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What is Coding for Kids?

What is Coding for Kids?

Coding is becoming an increasingly important skill for kids to learn, and in this article we want to share our experience and perspectives on what is coding for kids, and why it is so valuable. We will explain what coding is, why it’s so important, how we get kids to start learning, and the many benefits of coding for kids.

What Is Coding for Kids?  Important

Coding is the process of writing instructions that a computer can understand and follow. 

When explaining to kids, it is like telling their toys how to play a game. Imagine having a toy robot that you need to guide home. You give it commands like 'move forward,' 'turn right,' or repeat the last command.' Coding is just like that.

Why Is Coding for Kids valuable?

Coding Teaches Problem Solving

One of the best things about learning to code is that it teaches logical thinking and reasoning. When learning to code, one thing that amazes people is how writing code is like solving a puzzle. You have to break down big problems into smaller steps and think logically(rationally) to fix errors in your code. Learning this process helps children become better problem solvers in all areas of their life - not just coding!

A kid solving a problem

Coding Promotes Creativity

Coding isn't just about writing lines of code; it's a gateway to making your dreams a reality. With it, kids have the power to build games, apps, websites, and so much more. In our fast-evolving world, creativity is crucial for success, and coding is one of the best tools for bringing this creativity to life in the form of interactive projects, offering immense satisfaction. It teaches kids that their imagination can be transformed into tangible experiences for others to enjoy. That their thoughts can change the world.

Coding Develops Communication Skills

It has been said that baking is a science and cooking is an art. In a way, coding is a bit of both, but in either case, it requires precision. Just as baking according to a recipe, where a small mistake, like adding too much salt, can ruin an entire cake, a minor error in coding can disrupt an entire algorithm! What if Cody receives the wrong commands and you tell him to take a right instead of a left? Coding teaches kids to express their ideas clearly and think in an organized way, just like writing and following a recipe step by step. These skills in clear communication and logical thinking are invaluable in school, building friendships, and in any future career.

Cody driving towards a right turn command block

Coding Prepares Kids for the Future

Knowing how to code is more than preparing kids for future careers; it's equipping them for life in a technology-centric world. Learning to code is a key advantage, providing them with skills that extend far beyond just programming. In a future shaped by AI and smart technology, these coding skills will be invaluable, making their understanding of the technology they use daily even more profound. Coding is rapidly becoming an essential skill for everyone, not just professional programmers.

Coding Builds Confidence

When learning to code, kids embark on a journey that leads to stronger belief in one's own abilities. It's about more than just writing code; it's about witnessing their creations come to life and work as intended. This experience is deeply empowering for kids. They learn that they have the ability to control and shape technology, transforming their imaginative concepts into functioning programs. This realization instills a profound sense of pride (in a good way) and boosts their self-esteem, showing them that they can achieve great things.

What Are the Basic Concepts of Coding?

Before diving into how to explain coding to kids, let’s first define the core coding concepts that provide a foundation. These concepts are like decomposition, algorithms, and debugging, which underpin how we write code.

We will use Cody Block, our cute and helpful coding car to help explain it!

Cody Block explaining what is coding for kids

Decomposition (Logical Thinking)

Decomposition means breaking down big problems into smaller steps, and is a crucial skill for logical thinking. So when coding, we plan the different parts of a program before we write it. Decomposition makes coding a lot less intimidating!

When kids play with Cody Block, they automatically exercise their decomposition skills. Let’s say you place Cody underneath the table and Cody’s home in front of the TV. Then they need to spot the challenges and figure out how to solve them, like getting around the chair leg, around the wooden box, and finally reach home behind the box.

Algorithms

Algorithm may sound like a difficult word, but it is really just a set of instructions for solving a problem, kind of like a recipe for baking a cake. So when we write code, we create algorithms (recipes) that tell the computer precisely what to do step-by-step. Learning to think algorithmically helps kids approach tasks methodically.

With Cody, the algorithm (recipe) is the result of all the Blocks that have been placed on the ground, and Cody faithfully follows the code laid out by the kids. And that brings us to the next part, which is sequencing.

