Submitted by jbraun on

Every December, we celebrate the Hour of Code to encourage children to explore the concept of coding.  While many schools are beginning to incorporate coding into their curriculum, this topic is an easy one to introduce to children with simple, fun activities.

For younger children, start with basic problem solving. Coding is all about completing projects in simple steps. Work with them to complete tasks in easy-to-follow stages. For example, play a board game and then change seats halfway through the game. Does the action change how the game is played?  Choose an activity and figure out the steps you need to complete it. Have a family member follow the steps. Do you need to correct anything? (A programmer would say this is debugging the program.)  Looking for an easy task to test out your skills? Think about how you get from the kitchen to the bathroom.  Write down every step and then see if someone can successfully follow your directions.

As children get older, coding becomes more about speaking a language a computer can understand. Websites like code.org are free and accessible to everyone. With courses available online for children ages 4 and up, kids can create accounts to track their progress and work their way through different lessons.  There is a course for non-readers that allows kids to learn the steps using arrows. As their skills grow, so does the material for the course. There are games and activities for all ages and levels. As children become more skilled, they can try out other sites like scratch.mit.edu to create code.

There are plenty of free resources available to meet a child’s skill level or to just try out, and kids love when adults share their lessons. Some possible sites to check out include: Khan Academy, PBS Kids scratch and Tech Girlz which offer courses virtually, and most are free.  Some apps that might be fun to try include Tynker, Grasshopper, CodeMonkey or Daisy the Dinosaur. Children from preschool up can begin to learn the concept of coding in many free and easy ways.

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