x = 10;

x = x + 1; /* Assigns the value of x + 1 to x */

In this example, the variable “x” is assigned a value of 10 and then it is incremented by 1 so it becomes 11. Variables are placeholder that store data that can change over time. In this case, the variable’s name is “x” and its value “10”. The variable’s name reflects how it will be used in the program (in this case, as an integer). 

How Can I Explain Coding to a Child?

The best way to teach a child about coding is by doing. You can start by teaching them the basic concepts of coding through unplugged coding activities. 

The basic concepts of coding are: 

Decomposition

Decomposition is the process of breaking a large task into small, manageable tasks. It helps to make coding easier and more organized for developers.

Algorithm

In coding, an algorithm is a sequence of instructions telling the computer what to do.

Sequence

In computing, a sequence is an ordered list of commands that tell a computer what to do. In coding, sequences are used for looping and storing data.

Loop

Coding loops are a sequence of instructions that are carried out repeatedly until a certain condition is reached. Coding loops are used to make computer programs more efficient and effective.

Branching

Branching is a technique used to create a decision in code. It’s purpose is to allow the programmer to write code that can adapt and respond to different situations depending on the user’s input.

Debugging

Debugging is a vital part of the programming process that allows programmers to find and fix errors in their code. This can happen when a programmer has found an error but hasn’t yet figured out how to fix it, or when the programmer doesn’t know what’s causing the error.

Ten Tips for Teaching Your Child About Coding

Parents can encourage their kids to be creative and have the tools necessary for them to become proficient in coding. Here are some of our favorite tips for teaching your child about coding:

  1. Make it fun and interactive. There are many ways to learn to code, but some argue that the best way is with basic, unplugged activities; without a screen. With this approach, you can stimulate creativity by coming up with coding solutions in a physical space using household items like cardboard boxes or wooden blocks. Check out our entire collection of unplugged coding activities for fun ideas! 
  2. Get them started early. . Coding is more than just a skill. Learning to code at a young age can teach children how to think logically, analyze problems and solve complex issues. We’ve found that kids as young as four can learn coding skills in a a fun and engaging way. Check out our article on Coding for Preschoolers to learn more. 
  3. Give them a taste for coding using apps and games. There are a variety of different ways to learn how to code, but apps and games are a particularly accessible way for beginners. These allow children to learn basic coding skills while playing a game or having fun on their phone or tablet. Check out our review of the best apps for teaching children to learn to code. 
  4. Try different coding tools to see what they like best. One of the first steps in introducing coding to children is choosing an appropriate tool. There are many different code tools and languages, such as Scratch, Blockly, MIT App Inventor and others. To determine which one is best for your child, try a few out before settling down on one.
  5. Start with a kid friendly programming language like Scratch. You won’t have much success getting your children interested in coding if you start with a complex language like java or python. Scratch is a programming language created by MIT that enables kids to create animations and games. Scratch is designed for children ages 8+. You can find our introduction to Scratch here. 
  6. Let them experiment, test, and make mistakes. Making mistakes is a critical part of learning and this is no different for children. The more programming they practice, the better they’ll get at it! The best way to learn how to code is by actually doing it. Experiment with new languages, test out different commands, and make mistakes as you go along.
  7. Challenge them with open-ended problems. Think of simple games or activities that could be designed with block based coding language such as Scratch. Challenge your kids to come up with their own solution to program the game or activity your request. 
  8. Consider a coding course for kids. Code.org is a nonprofit organization that provides resources and courses to help teach kids how to code. The organization offers free courses to help kids get started coding. This is particularly helpful if you don’t have a lot of experience with coding yourself. 
  9. Check out cool coding tutorial videos on YouTube. YouTube has a huge repository of tutorials that are perfect for beginner programmers. The wide range of tutorials means that there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re looking to learn how to write code or how to create your first website, YouTube is the place for you!
  10. Show them that you enjoy coding too! Coding is a great way for kids to learn critical thinking, problem solving, and computational thinking skills. One of the best ways to get kids excited about coding is to show them how much FUN you have doing it! Check out our article on How to Make Coding Fun for more ideas! 

Conclusion: But Why Should I Teach My Child to Code?

Coding is the language of the future. As technology continues to advance, coding skills become more necessary for students to have. The sooner they start learning, the better they will be at it when they get older.

The benefits of coding are abundant. Not only does it allow young adults to explore their creativity and problem-solving capabilities, but it also teaches them how to think logically and analytically while enabling them to develop their own original programs.

Learning to code is not just a skill that will help your child now, but it will set them up for success in the future. In the US alone there are more than 1 million open computing jobs. If children are not learning how to code now, they will be left behind when they hit the workforce and have fewer opportunities for employment.

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One Comment

  1. Very informative post, perfect to help kids learn and understand coding fundamentals. Thanks for sharing these ideas!

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