Cody with a challenging problem

Sequencing

Sequencing is putting instructions in a specific order. In coding, the computer follows our instructions exactly as we write them. Sequencing our code correctly is important for our programs to work right! Learning about sequencing helps children think through a logical order for other tasks, too.

When playing with Cody, children learn about sequencing with every Block placed, because they need to decide which Block to place where. Look at the picture below. In which sequence should the kid place the blocks in order to bring Cody home?

Cody Block in front of a box, left and right command available.

Loops

Loops allow you to repeat code multiple times without rewriting it. Whenever we want something to happen over and over, like moving forward 10 steps, we use a loop instead of copying the code 10 times! Loops make coding more efficient.

Cody has a loop command Block, which makes Cody repeat the last stored command. By playing with these blocks, children get used to computational thinking, and understand how coding and technology works.

Cody in front of a loop command block

Branching

Branching lets programs make simple decisions with “if-then” logic. For example, a game creator can tell a character like Super Mario to jump if the space bar is pressed. Branching code runs differently based on conditions, just like how you make different choices during your day.

For Cody, this is a thing we plan as an expansion (Hush! Let’s keep that as our little secret for now!). But imagine Cody driving through a gate, and if the gate is open outwards, Cody turns left, if it is open inwards, Cody turns right, and if it is closed, then Cody stops.

Debugging

Debugging just means finding and fixing errors in your code. We debug by testing small sections of our programs to pinpoint issues. Debugging teaches kids how to systematically test solutions until they get it right!

When playing with Cody, learning to debug is fun and simple, because kids see the algorithm (Blocks) and how it is executed (Cody following the instructions), and it is easy to see when Cody does something they didn’t expect!

A gif of a young boy debugging an algorithm in real time

How Do You Explain Coding to a Child?

Use Examples From Everyday Life

Think of giving instructions to someone, for example their friend. Like telling him step-by-step how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Coding is giving computers instructions in their own language. Using examples kids relate to makes coding less abstract. Cody Block is ideal for young learners. The blocks are simple to handle, and kids see the results fast. As they get better at coding, you can up the challenge by increasing the task difficulty and the number of blocks to bring Cody home.

Let Them Play Games That Involve Coding

Playing games is the best way to get kids interested in coding! Kids love playing with coding toys like games where they guide a robot to reach a goal or do specific actions. Coding puzzles like creating complex environments for Cody Block to overcome are really fun too. Seeing how their instructions affect the game teaches coding concepts in a hands-on way!

A young boy playing with Cody

Do Unplugged Coding Activities for kids

Unplugged coding activities for kids are a great way to learn coding basics without a computer. Many teachers now teach coding with board games, sorting cards into sequences, and giving each other directions for small tasks. Trying coding in a physical space made the ideas more concrete.

Use Visual Block Coding Languages

Block coding languages like Scratch are another perfect starting point for younger kids. In the program, they just drag-and-drop blocks instead of typing code. They get to make games and animations with blocks first, easing their transition to text coding later. The visual elements make coding a lot less intimidating.

We made Cody’s Blocks solid and bright, catching the kids’ attention, marking them with icons so even kids who have not yet learned to read can play and learn. 

Cody's command blocks

How Do Kids Learn to Code?

There are many child-friendly tools and platforms available today to get kids started coding, from block-based languages to advanced courses. Learning the computational thinking skills behind coding builds a solid base.

Start With Computational Thinking

Computational thinking is the problem-solving skill of the digital world. Learning to code really starts with computational thinking, which is to break problems into logical steps that a computer will follow. Kids’ first coding lessons focus on sequencing, loops, and algorithms, which may sound complicated, but are really simple concepts when shown with, for example, Cody’s Blocks. Grasping these core concepts provides a foundation before kids even write any code.

Use Child-Friendly Coding Languages

When it is time to create code, start kids coding languages like those with blocks and visual coding. Either in the real world, or digitally. Scratch uses blocks to teach programming fundamentals in a fun, engaging way. Later they may advance to text-based languages which are more complex, but allow them to create almost anything!

