Why is programming an important skill for children?
It's important to teach students technology skills as soon as we can, especially programming. They'll learn transferable problem solving skills, understand more about how technology works and shapes their world. They will better understand how technology supports other subject areas such as working with data in math and science. Programming skills help you understand computational thinking through simple concepts and put them into practice.
Something important to keep in mind is that not every child who learns programming will become a programmer. It is not about the programming language they are learning but about the skills they are developing
What is programming?
You will hear many fancy words such as algorithm, loops, variables, function and many more words that may sound complicated. But these terms can be easily explained to children:
- Algorithm- a set of steps to solve a problem
- Loops- doing the same actions over and over again forever or you can set a limit
- Variables- stores information you can use again and change later
- Function- bits of code that can be used again and again to perform actions
Then we can break it down into everyday situations for the children to understand.
An algorithm is like cooking, you have to follow the recipe to make a meal. For example, when you are making buttered toast, what do you need to do? Step 1, you need to take
A loop is like washing your hands. You can ask your child to think about the actions they need to do when washing their hands. Then when there is an action they have to do more than 1 time, then they can say repeat. Count how many times you have to say repeat, this is a loop.
A variable has a name which includes a value. For example, you can have a variable called “myName” and the value would be “Hikaru”. So when a program is calling for “myName” then it will automatically add “Hikaru” each time.
A function is like a daily routine. If you say, “do your homework,” the child knows they need to go to their desk, take out their work and do their homework. Or if you say, “dinner time,” your child knows they need to wash their hands and come to the dining table.
How to build early programming skills
Programming skills can start very early on, it can be as simple as talking about what you will do during the day. Or ask your child to pretend you are a robot and they have to program you to wash your hands. They would need to give you instructions and you can act it out for them, and try to remember that they need specific language for example, a robot will not understand “put soap on your hand”, they should program you to put the soap on your hand, “put 1 hand under the soap and with your other hand push the top.” This type of activity can be done at any time. Have fun!
How to develop and evolve those skills
An important thing to do is to connect programming to the interests of your child. Many kids like lego and a way to bring programming to legos without needing to invest in the official lego robot kits, is to use Edison Robots which is a strong robot that is compatible with legos. Students can learn programming, simple machines and other such skills.
Programming can be very frustrating but these struggles build children’s logic and persistence. Join your child on their journey of programming and have fun!
Resources to use at home
- Physical Programming.pdf - would be best to be printed out and then laminated. You might need to make extra copies. You can use them to build a hopscotch programming game. It is very interactive while also learning basic programming concepts.
- Act out programming slides- is a digital version of the above PDF in case you cannot print out the materials. Your child can build the program and then act it out together.
- Programming Activity- this is a digital activity, you can color the boxes and then have someone program how it would look.
Micro:bit Educational Foundation. (2022). Microbit.org. https://microbit.org/
MonsterCoding.com. (2022). Monster Coding - Fun Programming for Kids. Monstercoding.com. http://monstercoding.com/#vocabulary_cards