How To Teach Your Child To Code – I’ts Simple

Did you aksed yourself the question: How To Teach My Child To Code? you came to the right place.

Introducing computer programming to your kids can be a challenge, especially for those who aren’t familiar with the nuances of code. Fortunately, in the last few years, a number of apps, software, and guides have been produced that make the often-complex subject of computer coding easy to grasp for young learners.

Here is a guide categorized by questions to ask ourselves when looking for the right toy for our child.

Does My Child Enjoy Open-Ended Play?

Child development experts can’t say enough about open-ended play. It promotes creativity, problem-solving, story-telling, and perspective-taking especially if role-play is involved.  Codable robots are great for this type of play.  Often times, they come with apps that allow you to just drive the toy without always having to program it.  These toys include a wide variety of very well-designed toys that also present a little personality to them.  For example, when you turn them on, they greet you with a very cute voice and a light sequence or motor movement. The child will instantly feel a connection.

It’s possible to play with something using a driving app and then learn to code with it when ready.

My favorite toys to engage in open-ended coding play you can find here.

I also recommend on BuzzBot and MuttBot Robotics KitSphero BB-8, and Coder MIP. Additionally, while robots are always fun, this year I’ve discovered the BBC Micro Kit combines coding and basic circuit play to offer an amazing opportunity for open-ended fun.

What to look out for: If this category of coding toys had a pitfall, it would be that they show so much of their possibilities on Day 1 without much instruction-reading. Sometimes for these toys, the novelty wears off quickly. If your children stopped playing with your precious coding toy investment, it might be because they may have run out of ideas or they don’t know how to implement the ones they have. This is a feeling that is hard for kids to articulate. Thus, the only sign you get is that they just stopped playing with it. My best solution to this dilemma is to think about what they might like to do with this toy and then do it in front of them. You don’t have to even invite them to participate. Sometimes this is the fastest way to bring them back.

Does My Child Need Instructions Or A Coach?

To be sure, some skills can be learned implicitly but some skills need to be taught explicitly. When it comes to coding, we may not be sure where our child will fit in especially if they are very young. A sequence of lessons or even gamified lessons embedded in certain learn-to-code toys can help kids make progress while helping parents stay informed that their child is indeed moving forward. “Dad, I’m on Level 19, and I have four Healths and 529 dollars!” is the type of exclamation commonly heard from kids playing video games. While these numbers may sound silly, they are helpful to both adults and children as it is a sign that children are learning.

Don’t be fooled, just because it’s gamified, that doesn’t mean learning to code is easy all the time. That said, it’s just more fun that way. Pictured here, a kids playing with Wonder Workshop.

 

Some of the products that do feature a lesson sequence to help users master skills can be found in the DIY computer sets, all of which come with the latest version of Raspberry Pi. (2016 is the Raspberry Pi3, older versions are slower) Once built, kids can use these computers to not only learn how to code but also surf the web and even do their homework. The four products that have gained approval by my young testers who are all 8+ are Kano, Piper, pi-top CEED, and pi-top Laptop.  Other guided learning experiences do not involve building your own computer may require a computer or an iPad such as PuzzletsOsmo Coding, Wonder Workshop with their signature Wonder app.  Code Gamer by Thames and Kosmos also uses a very gamified approach which may be a good precursor to the Arduino Starter Kit which offers lessons through a well-planned guidebook and is suitable for older children.

Furthermore, for those looking for toys for younger children, the Code & Go Robot Mouse has a codable mouse that can register commands by just pressing the buttons on his back. Coji by Wowwee offers children games but most important of all, offers both Freeplay and gamified learning challenges that require kids to code to move their robot (some reading required).

Warning for this method of learning: Toys do not teach. Adults teach using toys as tools. Children can even teach themselves but to be sure, toys are not teachers. Thus, it’s important to engage your child periodically to make sure that you stay informed of their progress to support and challenge them appropriately. Additionally, asking them to break from the sequence to try a real-life challenge (if the toy allows it) is a good way to make sure that the child is thinking of applying their knowledge beyond the product.

Could your child be the next Jacob Smilg? Ethan Kadish, Jacob’s friend was struck by lightning rendering him unable to walk, feed himself, and even speak. After a speech therapist trained Ethan to blink “yes” and “no.” Jacob took out an Arduino coding kit that his father purchased for him from SparkFun Electronics. Jacob, a 7th grader, then built a yes/no machine in which Ethan could “speak” by leaning his head to the left or right and his answer could then be shown on an LED board. This story is an incredible example of how one kid’s code can change so many lives. For more visit http://JoinTeamEthan.org/

Is My Child Motivated By Social, Physical Play? Is He A Builder Kid?

The best thing about robots and wearables is that they bring energy to a person’s daily routine or create interesting scenarios within your physical space or even on your person. Moreover, learning to use them can bring people together as harnessing different skills sets in a group is one of the reasons why robots are so great in school.

I think this is the first video that I saw in which I began to realize the tremendous potential in the equation of kid+robot. Cubelets do have a block-based programming app now but in many ways, snapping together the bricks is its own line of code.

The coding toys that I’ve seen with the most potential include favorites such as LEGO Mindstorms EV3 and VEX  IQ Robotics Construction Kit for many reasons, however, of most importance, is their boisterous competition opportunities in and out of school. Additionally, I think that products such as Sphero SPRK+,  mBot by Makeblock, Cubelets, EVO by Ozobot are showing great potential to be game-changers at schools. They not only have the potential to help with teaching kids how to code but they can be used to execute activities in just about any subject including math, art, and even social studies. Additionally, two non-robots stand out to be coding super toys. The littleBits ArduinoBit allows for coding to enter the absolutely incredible universe that is now known as littleBits which allow kids to build circuits with sensors and motors and even connect to the cloud. While littleBits Arduino may be where a lot of coding takes place, the connection of the Bits themselves is really like its own line of code.

Furthermore, the much anticipated Mover Kit from Technology Will Save Us has been adorning the wrists of many children who choose to have their codes reflected by their body movements. (Think light shows and step counters). Lastly, playing with Tynker has shown to work very well with the Parrot drone which is exciting for kids who are fascinated by toys that fly.

Use toys as tools! Carlos Arturo Torres Tovar speaks at the World Maker Faire (2016) about how he turned the LEGO EV3 into a prosthetic arm (and toy) for a young boy born with limb differences. The LEGO EV3 is also included in this guide.

To be sure, 2016 is the year consumers saw a huge rise in the number of choices they had if they wanted their kids to learn how to code during playtime at home. That said, these toys will be best used if we accept the fact that as consumers, we are all still learning about what it means to be coding and playing at the same time.

We need to give our kids a chance to show us what is interesting to them. If they don’t show interest in moving forward after the novelty has worn off, we need not worry. It usually means that the kids have run out of ideas or they don’t know how to implement the ones they have. All we need to do is recognize the moment and figure out how to best help them get through it.  To be sure, there is no question that ensuring computer literacy is worth our effort.

 

You have some other suggestions that you like to share?   If so, please leave your comments or questions below and I will be more than happy to get back to you. I would love to hear your feedback.
Efi
Owner, ToysByAges.com

4 comments

  • Wow! I was aware of some of these toys, and have even worked with their earlier versions; but I was not aware that there were so many different options out there. It is amazing.
    From your experience, what is the average age they start targetting?

  • hi Efi,

    Thanks for the article. Great information. With the technological advances right in our fingertips. you gave me a good idea on how to inspire my children to appreciate coding. It is a great advantage for them to start at a young age. I’ll definitely check out the things you mentioned and have it explored by my children. Thanks again.

    JR

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