Somewhere in the not-so-distant past, you probably remember getting your first computer. It was perhaps an enormous thing—at least compared to today’s computers—and didn’t do much more than word processing. Then came the Internet, which opened up an entirely new world of learning and working.
Computers have become so ingrained in our lives that learning how to code is almost a necessity. It can be argued that learning how to code is just as important as learning another language! Who would have thought?
As new technologies emerge, it is only going to become more critical that your daughter learns how to code or understand it. Coding is the language computers speak and the good news is that it can be really fun to learn!
Why Learn To Code?
Coding, also called programming, is beneficial for your daughter’s developing mind. It engages skills like problem-solving, creativity, critical thinking, and perseverance. Young learners are imaginative and creative. They love to build, create, explore, and ask questions. Coding provides a limitless world for all of that creative energy to thrive.
This guide will provide you with an overview of the great programming languages that she will likely engage with at school and that you can use to help your daughter to continue her practice at home.
Just like you can have different dialects of a language, computer programming languages come in different flavors. Some are easy to learn and some are very complex. Children are usually first introduced to block-based programming which simply means that the focus is taken away from the actual language itself and instead the emphasis is placed on learning the syntax and rules first.
For example, rather than worry about the exact way to instruct a computer to make a conditional decision based on two different variables (i.e. if this pencil is blue, then change the font to blue but if the pencil is green, change the font to green), block-based programming focuses on the idea that you can tell a computer to make conditional decisions and offers an easy, drag and drop solution to setting those instructions.
It is helpful to think of programming as writing a recipe for a computer to follow much like you would write one about a dish you want someone else to cook for you.
It is important your instructions are clear and precise. The rest of this guide to further explore the three most popular block-based programming platforms your daughter can use to learn how to code.
The Lifelong Kindergarten Group developed Scratch at MIT. It is a free educational project that uses block programming as an entry-point for young learners to learn to code.
In Scratch, creatures called “sprites” take students through different stories and scripts, while students use code to control the sprites’ movements and actions. Without having to type text-based coding (typing coding is complicated for young learners).
It might sound crazy, but with Scratch, your daughter can become a game designer in as little as a day. She can create basic games within minutes. With some practice, its block-coding language can be used to create games, develop animation, and build interactive stories.
See (a few) different helpful tips below:
Similar to Scratch, Blockly is another block language learning tool. Although Google developed Blocky, it doesn’t have nearly as many tutorials or users as Scratch does. For this reason, Blocky has taken some hits but it is growing quickly.
See (a few) different uses and tips below:
Advanced: Swift Playgrounds
If you’ve ever wondered what programming language Apple uses (you probably haven’t, but stay with me), it is Swift.
Swift is Apple’s very own programming language, and it’s easy to learn, especially with the iPad app. Playgrounds take students through an entire curriculum of minigames designed to teach users how to use language.
Swift is a text-based code, so it’s not as easy to use as a block-based code. However, Swift Playgrounds make it fun to learn. The app has puzzles that accumulate in difficulty, and cute, silly characters to run through the code. (Note: having the characters run through incorrect code can sometimes lead them to do silly things. It’s fun.) Once users have mastered Swift, they can build apps or control drones and robots.
See (a few) different ideas of code below:
Choosing a starting point for your daughter can be a daunting task but hopefully, this guide has given you the pointers you need to get her started at the appropriate level.
The most important thing you can do is let your daughter have fun with it. Help her brainstorm ideas to code that are relevant to her world. If she is not a big gamer, then don’t give her gaming activities to code. Rather, she can code an interactive storybook instead, for example. Let her go about her pace and advance to more complex concepts when she is truly ready for it. Before you know it, your smart girl might build an application other people care about and would be willing to pay for. But that is just the icing on the cake. More importantly, her growing brain will love the problem solving and logic building exercises coding offers.