Try Coding on Different Platforms

Nowadays you may code on computers, tablets, phones, and even programmable coding toys for kids! Platforms like Code.org let kids code right in the browser, while coding apps teach programming on-the-go. Different tools provide variety to keep coding interesting as kids’ skills evolve.

Start Creating Your Own Projects

But the best way to really learn coding is by creating your own projects! Once kids have done some tutorials, start brainstorm on what kind of programs they want to build. Creating their own games and animations from scratch lets them apply what they learn in meaningful ways.

A favorite is putting a snack on top of Cody and try to deliver it from one room to the next, with one longer algorithm!

Join a Coding Community or Take a Class

These days there are also many wonderful communities available where kids can learn coding basics and continue growing their knowledge. Be it formal classes through school or programs like Girls Who Code. Collaborating with other coders their age can motivate kids to improve their skills faster!

What Important Skills Do Kids Learn Through Coding?

Beyond just learning to code, there are so many other critical life and academic skills kids develop through coding. These include problem solving, critical thinking, math skills, communication abilities, and more.

Coding Develops Problem-Solving Abilities

Coding requires breaking down complex problems into logical, manageable steps. When bugs occur, coders debug systematically until they solve the issue. This step-by-step problem-solving process is valuable for any kind of challenge that kids will face in their life!

Coding Teaches Critical Thinking

To write effective code, they need to think critically about how they can break down tasks and implement solutions. Coding teaches how to think logically and approach problems methodically. Then they can apply these critical thinking strategies to everything, not just coding!

Coding Requires Attention to Detail

Small mistakes in code can keep the whole program from working properly. Through coding, kids learn the importance of precision and checking their work to catch any errors. Paying such close attention to details helps develop their attention and shows the value of being detailed.

Coding Develops Math and Writing Skills Too

Along with strengthening problem-solving abilities, coding usually improves kids’ math and writing skills! They apply math concepts like variables, geometry, and graphing when coding. Explaining code clearly and concisely also requires good writing abilities.

When kids play with Cody together in a classroom or kindergarten setting, being able to communicate effectively is as key to success as is being creative and logical. As is counting the number of turns and different moves Cody needs to make in order to get home.

Two kids playing with Cody

Coding Promotes Time Management and Organization

When working on bigger coding projects for kids, they learn how to schedule their time and organize tasks effectively. Coding teaches planning, time management, and organizational skills that help them be successful in all their work. Cody Block might not help as much with this, as having too much fun makes time fly by!

When Should Kids Start Learning to Code?

While coding can be learned at any age, introducing it early during key developmental windows helps set kids up for long-term success. But really, there’s no bad age to get started!

Preschool Age (3-5)

Even preschoolers can grasp early coding concepts through unplugged activities, games, and visual programming tools! Basic sequencing and debugging can be taught at this age through play. Starting early develops logical thinking skills that will provide a foundation for later coding. Therefore, many kindergartens use Cody Block as part of their play and education.

Elementary School (6-10)

In elementary school, kids can start learning text-based coding languages like Blockly, Scratch, and Python. Their problem solving skills and critical thinking skills are developing rapidly at this age, allowing them to apply coding to hands-on projects. This is usually when kids start using Cody Block with the more complex blocks like Function Record and Function Play.

Middle School (11-13)

By middle school, students are often ready for more advanced text-based coding in languages like Python, JavaScript, and HTML/CSS. Their ability to think abstractly allows them to better understand complex coding logic and syntax during this time. Taking a coding elective in school or joining an after school coding club is a great idea.

High School (14-18)

In high school, teens can take advanced courses in software development and computer science, and potentially earn industry certifications.

Starting to code earlier provides a solid foundation to build upon during the high school years.

What Are Programming Languages?

It is what allow coders to tell instructions to computers. There are thousands of languages, each with their own rules, pros and cons, and reasons to use.

Programming Languages Let Humans Communicate with Computers

Programming languages are sets of instructions that allow humans to communicate with computers. Just like how there are thousands of spoken languages, there are thousands of programming languages coders can learn!

Think of Cody’s Blocks as a programming language. Each block is like a word in your language, telling Cody what to do. By learning Cody’s language, kids learn how to talk to computers.

