Looking at the best ways for children to learn to program can help parents and educators prepare students for the future. The need for programmers will grow in the coming years. Though some schools offer special computer science classes for kids, many do not. Educators can find resources they can use in the classroom to help their students. Parents can use similar resources at home to foster an interest in programming. There are many different ways in which kids can learn the languages and skills needed to build simple games and apps.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
An easy way to teach programming to kids is through Scratch, which is a free online resource available from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The site includes featured products that other kids made using those resources and studios that showcase other types of projects. Scratch teaches kids the basics of coding and shows them how they can put codes together to create interactive videos and cartoons. Kids can view the community archive and look at former projects done in the past. Scratch also offers resources for parents and teachers.
After School Programs
Sylvan Learning is a chain of schools with locations across the country that cater to students of all ages. Parents can enroll their kids in classes that meet after school and teach them how to program. Kids have the chance to work with teachers who show them the basics of programming and then start coding. They can use the skills they learned to build apps and games that they can share with others as well as websites. The Coder School offers similar classes but doesn’t have as many locations.
Use Their Toys
Kids of all ages love building with LEGO blocks because they can let their imaginations run wild. LEGO knows that programming is a hot subject right now, which is why it released the BOOST line of toys. Each toy comes with classic LEGO bricks and an app that parents can download to a phone or tablet. Kids will first follow the instructions to build the toy. They can then use the app to learn the basics of coding and create code that goes along with the toy. The app lets the toy run and do other tricks that they can see on the screen through their coding.
Purchase a Programming Subscription Boxes
Subscription boxes are popular among those who want to try different products. Several companies now make subscription boxes for kids interested in coding and programming, including Codakid, Creation Crate, Bitsbox and ROBOBOX. Many companies make different boxes that are suitable for kids of a specific age range, which makes it easy for loved ones to find one that appeals to the child. The boxes come with fun activities that teach kids how to program and code. Though some boxes ship every month, others ship every other month.
Use the Web
There is an infinite number of resources on the web that can help kids become programmers. According to Huff Post, one of the best is the website Code.org. Kids can sign up for new accounts and get a one hour lesson for free. If they learn from the site and want to sign up for additional lessons, their parents can pay for each session. This website is unique because it uses things that kids like to capture their attention and get them interested in learning. It’s one of the best ways for children to learn how to program because it builds upon what they like and enjoy.
Pick the Right Language
Not all computer languages are suitable for all kids. If a child tries to learn a language that is too difficult for him or her, it can make the child turn away from computer programming. Blockly is a good resource that takes coding and brings it down to a level that kids can understand. The official website allows kids to copy a section of text and instantly translate it into a computer language. They can learn how to do math and use variables too. Alice is another good option for learning computer languages. It is designed for kids 10 and up and available for Windows, Mac and Linux devices. A group of professionals working at Carnegie Mellon University designed the site and offers it as a free resource. Alice lets kids view how different computer languages look in an easy to view and understand format.
Encourage Their Interests
Encouraging the interests that children have in programming and coding is one of the most important things that educators and families can do. Tynker is a company that uses the slogan, “Coding for Kids” because it offers activities that get kids interested in programming based on what they like to do. The popular video game Minecraft is just one example. With Tynker, kids learn the fundamentals of programming and how they can put languages together to create something new and different. Once they gain more experience, they can use those skills to build new levels and worlds in the Minecraft game.
Turn to Their Schools
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer programmers make a median wage of more than $40 an hour. Parents can turn to their children’s schools to help to teach them how to program. Many schools offer an introduction to computer science courses that introduce students to the concepts that programmers use. Even if the school doesn’t offer a class, parents can still ask the teachers and administrators for help. Simply knowing that the need exists can help the schools find the funds needed to add a new class to the curriculum or launch an after school program for kids.
Programmers today are responsible for everything from the websites that people use daily and the apps and games that they rely on and play. Kids can learn fundamental skills through different resources online and off. The best ways for children to learn how to program include after school programs, subscription boxes and games.