How do we learn coding for kids?
How to learn coding for kids? Whether you are a parent, guardian or a teacher for kids, I assume that we agree on the same opinion that kids should learn how to code. That’s why we are here, right?
First things first, we need to have a clear understanding of two confusing words that we commonly hear in the programming world… Yup! I said programming world not coding world… Well, programming and coding are nowadays often interchangeably used in place of each other… But are they the same or different?
Should we learn coding or programming?… What is the difference between a code and a program?
Let’s iron out the confusion…
Coding is simply the process of writing instructions that the machine understands and prompts it to do some action. Those lines of instruction are called code.
Programming, on the other hand, is the process of writing a set of instructions to make a machine execute and accomplish a certain task. A set or a series of codes that makes up a software or an application is called a program. A program is usually written to accomplish a specific task or tasks. It is an executable series of codes done to offer a solution.
Since both involve writing instructions for the machine, people indistinguishably use them and even made coding a slang for programming. But would you prefer to be called a coder or a programmer? 🙂
A line of instruction is a code and a series of instructions or a set of codes is a program. All programs are composed of codes but not all codes are programs.
In a sense, programming is broader than coding.
However, nobody can do programming if he has not learn coding!
Steps on How to Learn Coding for Kids:
How to learn coding to kids can be a bit challenging. So we need to equip ourselves with lots of patience and understanding for our little learners. We need them more than the knowledge on the subject matter itself.
Although it is an advantage if we are proficient on coding but it is not also a problem if we are not. We can learn it together with them and it can actually be fun! Teach by learning they say. (However, if you are teaching in a formal school environment it is better to prepare before coming to class!)
Here are three simple steps to start with.
- Pique Their Interest. Kids can best learn coding if they are interested and excited about it. Failing to do this will result in frustration on both you and the kid. It is very important to keep them intrigued and curious about coding. Introducing what coding is and making them understand its importance will help pique their interest on coding. Just keep in mind to make the learning experience for you and the kids FUN.
- Prepare the Right Device and Software. A very important part before starting to teach coding for kids is having the proper digital device and installing the necessary software. Although it is possible to learn programming or coding without a device and use our creativity. It is still preferable if we have a tablet, a laptop or a desktop for computer coding. Some coding platforms requires a software or an application to be downloaded so make sure this has been properly installed before starting the class. This will also give way to easy transitioning from beginner to the next level.
- Choose the Right Coding Platform. In choosing the right platform, the age of the learner should be considered. Nowadays, programming are introduced and can be done in various ways depending on the level and age of the learner. There are a lot of available coding platforms online. Some of them are totally free of charge and some has fees. According to your needs and purpose you can choose which one will suit you.
By pointing out that the phones, television, cars, robots and many automated things they see around have more or less coded programs within them could pique the kids curiosity and interest. And could encourage them to become eager learners.
A promise of fun in coding is a sure way of getting and keeping the kids’ attention. And when kids hear the word FUN that means GAMES!!! So here are some ideas to get them hooked.
Coding Board Games.
All kids love games. There is no better way to attract their attention than to play games. Recently, a variety of coding board games for kids are out in the market.
Here is a list of some coding board games available in the market for your reference:
DIY Coding Board Game
We can also create our own coding board game using cards. It may require effort and a bit of creativity on our part but it is certainly worth it.
Let’s make it…
1. Prepare 5cm x 5cm blank cards. Prepare as many blank cards as you can (from 30 to a hundred pieces or more). The more the better. This will serve as the game board. For younger learners or beginners, we can use at least 30 cards. Then, we can increase the number of cards for advance learners or raise the difficulty of the mission.
Option: We can also draw squares on a big card board. One card board containing 30 squares (formed like 5 x 6 table) for beginners. Another big card board for intermediate level with at least 50 or 60 squares. Then, a hundred or more squares for advance level.
Note: The size of the squares can be adjusted as desired.
2. Print 3cm x 3cm picture cards. These will serve as missions, obstacles and goals. Missions are flexible and can vary according to the teacher’s imagination and creativity. As an example, make FRUIT cards and a FRUIT BASKET card.
