When you think about coding, you might imagine a large, dark room filled with computers and the telltale click-clack sound of typing. Imagine lengthy lines of unreadable letters and figures zipping across a blank screen, meaningless to anyone except a few skilled individuals.
In truth, coding is not a frightening or hard task—quite the contrary!
While coding may appear to be a challenging task, it is rather simple. In reality, many coding parts may be understood by children as young as five (sometimes younger).
Starting with the basic coding concepts at a young age can put your kid up for success when they decide to go into full-fledged coding.
In this post, we’ll discuss how to explain essential coding concepts to kids, which can help them get a headstart in computer programming.
What is Coding All About?
Before getting into the subtleties of all the numerous parts that make coding what it is, it’s essential to first define coding.
Coding (most time referred to as programming) is the process of writing computer code. This is the programming language that computers speak and comprehend.
Just as people worldwide speak different dialects, computer code is written in many different languages, depending on the task that needs to be performed. Among these languages are:
Introducing kids to coding is made easier by using terms and concepts they already know. Here’s an example: Coding can be compared to creating a recipe for a cake or any other delicious treat your child enjoys.
The process of writing code is similar to making a list of all the ingredients you need for baking, yet it goes further-recipes are more than lists. This also extends to the number of ingredients needed, the temperature of the oven, and the amount of time needed for each step.
Recipes also factor in the amount of time each step demands. A person following a recipe is a computer that interprets the code, with each element equating to different parts of the coding process. This resulted in a tasty, smooth-running program.
Basic Coding Concepts
Coding consists of so many different aspects, many of them pretty complex. Thankfully, several basic concepts can help your child learn how to code!
The concept of “loops” is one of the easier coding concepts for young children. Hearing the name should give them a clearer picture of what is involved.
In computing terms, a loop is something that repeats itself again and again until told otherwise. Ask your child to think of something he or she does daily as a loop. For instance, someone may recollect what it is like to get ready for bedtime.
To avoid enumerating the various steps to get ready for bed each day, we call this a loop and refer to it as getting ready for bed. This process is completed every day, and we are conscious that it is required to complete it from start to finish.
Kids must also perform a similar task with loops in coding a computer program. They chain several processes and use the computer to make the loop as often as needed.
It’s easy for your child to get a taste of computer science for kids by thinking about loops in their daily lives.
When we program for a computer, the computer needs to know the order to execute certain tasks, which leads us to sequences. For example, the first, second, third, etc. To explain the order, we can go back to the bedtime analogy.
For instance, have them think of the order they brush their teeth. Ensure they go through the process in enough detail so you can do this:
- Head to the bathroom
- Reach for the toothpaste
- Take off the cap.
- Dab a small amount of toothpaste onto your toothbrush.
- Rinse your toothbrush under running water.
- Place the toothbrush bristles between your teeth.
- Brush your teeth with a brush.
Then ask your kids what happens if they change the sequence of events. Can they get their toothbrush before they enter the bathroom? It is probably not possible.
Is there a way without removing the cap to put toothpaste on the toothbrush? Certainly not without some squeezing! Questions like these will help your child grasp the fundamentals of sequencing in coding.
When a computer fails to follow the original sequence of instructions and deviates thanks to a specific condition, its task will continue as usual. Branches only occur if the sequence isn’t detailed enough to meet the need, and branching allows the initial sequence to continue and alter as it needs to complete the task.
Assume your kids’ normal bedtime routine is as described above, but every Tuesday is soccer practice, so they need to take a quick bath to wash up before bed. As part of the new sequence, we would add the instruction “take a bath” every Tuesday, which would look like this:
- Soak in the tub
- Make sure you brush your teeth
- Put on your pajamas
- Lie down
- The lights should be turned off
This is an example of a branching rule. A rule like this, implemented each Tuesday only after soccer and encourages kids to have a bath, would be called the Tuesday branch–through another bath or two each week wouldn’t be a bad idea!
Ultimately, branching is a break in the sequence that only occurs when a change in the conditions arises, in this case, the condition being Tuesday. Ask your child to tell you some other examples of branching that they can think of.
If statements are conditional statements that are either met or not met based on given conditions, they are often called IF-THEN statements.
Computer programmers use this statement to ensure a program won’t execute when conditions aren’t satisfied, such as a website displaying the banner “Sold out” if there are no more tickets.
Following is a short sample of how selection statements should be framed for children so that they are easier to understand:
- If it is raining, I need to bring an umbrella to school.
- If I’m up late tonight, then I will be tired tomorrow.
- When I leave the cake in the oven, it will turn black.
Probably your child is already familiar with conditional statements like these. Invite them to make up and write about other types of conditional statements to demonstrate their grasp of conditional logic and use it for future purposes.
Once children learn the syntax of languages they already know–reading and speaking–they’ll better grasp the concept in code. Syntax is simply the set of rules that we must follow when ordering words so that sentences make sense.
Syntax in coding is simply the rules a programmer needs to follow when creating a line of code. In the same way that all languages have different syntax, some computing languages will have their own syntax rules.
Try writing out a sentence from a book you’ve been reading together to introduce syntax to your child. Let your child rearrange the words in the sentence to come up with something new, such as:
They’ll be able to quickly tell that words have to be in a certain order for a sentence to make sense. That’s syntax! Children can learn some wacky new phrases through coding activities.
If they can grasp how the structure of language helps shape meaning, they’ll be able to understand the importance of syntax in computer programming.
Tips for Teaching Your Child About Coding
- Start early
One of the best things about coding is that it can be learned at any age. You can start teaching your child about coding as early as preschool. It will help them develop a basic understanding of the concept and help them build on that knowledge as they age.
- Use games and puzzles
Block games and puzzles are a great way to introduce your child to coding. Some games and puzzles teach coding concepts in a fun and interactive way. It can help make learning about coding more fun for your child and help them better understand the concepts.
- Use visual aids
Many coding concepts can be difficult for children to understand without visual aids. Using diagrams and illustrations can help your child better understand the concepts behind coding. This can make it easier for them to apply those concepts when coding.
- Encourage creativity
Coding is a very creative activity. Encouraging your child to be creative when coding can help them develop innovative and unique solutions to problems. This can help them stand out and succeed in their coding projects.
- Let them experiment
Coding is all about experimentation. Letting your child experiment with different coding concepts can help them learn more about coding and find new ways to apply those concepts. This can help them develop their unique coding style.
An ideal way to introduce children to the coding world is to use CodeMonkey. Once children understand key programming concepts through activities and projects drawn from their own experiences, it’s much easier for them to understand what they’ve learned. This helps them as they go on to tackle actual programming.
Designed to teach children and adults coding in a role-playing game environment, CodeMonkey provides an ideal platform for first forays in the field. Your child will already be one step ahead if you follow the advice from the article.