How Kids Learn To Code
So you’ve heard kids need to learn to code.
And it kind of seems like it makes sense. They are growing up in a digital world after all aren’t they? But how on earth do they learn to code when they’re little?
Well the big – tell everyone! – secret is that computer code is a language and as we all know so well, children are super powered whizz kids at learning languages!
PLUS us parents know more than a bit about how to help our kids learn languages, don’t we?
If a new mum asked you how best to nurture their baby’s language skills, what would you say? I’m pretty sure for most, if not all of us, the answers would be:
- Sing songs and rhymes – over and over on loop!
- Sort shapes – all those sorting games really do help letter recognition
- Connect with their world – just talk about what they’re doing even if it’s the simplest stuff
And do you know what? That’s exactly how kids best learn to code!
Songs & Rhymes
Songs and rhymes are crammed with patterns and sequences, just like code.
They follow rules, just like code.
They use movement and directions, just like code.
Plus – and this is a biggie! – they conjure up powerful images and feelings that really help our brains store and remember them. Think of how many songs you remember from childhood.
That’s why they’re such a powerful way for babies to learn languages. And for young children to learn a second language. And why they’re such a great way for kids to learn to code.
Now most kids of course have great visual memories.
They get super good at matching ever more complex shapes and remembering where shapes are.
They also quickly learn to connect shapes with meaning. They see that a shape or picture can mean move left and that a red square makes one noise if they push it and a blue circle another.
The best kids coding tools, use picture signs – or pictograms to give them their proper name – to get kids coding. Children drag and drop the pictograms into sequences of instructions to make stuff happen. So kids don’t have to be able to read at all to learn to code.
Hmm … but are pictograms real code you might be asking? Isn’t it cheating? Over simplifying?
Not at all. Pictograms can communicate the most powerful concepts.
Just ask the Chinese! Mandarin is written in pictograms.
Children quickly learn to read whole sequences of pictograms – like they do whole words – and see what’s going to happen. And they do it WITHOUT translating the pictograms into English.
It’s an important point – think of any bilingual kids you know. They don’t constantly translate into the second language do they? They think in it fluently. And that’s the goal for kids coding.
Connecting To Their World
Now coding fluently might seem crazy hard for young children but it’s really not.
Children absorb languages like little sponges because they help them make sense of their world.
Language lets them organise new information, solve problems and express themselves.
If coding is really going to cut it with kids, it has to do the same. And it can.
Kids can learn to code by creating stories, spotting bugs in the garden, reporting a football match, recording a holiday diary, talking to grandparents, sharing a recipe, recording an experiment. The world – or rather their imagination – is their only limit!
But too often teaching kids to code is turned into one big computer game because supposedly that’s the only way we’ll keep their interest! These are the same kids who can spend a day imagining a cardboard box into a rocket or a castle, making potions from whatever they can find in the garden, building sand castles, devouring Roald Dahl and Harry Potter and on and on.
We let our kids down feeding them computer games. We need to help them bring their real world to the screen and then to take what they have done back into the real world.
Make It Fun
When we connect to their world, we make coding fun. And keeping it fun, will keep kids coding.
Coding takes practice – just like reading or playing the piano or bending a ball like Beckham – but the reward for even a little practice is enormous. If we offer kids fun ways to practice common coding patterns, we give them the power to express themselves in the digital world.
When we help them learn to code one knock knock joke we give them the power to code just about every – oh my! – knock knock joke they and their friends can ever come up with!
When we help them learn to code a fairy fluttering across their screen, we give them the building blocks to code endless fairy stories of their own creation.
Then in the full flow of creating and making, kids start doing something unbelievably amazing!
They make connections – big crazy wild connections between stuff not obviously connected. They see that a knock knock or fluttering fairy pattern can be reused in all sorts of weird and wonderful situations that have nothing to do with knock knock jokes or fluttering fairies.
And then there’s no stopping them. They’ve got it!
They see – so fast! – how they can use the patterns they know, to code whatever they want.
They can code!
If you can’t wait to get your kids coding, do dive in and join us. We’ve got super quick free tutorials to get you started that will have you and your kids making stuff in no time …