Top Tips for Learning to Code at Home
In September 2014, the National Curriculum changed to include coding. All children from five years-old are now taught the subject at school.
Pupils aged five to seven will be expected to "understand what algorithms are" and "create and debug simple programs". By the age of 11, they will need to "design, use and evaluate computational abstractions that model the state and behaviour of real-world problems and physical systems".
But often, as parents, we don’t have much knowledge of this new subject, making it difficult to help our little ones to learn at home.
The first thing to understand is that the ideas behind coding aren’t that new at all. It’s a bit like science or maths; it’s largely about learning how to overcome problems, apply solutions, and work out what went wrong. Many of the skills children need for coding don’t require a computer to practise:
Before children learn the language of coding, it is helpful for them to learn to use symbols to represent commands. Did you ever play with ‘secret codes’ when you were younger? This for example is a great way to incorporate symbols into play.
A big part of coding is logic and the art of breaking tasks down into small steps. This may be a new skill for children but it’s one that can be applied to nearly anything they do in life. Ask your child to explain their perfect day to you from getting up to going to bed. Or talk about a recent holiday, birthday or similar and get them to break it down into detailed steps.
Another way to hone this skill is to blindfold somebody and ask your child to guide them through a room, or a maze, or the garden, using only words.
To decipher a complicated computer code, children need to learn how to find patterns. Help your child to find patterns in everyday items such as the pattern on a duvet cover, or the verses in a song.
There are many toys and apps on the market that can help children from a young age to learn about coding and programming.
There is a handy website called Code Academy which offers a free, online introductory course for coding, using real programming language (please note, this has not been tested or endorsed by the Good App Guide). This could be a useful taster session for you, as well as a way to support your child’s learnin
Toys and apps to teach coding
The following toys and apps can be used to teach your child coding at home. They have all been tested by children and achieved the highest accreditation (Recommended) from the Good App Guide and Good Toy Guide.
(Ages 6 - 8)
This app uses a drag-and-drop style. Children must use the coding blocks to direct a character around various games, from platformers to bursting balloons. They can instantly see the effect of their commands – and it’s quite funny when a single wrong step sends their character running in the wrong direction!
(Ages 7 - 9)
Again, using a drag-and-drop technique, children create animations by controlling characters within a scene. We love how this app gives children the freedom to experiment with coding blocks, so they can just try things without the pressure of getting a right answer.
(Ages 7 - 10)
An online coding game that gets children using simple commands to help the monkey get to his banana.
(Ages 7 - 9)
Navigate the map, collect the crystals and get your avatar to the portal first in this programming board game.
Bits and Bytes
(Ages 7 - 11)
This card game requires no knowledge of computer coding to get started. It helps children learn the logical thinking skills needed for computing and develop their understanding of computers.
Bits and Bytes
Learn how to code by controlling a real working robot! Children use an app to program the Sphero, encouraging them to think deeper and generate new ideas for what’s possible between a program, a robot, the physical world, and their imagination.
This post was written by Dr Amanda Gummer