Girl learning to code

Low-Level vs High-Level Programming Languages

Low-level languages like Assembly and C are closer to machine code, which you can think of as the 1s and 0s (though there are different ones), but the common denominator is that they allow direct control of the hardware. High-level languages like Python and Java are designed for ease of reading and writing, in a way just like this article.

Cody’s Blocks is a very high level language, and therefore easy for kids to learn and use.

Compiled vs Interpreted Programming Languages

Compiled languages like C must be converted into machine code before execution. Interpreted languages like Python execute high-level code directly. Interpreted programs generally run slower than compiled programs, but have easier development.

Object-Oriented vs Procedural Programming Languages

Object-oriented languages like Java organize code into objects that contain data and procedures. Procedural languages like C structure code into functions and procedures.

Text-Based vs Visual Programming Languages

Visual programming languages like Scratch use blocks instead of text syntax. Kids often start with visual languages like Scratch before moving on to Python and JavaScript, with the visual aspect making coding less intimidating.

What’s the Best Language for Kids to Start Coding?

Cody’s City Blocks (Ages 3-12)

Cody’s brightly coloured Blocks can be moved and arranged to teach coding fundamentals without intimidating rules and screens. It allows kids to play while learning, touching and feeling, connecting the real world to their mind as they create algorithms one Block at a time.

It is a wonderful language to start with, setting kids up for success. With different and more complicated Blocks, the difficulty scales, ensuring that Cody is relevant as the kids grow.

Photo of a selection of Cody's City Blocks that works as commands

Scratch (Ages 6-9)

Scratch is a software with colorful drag-and-drop blocks to teach coding fundamentals. In a way it is a bit like Cody’s Blocks on a screen, though it is more complicated. Creating games and animations in Scratch can give confidence to move onto text-based languages later! Scratch is a great language for elementary school kids.

Image of Scratch Programming Language

Blockly (Ages 7-11)

Blockly, made by Google, uses LEGO-like blocks to introduce text-based JavaScript, Python, and more. Kids can practice real programming languages, but in a visual way. The blocks helps them gradually transition to typing code, preparing them for more complex languages.

Image of Blockly programming language

Python (Ages 10-14)

Python is the most popular introductory text-based language today because of its straightforward syntax (rules). Kids love learning to program games and apps in Python, and it provides a great foundation in coding concepts and computational thinking.

JavaScript (Ages 11-16)

JavaScript adds interactivity to web pages. After learning Python it is possible to make real websites and browser apps.

Java (Ages 12-18)

Java is used to develop all types of applications and is a good language to learn in high school. It is often used in Computer Science courses for college and serves as stepping stones to other advanced languages like C++ and C#.

Why Is It Important to Limit Screen Time for Kids?

With so much talk of what is coding for kids, we wanted to touch on the importance of setting reasonable limits around recreational screen media. Excess screen time can negatively impact children if it displaces real-life interactions and hands-on learning.

Kid staring at screen

Too Much Screen Time Can Harm Communication Skills

Excess screen time early in life can impact a child’s language development and ability to pick up on social cues. Face-to-face interaction teaches kids the verbal and nonverbal communication skills necessary for socializing.

Screen Dependence Can Lead to Less Physical Activity

Spending lots of recreational time on phones/tablets means less time outdoors playing and being active. Physical activity is essential for young kids’ fitness, coordination, and health. Excess screen time promotes sedentary behavior, and it is a negative trend in most societies.

Screens Often Displace Creative Play and Hands-On Learning

Time spent passively consuming content on-screen reduces opportunities for more mindful, engaged play. Creative play without screens builds self-directed learning, imagination, and problem solving.

This is one of the foundational reasons Cody Block exists. We create future innovators with sustainable, screen-free toys that make learning an adventure.

Kid playing with Cody Block

Developmentally Inappropriate Content Is Easy to Access

The internet and apps provide access to content meant for older audiences. Media violence, mature themes, and hypersexual imagery can impact kids’ development and worldview. Close monitoring is required.

Sleep Disruption Can Affect Health and School Performance

Using screens before bed can negatively impact sleep quality and duration. Poor sleep can impair kids’ physical health, mental health, focus, memory, learning, and behavior. Setting device limits encourages healthy sleep hygiene, and even better is swapping screen time for hands on play and learning.

