Computers play a huge role in our lives, but it’s still easy to underestimate just how much we depend on technology. Whether you’re sending a message to a friend, checking on your bank balance or even making a purchase at a ticket booth machine, you are never far away from some sort of technology when you go about your daily routine. Being able to code different types of software is a hugely desirable skill, and it is expected that programming will be even more important (and in demand) in the future. Introducing programming to children at a young age can help them appreciate and enjoy this valuable skill set as well as nurture their creative side.
You might think that a 5 year old is far too young to be learning about programming, but Daisy the Dinosaur is a smart, accessible iPad app which really does go back to basics. Choosing from a range of commands, users can animate the onscreen cartoon dinosaur in a variety of different ways. The basic commands include movement options like ‘run’, ‘roll’, ‘shrink’, etc., but more complex instructions can be added. For example, kids can queue a sequence of events by using simple parameters like ‘if’ and ‘when’ in their code, and they can watch back their program as Daisy performs the instructions.
Khan Academy is a huge online database which provides world-class educational resources for anyone. The website has a massive computer programming section which not only teaches children the step-by-step basics of coding, but it also has thousands of usable programs which have been created by other users. Kids can look at this code to see what they are capable of creating themselves, and they can also freely edit existing programs and add their own custom spin on them. Building up and editing a ‘base’ program is a great way to get involved in coding and learn the core fundamentals without tripping up over some of the more complicated elements.
Minecraft is one of the most popular video games in recent memory, and the game is enjoyed by gamers of all ages. The game offers a huge world which players can explore and search for materials to build their very own creations, and gamers can join servers to play with each other via a fibre optic network. It may not seem like much, but introducing children to the world of Minecraft can help teach them crucial logical and problem-solving skills which are essential for programming. Even better, kids can build machines and structures with moveable parts and complicated designs. The process is very similar to writing complicated code, and the game is an excellent introduction to vital programming concepts like variables, objects and classes.
Scratch is an interesting piece of software which can be loaded from any Internet browser, and it teaches programming to kids without them necessarily realising it. Important bits of code are already pre-written, so kids simply have to build up different blocks to create their own computer program. The visual interface allows kids to see how their program is running, and they can easily figure out what pieces of code they need to change if they want to alter the function of the program.
Lego blocks have always been one of the best ways for children to show off their creative side and develop basic logic skills and develop their motor commands, but the Mindstorm range takes this inventiveness one step further. Using a simplified programming interface which uses icons instead of lines of code, kids can control and command a physical robot made out of Lego. It’s one of the best ways to show children just how powerful programming can be.