A couple of days ago we talked about Ukrainian schoolchildren who would like to study programming. Many parents have the same desire for their children but they don’t know how to get started or how to help their kids to learn computer programming at a young age. There are lots of fun things you can try as early as five or six years old. We’ve collected some ideas for parents who are looking to choose the right programming path for their kids.
First we have to mention that every kid is different. Some of them are reading and writing fluently ahead of other kids. For these guys and gals, learning to program is probably easier. Some kids have the basic analytical skills down earlier than others. So parents should understand that the first time they try to introduce their kids to programming, their kids may not get it all. If this happens, it’s better to try it again later after a couple of months along with trying some other approach. Also it’s important to realize that most kids don’t have analytical skills till the age of 11, 12, or 13, so expecting great results before these ages may be unrealistic.
We’ll talk about some games, tools, and web sites that can help kids to make the first steps in computer science.
There are some games that kids may enjoy. Such games teach basic problem solving ideas in different ways:
In the Internet there may be games that are similar to the three above. Problem solving is a skill that may be useful not only in computer programming, but in other professional areas as well.
Also there is a game that does a very good job of teaching simple programming skills and it’s called Light Bot. It can engage kids for a couple of hours, starting at the age of 7 or 8. Some of the puzzles in Light Bot can be hard for kids, so you might want to pay attention to how your kid is doing.
One of the greatest tools that kids will admire is Lego Mindstorms. This is a Lego robotics kit. It uses a graphical language that is easy to understand. It’s not cheap, but it’s definitely worth the money spent. You might also look into First Lego League (FFL) which is an international enquiry-based program that teaches students ages 9 through 16 about science, technology, and collaborative working. FFL teams can build Mindstorms robots, work on presentations, and so on. The good thing about Mindstorms is that it lets kids build some interesting things. The biggest minus of Lego Mindstorms is that a kid may come to the limits of what they can do after a month or two.
Scratch is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. It’s a programming language and an online community where kids can program and share their experience as stories, games, and animation with people from all over the world. With Scratch kids learn to think creatively, work collaboratively, and reason systematically. It’s primarily designed for 8 to 16 year old children.
GameMaker is a tool with a lot of options. There are numerous instructions and tutorials to help them get started, so it’s easy to get them going. Probably it’s not a good idea to use this as the first tool to learn programming, but as a second one it fits in well. It explains really well object oriented thinking and it shows that to make things work, you really have to define everything (key events, gravity, action etc.).
Phrogram was formerly known as Kids Programming Language. It’s built on the idea that programming means knowing how to write some source code and it’s not as hard as it may look. Phrogram is great for teaching and learning, or just seeing what happens when you deal with a source code. Many Phrogram users are tech-savvy programmers who want to share what they know with beginners.
Online Courses/Study Materials
Invent with Python
This is a website with free eBooks on creating games and programming with Python which states, “written to be understandable by kids as young as 10 to 12 years old.” Besides this, these books can be read by young adults, adults, and anyone who has never programmed before. Even total beginners can learn how to use Python to control their computers without having to learn some complex information about computer science.
Real Programming – C and C++ Programming
The C and C++ programming languages are the two most widely used programming languages right now. There are lots of online courses and tutorial information that can be found for free. The two resources that can help your kid to get started:
BTW, Google is your friend and can help you to find tons of other stuff that will be of help to get your kids started with programming and coding.