Like it or not, our children’s world is increasingly interconnected, with new and transformative ideas and technologies constantly reshaping the world we live in.
As parents, we’re always concerned with providing our children with the best possible tools for their future.
Teaching kids to code gives them the skills they need to harness and make the most out of tomorrow’s technology, better preparing them to find lucrative careers and, perhaps more importantly, become technology creators rather than remaining consumers.
As educational professionals, parents and tech enthusiasts ourselves, we know that this is often easier said than done.
Just like any skill, mastering coding takes time and practice. Once the initial novelty of creating their first program wears off, the sometimes frustrating nitty gritty of coding can become apparent and kids can quickly become bored and quit.
Having worked alongside kids of various ages in testing quite a few coding programs and courses, we’ve come up with a few tips that may help parents keep their kids interested in coding.
While we all want our kids to learn logic, math and computational thinking, at its heart, coding is about creating.
Whether through creating apps to solve a problem, a game to entertain or even a program to be used in hospitals to save lives, coding allows people to bring ideas to life.
It’s important, therefore, to encourage kids to try and design the ideas that stem from their imaginations, no matter how silly they may seem.
Figuring out problems and designing/implementing their own solutions from scratch can be an excellent way to promote creative thinking in kids and give them a sense of control over their world at the same time.
Keep it Short (and Sweet)
Coding can be an intense mental workout, especially for kids just learning to code.
Aside from the coding language (or syntax) and programming concepts, as they go along kids must continuously learn and apply things like sequential logic, math, and problem solving skills.
And that’s just if things go right.
When things go wrong it can introduce a whole new level of complexity as kids have to go back through their code to find and solve the issue. If they can’t or if errors happen too often in too short a time period, kids can quickly become extremely frustrated, overwhelmed or, worse, think they’re “bad” at coding and simply give up.
Chunking has long been a key strategy in teaching complex material to both kids and adults.
Breaking complicated learning material down into smaller, easy to understand bits has been shown to increase information retention, absorption and recall and to reduce feelings of being overwhelmed.
To that effect, parents can make sure that coding lessons are broken up into many short sessions rather than one long project or lecture per topic.
Similarly, parents can also limit the amount of time that kids have to work on their coding and coding lessons, letting them take more frequent breaks and prevent them from getting burned out.
Use Game Creation as a Support Tool
While the study of the use of games in education is complex and ongoing, the long and short of it is that kids love games and there are a host of benefits that come from their inclusion in standard pedagogy, such as increased engagement, meaningfulness and student interest.
With coding, however, kids have a unique opportunity to not just play their favorite games, but actually get involved in the creation of their own.
This not only connects the learning material to real world applications, it connects the material to real world applications that kids are actually interested in.
For example, instead of being given standard (but boring) projects to learn client-server interaction or conditional logic, kids can learn the same real-world applicable knowledge and skills while developing their very own arena fighting game that they can then play and show off to friends.
Minecraft and Roblox: Ideal Platforms for Learning to Code
Two platforms that lend themselves particularly well to kids coding lessons are Minecraft and Roblox.
Minecraft is a popular 3D video game that provides an immersive 3D world for kids to build practically anything, as well as endless challenges and projects to try, from building a city to creating working models of circuit boards. You can read more about it in our Minecraft coding overview.
Roblox, on the other hand, is online gaming platform that is designed to allow kids to create, play and share each other’s games. Using the Lua programming language, kids can build their very own first person shooters, sports games, strategy games, mysteries, RPGs, and more. You can learn more about it in our Roblox overview.
In their own way, both Minecraft and Roblox allow kids virtually unlimited freedom to build and create their own worlds.
For that reason, they’ve become immensely popular with both parents and kids. Subsequently many coding companies have created their own coding courses around these games, letting kids learn to code C++, Java and Lua while customizing, building and modifying these games.
You can learn which courses we think are best for learning to code through Minecraft in our Minecraft Coding for Kids roundup, and if you’re more interested in letting your kids explore coding with Roblox game creation, we’ve looked at a few kids coding classes for Roblox as well.
Incentivize through Competition
If a child is competitive, parents can use that as an effective motivational tool to keep them practicing and honing their skills.
Some coding courses offer periodic competitions and challenges between students, letting them test their mettle and coding chops to see whose code comes out on top.
Sometimes featuring leaderboards and prizes, this can be an excellent incentive for certain kids to practice, drill and get creative with their code.
Teamwork makes the Dream Work
Some kids don’t enjoy learning to code because they often see it as a solitary endeavor, picturing themselves alone in their room endlessly typing out bits of code.
If that’s a concern to you or your children, it shouldn’t be.
Real-life coding is almost always done through teams of coders and the ability to work effectively in a team is, in fact, a critical skill for colleges and employers alike.
Recognizing this, there are now many options for kids to learn coding and complete coding challenges as part of a group, such as coding camps and small group lessons.
There are even prestigious national team competitions with some big prizes that teams of young coders can enroll in.
If your child is more of a social butterfly and enjoys learning in a group setting, consider these types of classes instead of a self-paced learning model.
About the Author
David Belenky is a freelance writer, former science and math tutor and a tech enthusiast. When he’s not writing about educational tech, he likes to chill out with his family and dog at home.