Teaching Kids Coding: Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide

Even young children can begin to learn the basics of how to write computer programs, using the many apps and online tools available. 

Older kids and teens may well be attracted by the idea of learning how to make games, and this can help get them excited about e-learning.

Whether you’re a teacher looking at helping your class learn how to code, or a parent wanting to direct screen time toward something productive, here’s what you need to know:

Why Teach Kids Coding? The Benefits of Coding

Even if you’re a self-confessed technophobe, you can probably recognize some great reasons why learning to code is great for kids. 

Here are two of the most important:

Computers and Technology Definitely Aren’t Going Away

If you’ve got a class of 30 kids, it’s almost certain that a good number of them are going to grow up to be involved in the tech industry in some way. 

While some jobs have been swept away by automation, software and app development is definitely here to stay!

You can give children a great start using coding for kids courses. This could set them up for a lifetime of learning and engaging with computers, or even for a whole career in science, engineering, or technology.

Coding Teaches Other Important Skills

What about the kids who aren’t going to stick with technology or computer programming for the long term? Coding is still hugely worthwhile for them too. Learning to code can help kids develop a number of important skills, including:

  • Logical thinking and pattern recognition – crucial skills for maths
  • Problem-solving (figuring out why code didn’t work as expected, and fixing it)
  • Perseverance (sticking with what they’re doing, even when it’s hard)
  • Creativity in coming up with ideas and putting them into action
  • Collaboration and teamwork, if they’re working together as a group

How to Help Kids Learn to Code

As an educator, either in the classroom or at home, you can help kids learn to code. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to code yourself – there are lots of websites, apps, and online courses out there that can help.

Start with Scratch 3.0

Scratch 3.0 is the latest iteration of the kids’ programming language Scratch, developed by the MIT Media Lab. It’s a block-based programming language that lets kids make games and cartoons using sprites and animated figures. 

It’s suitable for primary school aged children because it’s visual rather than words-based.

Encourage Kids to Collaborate (and Facilitate This)

Kids learn from other kids, and one of the best ways to help children progress quickly and enthusiastically with learning to code is to foster collaborative learning.

Encouraging kids to share what they’re working on, and to problem-solve together, can be truly powerful. A problem that has stumped one child might have already been tackled by another – and a cool idea from one member of your class may well inspire other students to build something similar.

You may want to set a specific time of the week, perhaps on a Friday afternoon, when your students can show one another what they’ve created. If you’re home educating your own children, then you could team up with another family to swap ideas and creations.

Move on to Python

What if your kids are a bit old for Scratch? If your kids are secondary school age, Scratch is likely going to seem a bit too childish – plus it won’t offer the sophistication they need. 

Python is a great programming language for older kids, because it has a simple syntax and produces code that’s easy for humans to understand.

Similarly, if you’ve started your kids off on Scratch but they’re ready for a new challenge, Python makes a great introduction into real-world coding.

Make it Fun (But Set Realistic Expectations)

Let’s face it, when kids think of coding, they think of games. Encourage them to explore their ideas and come up with fun games to create … but make sure (particularly with younger kids) that they understand what’s realistic.

While teens will recognize that bestselling computer games have huge teams of developers, artists, and designers behind them, eight-year-olds may think that they’ll be able to produce something on their own that’s just like the games they enjoy on a tablet or smartphone. Explain that it takes a long time, and a lot of people, to make some games… but show them examples of the types of games that can be created with the platform they’re using.

Teaching kids coding might sound a little daunting – but it could be the most life-changing thing you do for the children under your care. Feeling confident with the basics of coding could open up possibilities in their future that they wouldn’t have otherwise considered.

Erika Rykun is a content strategist and producer who believes in the power of networking and quality writing. She's an avid reader, writer, and runner.

Perhaps you want to help children learn something more simple, like reading? Have a look at this fantastic infographic for some ideas!
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