3. Make 3cm x 3cm arrow cards. These cards will represent the moves needed to accomplish the mission. Print UP, DOWN, LEFT and RIGHT arrow cards in different colors to distinguish one from the other (or better put a label). Make ten or more arrow cards for each direction.
4. Make 3cm x 3cm number cards. Print the numbers 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x, 6x, 7x, 8x, 9x and 10x. Make five or more cards for each number.
5. Print START, STOP and FINISH cards. Make five or more cards for each word.
✨ TIP: For advance learners, prepare a good number of smaller (1.5cm x 1.5cm) start, stop, arrow and number cards and a coding board.
Let’s start playing….
The beauty in creating our own board game is that it allows us to be creative. We can design our own mission and rules.
Game Idea. Yummy Fruits
The goal of this game is simply to gather the fruits scattered across the game board and place them in the fruit basket. This is not a racing game in which only one wins. In this game, everyone who successfully gather and put the fruits in the basket is a winner.
However, for the advance learners, we can choose somebody who used fewer codes or steps in accomplishing the task as the winner. For the reason that in actual programming practices, the simpler and fewer codes used in accomplishing a task are better.
- Lay the game board. For beginners or younger kids 30 blank cards game board might be enough. Then increase the number accordingly to introduce a challenge or complexity on the game. The number of blank cards depends on the level of difficulty you want to impose.
- Determine the location of START and FINISH cards on the board (can be anywhere… just keep them apart ^-^). These cards location can be change in every play to help the kids develop their analytical and problem-solving skills in a variety of perspectives.
- Place the FRUIT BASKET card on top of the FINISH card.
- Set at least three or four FRUIT CARDS on the beginners game board. For advance game board, increase the number of fruit cards as needed.
For beginners. Let the kids take turns in collecting a FRUIT CARD and bring it to the FRUIT BASKET.
- Choose a FRUIT CARD.
- From the START card, place the necessary ARROW CARDs going to where the chosen FRUIT CARD is and then place more ARROW cards heading to the FRUIT BASKET.
- Show to the kids how the code will look like.
Sample mission 1: PUT THE BANANAS IN THE FRUIT BASKET
In solution 1, in order to get the bananas you have to put two LEFT arrows, two UP arrows to get the bananas then another three UP arrows to the fruit basket (making a total of straight five UP arrows).
Hence, the code shows, LEFT 2x, UP 5x. This is equivalent to two lines of code excluding start and stop.
In solution 2, in order to get the bananas you have to put two UP arrows, two LEFT arrows to get the bananas then three UP arrows to the fruit basket.
Hence, the code shows, UP 2x, LEFT 3x and UP 3x.
Notice that the code is longer than solution 1.
🧐 TIP 1: In this mission, aside from the solutions shown above, there are still other solutions available. Let the kids try to find out those and come up with the equivalent codes. Then, have a discussion with the kids which one among the solutions do they think is the best and why.
🧐 TIP 2: Let the kids think of solutions and codes for the other fruits too.
Sample mission 2: PUT ALL FRUITS IN THE FRUIT BASKET
For advance learners. Let the kids come up with the solution on their own coding board at a set time.
- Present a mission like collect all the fruits and put them in the fruit basket. Give each kid their own coding boards and set of instruction cards (start, stop, arrows and number cards).
- Set out the game board, determine the START and FINISH location and spread the fruit cards across the board. We can also make and add other picture cards such as house, trees, river or animals to be placed as obstacles on the board (optional).
- Let the kids come up with a solution on their coding boards within a time limit like 5 minutes.
- When the time is up, let the kids show their codes and present it to the class.
- The winner is the one who will be able to come up with the simplest and shortest code to accomplish the task.
✨ TIP: We can use this mission board game to encourage the kids to learn basic chores such as putting the books back in the bookshelves, putting the toys back in the toy box, arranging the shoes on the shoe racks, arranging clothes in the closet and many more. There is actually a lot of activity ideas that we can incorporate in this game. We can also ask the kids for mission ideas that they want to accomplish. Our imagination is the limit. Just remember to print out and make the corresponding picture cards of the activity in mind