Coding has many differences when compared to other subjects kids learn. One of them is that most parents never learnt coding. This is unique among subjects our children learn. For this reason, parents have many questions about coding. So, ahead of the upcoming half term coding courses, here are the Top 5 Coding Tips for Parents.
1. Encourage Curiosity
Let's start with a general one. Curiosity is key to many things in children's development, not just coding. It's how babies and toddlers learn pretty much everything. They're curious about things and explore how things work.
Coding is not different. The best way to learn how things work is not to read them from a book but to find them 'by accident' as you try things out.
If your kids have attended a course or followed a tutorial, encourage them to take the next step and extend their program beyond what was covered in their lesson.
"How can you make the program more complex?"
"Can you add more functionality to your program?"
"Can you add levels to your game?"
And if they have an idea to expand their program but don't know how to do it, then that's good. That's a good place to be. It's the only way they can learn more coding!
2. Practise, Practise, Practise
Learning to coding has similarities to learning a musical instrument. Lessons with a great teacher are very important. But they're not enough. Practising coding is just as important to make sure the concepts are truly understood and students gain proficiency and independence when coding.
The tools students learn when they join a course or follow tutorials online can only become 'second nature' when kids have used them many times, in different ways in diverse projects.
The more you code, they better you'll get at coding. No ifs, no buts...
3. Focus on Coding's Problem-Solving Aspect
We're half-way-ish through our Top 5 Coding Tips for Parents. So, what's coding?
Coding is not about learning lots of commands and what they do. That's important, yes, but it's a relatively minor part of programming. Writing a computer program is, first and foremost, a problem-solving exercise.
Every program is about solving a problem. Even writing a game is about solving problems: How can I get the computer to move my player around? How can I get my player to interact with the enemies in my game? How can I keep track of the points the player has gained?
In the real world, coding is used more and more to solve real world problems. How can a car drive around without a driver? How can a doctor determine whether there's something wrong in a patient from an image of the back of their eye?
Help your child understand that writing a computer program needs them to first think of different ways of solving the problem. A famous saying in coding says: "First solve the problem, then write the code." (John Johnson)
4. Get Kids to Step Out of Their Comfort Zone With Coding
The early stages of coding are not too difficult. Kids often learn the tools and topics in the early stages of a coding curriculum quickly and they learn them well.
However, later topics can be harder. Kids can often choose to keep coding using only the basics and not to take the next step. They stay within their comfort zone. If they're following a curriculum through courses or books, then the curriculum will move them to the next step. But often kids learn coding independently, in part because schools mostly only cover the basics of coding and rarely move to more advanced topics.
Even if you, as a parent, don't understand coding, ask your kids to explain what they're doing to you and make sure they're learning something new and not just using the same tools they've always been using.
5. Learn Coding With Your Kids
Do you know coding yourself? No? No problem. Learn coding alongside your kids. The benefits are many:
You get to learn something new
You may find, in a few years' time, that you really need to know coding, so you'll be a step ahead
You can help your child as they learn
You show your kids that you can never stop learning in life, at any age!
You'll have yet another activity you can do with your kids
Coding is fun and empowering
Bonus Tip: Ask For Help Once You've Tried To Solve The Problem Yourself
I promised you the Top 5 Coding Tips for Parents. Here's a bonus tip. Ask for help!
However, children shouldn't ask for help as soon as they hit the first problem. They should first try to solve the problem, and if they can't, then they can ask for help and bring with them their failed attempts at fixing the problem.