Unlike Boris Johnson, we think you can be both a ballerina AND love coding (see our champion Merritt Moore for living proof!). But if you are anything like us, the thought of coding is just a little bit daunting.
You may have a kid who’s already showing an interest in coding or building games, in which case, they probably won’t need much more. It may be as simple as surrounding them with the right community and resources to build on their passion.
But if your kid is new to coding or STEM subjects then you can get them excited by making it super fun!
Why get kids into coding anyway?
First of all, let’s talk about the benefits of coding. The beauty of it is that it combines most of the critical skills we hope to teach our kids from an early age, right through school and beyond. From creativity to critical thinking, problem-solving to communication, learning to code can help kids build a vast range of vital skills.
It’s also clear from recent psychological studies that children under the age of 7 are able to learn more than one language. If you think of learning coding/computer programming as acquiring a new language, then a child’s brain is ready to take on the challenge.
1. Make it exciting
If you’re reading this, chances are you know how impossible it is to get a kid to do anything if it’s not fun. Follow that logic, and insert joy into a task like coding and it’ll be way more inviting for your child.
One way to make coding fun is to combine it with one of their passions. If they’re into drawing, there are animation tools like Scratch that let your child create the code to bring their drawing to life. It lets you upload your own background and characters (or “Sprites”) to personalize your projects.
If you have an active little one, take the coding outside and get messy. Check out this fun activity that involves chalk… and a water pistol!
For younger kids, trusty Cbeebies has introduced coding in their usual engaging way. Why not get your kids singing along to Nina and the Neurons’ coding song?
2. Make it sociable
Coding can often conjure up the image of sitting alone at a desk craning over a computer keyboard. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
Why not make coding a communal event by setting up a community coding session with other kids and parents? For kids that naturally enjoy the company of friends, encourage them to build a social network of like-minded coding curiositeers! Don’t forget the snacks!
3. Coding Camps
Yes, that’s right, there’s such a thing as a coding camp – somewhere kids can go to meet like-minded coders and learn from the experts (taking some of the pressure off you!).
- Cypher Coders offers virtual and in-person camps (currently only in London).
- Code Ninjas offers in-person camps across the UK.
- Teentech has virtual, in-school (although these are currently virtual), and “festivals” (due to start in Summer 2022).
- Stemettes offers programmes and events nationwide, focusing particularly on girls.
- Girls into Coding – in-person events for girls aged 10-14 in London. Inspired by 13 year-old coder, Avye.
- Bletchley Park is a great family day out for kids wanting to know more about code-breaking in the place where it all began!
4. Games and puzzles
Games and puzzles are a great way to start younger kids down their coding journey. Good old-fashioned jigsaw puzzles are all about attention to detail, learning patience and problem-solving – all fundamental skills needed for coding.
You can take it a step further with older kids, and use a deck of cards to learn the basics of coding. Check out this video of how to code using just a deck of cards, a few little toys, a piece of paper and a pen!
5. Learn about coding heroes from film and TV
Sometimes it’s ok – in fact, encouraged – to cuddle up and learn from the best in the business.
One brilliant film that’s gone under the radar, is 2016’s Hidden Figures (rated PG) which celebrates some of the first pioneers of coding and computing. The movie charts the true story of three female African-American mathematicians, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan, who played a pivotal role in the early days of NASA’s U.S. space programme.
6. Read about the EXTRAORDINARY coding pioneers
If reading is your kid’s thing, there are some great books out there that celebrate our pioneers. We love the Little People, Big Dreams collection, which celebrates some of history’s most important, yet uncelebrated pioneers.
One of our favourites is Ada Lovelace.
This female pioneer wrote “Sketch of the Analytical Engine” (extended notes on Charles Babbage’s publication) in 1842, a seminal work that would later inspire Alan Turing’s code-breaking genius during World War II.
You can also read about Hedy Lamarr, an often overlooked coding icon whose work paved the way for today’s WiFi, GPS and Bluetooth communications systems. She was a true pioneer who proved that it’s totally possible to rock both brains and beauty!
And, if you can’t wait to get the book, here’s a sneaky peek at what you’ll find out:
7. Get down with the kids!
Most parents weren’t lucky enough to have been taught coding in school, but don’t let that stop you from getting involved! If you’re already a confident coder, then great, you’re in a brilliant position to help your kids learn. If you’re not, then why not learn with them?
Set aside a chunk of time each week to sit down and learn together. An opportunity for some extra learning, and a chance to bond over code!
You can also incorporate coding into everyday activities – after all, coding is simply creating a set of commands to achieve the desired outcome. This is a good example from Kodable, showing a simple set of instructions that end up in a sandwich!
8. Get the right kit
The great thing about coding is that it doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby. As we’ve seen, kids can go a long way in coding just by making it part of their day-to-day playtime.
That being said, other pieces of equipment could help your child along their coding journey. From finding the right software, the best toys, books, and activity packs, it can feel like a minefield.
Our Code Breakers box is a perfect kit for first-time coders. It includes a cipher wheel, emojicode and puzzle, “Magnificent Morse” and “Sporty Semaphores” – all the games and activities you’ll need to make coding fun for your curiositeer!