If coding is a new topic to both you and your child, it’s a great idea to tackle it together. So how can you help your budding coder?
Coding is different
For the vast majority of parents (and grandparents) helping kids with coding is very different to any other subject. When it comes to Maths, English, Science, Geography, History, Art etc parents generally studied the subject themselves and have the knowledge to help their children, certainly during primary or elementary school years. This is not so with coding. Very few of today’s parents have any knowledge at all of coding and this presents challenges and opportunities.
It can be easy for parents to simply say “can’t help you with that” when asked a question on coding or to present a quizzical expression when their child wants to discuss a coding project. But that would be to miss a unique opportunity to share a learning experience as equals.
And, by getting involved, you yourself will gain useful skills, experience and confidence in a part of life that is becoming ever more important. Here are some ideas on how you can help with coding.
One of the simplest things you can do is to be interested. Just as you chat to your children when they come home about what they have been reading, writing, drawing and discussing at school, so you can talk to them about what they’re doing with computing and coding. And for parents who feel intimidated by the idea of computer coding, talking through what their children have been doing – particularly at primary level – may be a good way to demystify the subject. And many children will be delighted to be the ones doing the explaining!
Coding = Creativity
Coding is as much about creativity as it is about maths and science. The stereotype of computer coders always being a maths nerd scares many people away from coding - adults and children alike. But coding is all about creating and making things come to life.
Most kids like to create things. So capture this by emphasizing coding projects that involve creativity such as painting, story-telling, interactive games or making a remote controlled buggy. Keep it fun and they will learn some core programming concepts along the way.
Tap into your child's passions. Avid readers can build web sites to publish reviews of books they've read. Sports fanatics can build web sites to track the stats of their team or create interactive quizzes. Artists can write code in Scratch to draw continuously changing patterns or random shapes. Choose something your child is really keen on and help them use coding as a new way to explore their ideas.
Make coding sociable
Obviously the current restrictions resulting from the Covid pandemic need to be followed but if and when possible getting a group of friends together for coding lets them bounce ideas around and learn from one another. As they get older having a network of friends who share an interest in coding will help them stay engaged. Group coding projects encourage teamwork which is a key part of ‘real life’ coding.
Find out what is happening at school
Talk to your child’s teacher and find out next term’s teaching plan for coding. Do your own ‘research’ to learn a bit about the things your child is learning so that you can get ahead of the game and be ready to help with homework and discuss their schoolwork.
Again subject to the restrictions relating to Covid, see if there are any after school clubs or any coding activities during the holidays that can help with coding. And you can use the projects from our Code Club at home.
Let the kids drive
Coding is a skill that is learned with hands-on practice, so let the kids drive. Avoid jumping in to type on the keyboard, even temporarily. If they have to click on a menu or ‘drag and drop’ a block, point to the screen with your finger instead of taking the mouse and clicking it yourself. Whenever there is code to be typed, have them type it. It may be faster if you did it yourself, but your child needs the practice more than you.
It is paramount that children stay safe when using computers but if at all possible give your child access to a computer where they can experiment and explore.
Remember the old saying “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
Learn to code
Given most of today’s mums and dads have little or no understanding of coding it can be difficult for them to offer support in this subject. One way to overcome this is to get some hands on experience in coding. A good choice is ‘Scratch’ - a coding language that is widely used in schools and is easy to access and easy to learn.
Our Code Club has a whole load of fun coding projects using Scratch - these would be an ideal choice to enjoy completing with your children. You can find out more here Code Club