Offline Activities to Teach Coding for Kids

So what are some ways to replace screens when teaching coding for kids?

Coding Games with Cards

Using a deck of cards, you can represent different coding concepts like variables, conditionals, loops, and functions. Take turns drawing and interpreting cards to create step-by-step algorithms!

Coding Obstacle Courses

Set up a simple obstacle course with household objects like chairs and blankets. Write algorithms with arrows to guide your partner through the course without touching obstacles. Switch roles and debug each other’s programs!

Cody Block is perfect for this!

Cody overcoming a challenge

Graph Paper Programming

Use graph paper to map out locations to visit on a grid, like points on a treasure map. Write programs with directional commands to guide your partner to “treasures” you mark on the graph paper grid.

Coding Board Games

Invent or modify board games by adding basic coding rules. Require players to plan out move sequences ahead of time, use conditional statements to determine game actions, incorporate loops and variables, and debug rule issues.

Logic Puzzles and Mazes

Puzzles like Sudoku and mazes encourage logical thinking without needing a computer. Tackling coding puzzles, assembling pattern blocks, and drawing maze solutions boosts skills needed to be a good coder down the line.

What Are Coding Classes for Kids?

In-School Coding Classes

Many schools now offer coding and computer science classes for students, though availability varies greatly by country and city. Where available, I’d highly recommend kids take advantage of these hands-on coding courses in the classroom!

After School Coding Programs and Clubs

Look into local after school coding programs offered in your community. Joining a coding club is a fun way for kids to build projects and practice coding in a social environment with peers.

Online Coding Classes

If local options are limited, online coding classes provide high-quality instruction. Structured video courses teaching real-world coding skills are engaging alternatives. Live online classes with a teacher provide accountability and interactive learning.

Coding Camps

Coding camps offered over school breaks provide focused, immersive coding experiences, and can be a great place to make new friends. Look for camps teaching in-demand skills like app development, robotics, minecraft modding, and more based on your child’s interests!

Coding Tutoring

One-on-one expert coding tutors can adapt instruction specifically to your child’s skill level and pace of learning. Personalized support accelerates progress mastering programming languages and concepts.

Other Great Coding Resources for Kids

Free Online Coding Courses

  • Code.org - Fun game-based courses for learning coding basics and beyond. Good graphics and structure.
  • Khan Academy - Khan Academy coding for kids offers straightforward coding tutorials in JavaScript, SQL, and more. Nice supplemental practice.
  • CS First - Engaging Scratch curriculum created by Google. Great starting point.
  • Codecademy - Well-designed interactive courses in web development and Python, but it is more advanced.

Online Coding Classes

  • Tynker - Awesome project-based coding courses using blocks, Python, Roblox, and more. Various levels.
  • Udemy - Huge selection of affordable video coding courses for any language and skill level. Quality varies.
  • Outschool - Live online coding classes in Python, Scratch, Minecraft, Web Design, and more. Small groups.
  • BYJU’S FutureSchool - Live 1-on-1 online coding classes. Personalized curriculum and pacing.

Other Helpful Coding Resources

  • Free Code Camp - Practice coding in the browser. Community and articles too.
  • SoloLearn - Free courses and developer community for learning to code.
  • Pluralsight - Paid on-demand coding video courses on pretty much any language/topic. Quality content.
  • LeetCode - Platform to practice coding interview questions. Good for older kids prepping for tech jobs.
  • W3Schools - Tutorials and references for web development languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and more.

Conclusion

We hope this article has shown what an awesome experience learning to code can be for kids today. The things they learn through coding - problem solving, critical thinking, confidence, and more - are invaluable. We encourage all kids to give coding a try and see where it takes you! Start with simple activities, try out different learning tools, and most importantly, have fun! The skills you learn now can launch you on an exciting path toward developing the next big app, breakthrough technology, or whatever your imagination dreams up!

 

 

 

Image sources

Photos by Thomas ParkKelly Sikkema, Ricky TurnerJosh Applegate, AltumCode, and Chris Ried, via Unsplash.com