There’s a lot of buzz these days about how to teach your kids to code, as programming is one of today’s most sought after professional skills. Teaching kids to code when they’re young can help to build a love of computer science and critical thinking that will empower them and allow them to exercise their creativity.
As a parent, you may be wondering the best way to get your children started with coding. Maybe you have little-to-no coding background yourself, and are unsure where to begin. Maybe you have lots of coding experience, but aren’t positive which resources are best for your kids. No matter your situation, this guide will provide an overview of how to encourage, support, and engage your children with programming and set them up for success in the future.
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What is coding for kids?
Coding enables nearly all of the major technologies we use today, and is a big part of virtually every industry. A coding language is a set of syntax rules that define how code should be written and formatted. That code makes it possible for kids to create websites, apps, computer software, and more. Learning how to code will set your children up for success in whatever field or discipline they ultimately want to pursue.
Kids who code learn important problem-solving skills, develop perseverance, and hone their creativity. While coding may seem complicated, kids aged 7 and up can see early success by learning languages such as Scratch or Robotics. Kids who already love Roblox or Minecraft can explore these games through code, and kids who want more of a challenge may want to start building websites or their own games. Keep learning more about computer programming for kids here.
How to introduce kids to coding
There are lots of ways to introduce kids to programming. You’ll want to choose an age-appropriate avenue to ensure your student is getting the proper level of difficulty. You should also consider your student’s interests in exposing them to coding, as certain languages lend themselves better to certain applications.
- For younger kids, consider a block coding language like Scratch. In block coding languages, students assemble code like building blocks. Scratch coding is great to learn at an early age as it is user-friendly, removes a lot of the difficulty of written languages, and can be used to make games and animations. Students can try following simple Scratch projects, or take our free Intro to Scratch Ninja class.
- Older kids may like trying projects from Hour of Code, which offer self-guided tutorials in a variety of languages. Students can explore their interests, and get some exposure to basic coding practices.
Coding is creativity
The best coders are creative! Creative coding involves solving problems in multiple ways, coming up with innovative solutions to tricky challenges, and applying artistic and design-thinking skills to programming.
Coding is a great way to satiate your kid’s curiosity. Even beginners can quickly make a change in a piece of code or test out an idea through a program. Kids can immediately answer “I wonder what will happen if I do this?”, and there’s no better feeling than getting a fast answer to a question.
While coding sometimes gets a reputation of being highly technical or scientific, it can be used for tons of different applications. Is your student a huge fan of games like Minecraft or Roblox? Does your student love legos, robots, or other hands-on activities. Does your student have an interest in art, animation, movie-making, or design? Coding is a great way to explore, enhance, and expand your student’s current passions.
Contrary to popular belief, coding is highly social. Professional coders “pair program” or work together with others on code. Children can code together, offer feedback on each others’ work, and come up with cool ideas for new projects. It’s a great way to build teamwork and cooperative skills, and students love showing off their ideas.
Coding students often thrive when they seek out a mentor - someone who can help them learn, practice, and explore coding. A mentor might be a relative, older student, or computer science teacher.
Now, learn how to code
By now, the benefits of teaching students to code should be very clear. But where to begin?
First, we recommend identifying a suitable language in which to start coding. Drag and drop languages like Scratch are great for first-time students of code. Visual learners love the code blocks, and removing the syntax/typing can help students master concepts quickly. Text-based languages like Python tend to be more challenging, but older students or students with some minor experience may work as well. Finally, students who already love video games like Minecraft or Roblox may want to start coding in these environments.
After selecting a language, develop a reasonable goal for first time coding. Maybe your student tries to build a simple animation in Scratch, or a text-based RPG in Python. The goal you choose should be small and doable, but worthwhile enough that your student feels proud and excited with what they can accomplish. In our Intro to Scratch class, we walk students how to build a quick, but fun project in about forty five minutes. As mentioned before, Hour of Code is another great way to find projects your students may enjoy.
Go deeper with a programming course
Once your student has begun coding, the next natural step is to take a programming course. Programming courses build foundational skills, and ensure that your child doesn’t have any gaps in their knowledge that can result from independent study of code.
Which course to take depends on your child’s age and interests. Create & Learn offers a variety of courses geared towards children of all ages, from Scratch Ninja for elementary school students to Python For AI for middle to high school age students. If your child is especially interested in video games or game design, Roblox, Minecraft coding for kids, or Robotics are also great options for beginner coders. More advanced students can also learn web Development, app development, or even cloud computing. Create & Learn teaches a variety of programming languages, and our coding classes have kids creating their own projects from the first day.
Create & Learn also hosts online summer camps for many of its highly-ranked programs. These summer camps allow kids to get coding experience every day of the week, building fluency quickly. They’re also great bonding experiences, allowing kids to meet other like-minded students from around the world.
There are lots of great coding classes beyond what we offer at Create & Learn, and we’ve compiled some of some of the best coding classes here. Check out our list of pros and cons, and select a class that is right for your student.
Getting coding experience
Your student has taken a few programming courses - now what? Students can gain coding experience in many diverse ways.
The best way to learn to code is to practice consistently. Students can grow their skills by finding coding projects that interest them. For block coding students, Scratch has many tutorials for building projects, from basic to advanced. Check out this tutorial in which we teach you how to make a flappy bird in Scratch. Similar coding exercises exist for written languages like Python. Your student can also succeed by creating and developing their own projects. We’ve had students create chess engines, animations, and homework-helper apps, solving problems that were relevant to them or simply interacting with one of their passions in a new way.
Students may also share their work through online events geared towards kids. Create & Learn periodically hosts a coding fair where students can show off their projects and get feedback from their peers. Coding fairs are a great way to get inspired, and to see other creative ways kids use code.
Advice to parents from computer programmers
“Code every day. Find little ways to incorporate code into your life. Even 15 minutes of coding a day, over time, can make a big difference in your overall abilities.” - Sarah Rappaport, Systems Engineer
"Never try to catch a big fish right away; instead, begin with something simple and easy. Begin your coding adventure with block-based coding and then progress to text-based coding." - Apoorva Rastogi, Masters in Computer Applications
Now teach your kids to code!
Introduce your children to coding today, to prepare them for tomorrow. Get started with the best Scratch coding for kids class (the intro is free!).
Written by Sarah Rappaport, who graduated from Northwestern University with undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering and music. She's now working on a masters in data with Georgia Institute of Technology. She taught math and computer science with Teach for America for two years, and now works as a Systems Engineer.