Developing coding skills has short- and long-term benefits. Is there any other hobby that allows you to hone critical thinking skills, complete creative projects, and prepare yourself for the job market all at once?
Coding isn’t just for adults—it can also be a great way for kids to improve their self-confidence while gaining knowledge that can help them with their current studies and future goals.
How can parents support their children to learn the coding basics? Many of the same learning principles that help young students stay engaged in school make coding fun and engaging.
In this short guide, we’ll share our top six tips for teaching coding to kids.
Why Teach Your Child to Code?
Before we dive into tips, let’s get on the same page about the benefits of coding.
Did you learn a second language growing up? If not, you may have been jealous of friends who did. When children grow up learning two languages, it’s incredibly easy to digest. There’s a combination of brain chemistry, lack of self-consciousness, and enthusiasm that makes learning easier for children than for adults. This still applies to young children who want to take up coding as their “second language.”
When taught correctly, computer coding for kids can impart the following benefits:
- Improve logical reasoning skills
- Strengthen focus and ability to notice details
- Promote self-confidence
- Make more advanced coding languages easier to learn
Even if your child doesn’t become the next Steve Wozniak, a little knowledge on the coding basics can lay the groundwork for future success across subjects.
#1 Help Kids Find Their Own Motivation
Maybe you’re here because your kid told you they want to learn to code. If that’s the case, great! Skip ahead to tip #2.
However, if you’re looking for ways to help your child stand out in college admissions or prepare for their future career, think carefully about how you can help your child develop their own love of coding. If you ever quit piano or soccer because it wasn’t your passion, you know that self-motivation is key to developing new skills.
Try out the following:
- Talk to your child about the uses of coding, drawing parallels between coding language and real-life technology
- Find a way to connect coding lessons to existing interests like art, design, and music
- Research courses and programs that make learning fun and engaging for younger and older kids
Once you’re sure your child is interested and motivated, figure out which coding languages best suit their needs.
#2 Choose The Right Language
Parents who aren’t coders themselves may not be sure where to begin. Meanwhile, parents who are fluent coders may have lofty dreams of starting their little learners out with PHP.
While kids can theoretically start with any programming language, the real goal in choosing a first coding language is to foster a love of coding.
With that in mind, the best first coding language should be:
At Disney Codeillusion, two of our favorite first languages are:
#3 Make Coding Interactive
While you can learn code from reading a textbook and completing exercises, we all know that kids usually learn better when their projects don’t feel like learning. A textbook entry about extinct animals makes the creatures feel distant and far away. In contrast, creating a diorama that accurately reflects environment and physiology can teach lessons that stick for a lifetime.
While opaque strings of letters can seem boring at first glance, the coding concept is all about creation.
Finding an Entertaining Course
Disney Codeillusion seeks to create an interactive environment by:
- Introducing coding through a role playing game (RPG) style adventure
- Inviting some of our favorite Disney characters along on the journey
- Immersing learners in interactive projects in media arts, animation, and web design
When coding is an interactive journey, the skills and concepts foundational to coding languages become the tools for progress and fun.
#4 Scaffold Learning
Some coding academies start students off with advanced projects, encouraging them to adapt and figure out their own errors.
This could be compared to giving your child a copy of Ulysseus and telling them to come back when they’ve finished a summary of the entire book.
Studies show that scaffolding is the best approach for young learners. To scaffold:
- Start students off by introducing basic concepts and terms
- Confirm understanding with questions and activities
- Introduce simple problems and tasks for students to solve independently
- Work through errors and misconceptions
- Progress to more advanced concepts and skills only when students are ready
Scaffolding has a number of benefits. It helps to build students’ confidence from the beginning, and only progresses to more difficult concepts and problems when they’re ready. Once they have the basics down, advanced questions are less intimidating.
If you’re not a computer science teacher, you likely don’t have the resources to prepare detailed lesson plans for your little learner. Luckily, there are many online courses and resources that scaffold learning.
#5 Be Prepared for Stumbling Blocks
Did you know that only 10% of people who start an online coding course ever finish it?
If you’ve ever picked up a new skill, you know that it can be difficult to troubleshoot your error. When you’ve dropped a stitch while knitting or baked a loaf of bread that just didn’t seem to rise, it can be frustrating. Without knowing where you went wrong, you may give up knitting or baking forever.
The same is true when coding. Kids can be particularly vulnerable to frustration, especially when they’re just starting out. It’s important to keep in mind that teaching kids to code may require more patience compared to teaching yourself to code.
Disney Codeillusion seeks to provide a “no-stuck” experience. If you’re unsure how to fix an error, a favorite Disney character is always there to provide a helpful hint that guides you in the right direction during the coding course.
#6 Let Your Child Set Their Own Pace
Different learners progress at different paces.
While a teenager getting ready for their first college computer science course might hope to breeze through an entire coding curriculum in a few weeks, a younger student might be overwhelmed by the same speed.
Bite-sized lesson plans make it possible for learners to make steady progress, at their own pace. This incremental style of learning will not only help students break down the material into sections, but also help them understand what is coding used for case by case.
- Disney Codeillusion’s lesson plans are approximately 30 minutes each.
- Supplementary puzzles and games can keep learners engaged between lessons.
- Kids can always do several lessons in a row if they’re feeling motivated.
Make sure your child feels empowered to take breaks, ask questions, and reach out for support when and if they need it. After all, the goal is to have fun.
Disney Codeillusion: Coding Made Fun
Many coding courses advertise themselves as “bootcamps.” At Disney Codeillusion, we leave out the discipline and “sink or swim'' attitude. Instead, lessons focus on the fun and creativity available through coding.
Program features include:
An added bonus? With fun lesson plans that are suitable for learners of all ages, you can learn alongside your child.
Are you ready to introduce your child to the magical world of coding? Get started with a free trial from Disney Codeillusion.
NBC News. “Unraveling How Children Become Bilingual So Easily.” http://www.nbcnews.com/id/32013276/ns/health-childrens_health/t/unraveling-how-kids-become-bilingual-so-easily/
Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem Based Learning. “Scaffolding for Optimal Challenge in K–12 Problem-Based Learning Learning.” https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1712&context=ijpbl