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Beginners Guide to Coding for Young Learners

In this article, we will discuss:

Somewhere in the not-so-distant past, you probably remember getting your first computer. It was perhaps enormous, at least compared to today’s computers, and it probably didn’t do much more than word processing. Fast forward a few years to the invention of the Internet, which opened up an entirely new world of existing. 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 at least to generally understand it.  This guide will provide you with an overview of the great programming languages with which she will likely engage at school and that you can use to help your daughter to continue her practice at home.

Why Learn To Code?

Coding, also called programming, is the language computers speak. 

Coding, also called programming, is the language computers speak.  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.

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 for a meal you want someone else to cook.  It is important your instructions are clear and precise. Use 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. 

It is helpful to think of programming as writing a recipe for a computer to follow much like you would write one for a meal you want someone else to cook. 

Scratch: Beginners 

Developed at MIT by The Lifelong Kindergarten Group, Scratch 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 codes to control the sprites’ movements and actions without having to type text-based coding, which is typically complicated for young learners.

Source: scratch.mit.edu

It might sound crazy, but with Scratch, your daughter can become a game designer in as little as a day.  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:

  1. Scratch Coding for Beginners
  2. Making a Flappy Bird Game with Scratch
  3. Scratch Tutorial: Make Your First Program

Blockly: Intermediate

Blockly, developed by Google, is another block language learning tool somewhat similar to Scratch. One difference is that it doesn’t have nearly as many tutorials or users as Scratch does. For this reason, Blocky has taken some hits; however,  it is growing quickly, due 

Source: Blocky Games

to how advanced Blockly is compared to Scratch. Blockly students use block coding to create code, then convert the block code into JavaScript code, and thus become familiar with available coding languages. There’s even an option to change the language, so students can view block code in Python, Lua, and others. Coding in blockly is a great next step for your daughter once she is comfortable with coding in Scratch.

See (a few) different uses and tips below:

  1. What Blockly is and How to Use it
  2. Coding with Blocks on Blockly
  3. Code a Game or Maze in Blockly

Swift Playgrounds: Advanced 

Swift is the programming language Apple uses, 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,  plus cute characters to run through the code. (Note: having the characters run through incorrect code can sometimes lead them to do silly things, which is fun for the kids.)  Once users have mastered Swift, they can build apps or control drones and robots.

See (a few) different ideas of code  below:

  1. Creating a Tool
  2. Placing Text
  3. Introduction to Touch Events 

First Steps

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.

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 others would be willing to pay for. 

Coding engages skills like problem-solving, creativity, critical thinking, and perseverance. Young learners love to build, create, explore, and ask questions. Coding provides a limitless world for all of that creative energy to thrive, and it just may be a necessity in your daughter’s future language repertoire.

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