The following is a guest post by computer scientist and entrepreneur @joysyj who is introducing her 4 year old daughter to programming and computing via various tools, programs and apps. She is sharing her favourites below.

robotsMitch Resnik, from MIT Media Labs, speaks about getting kids to code in his TED talk. I totally agree that coding isn’t just for computer whizzes, it’s for everyone. Just like we read to babies even before they can speak or read, we should introduce toddlers to programming. Not only will they learn valuable skills, they will also have fun building cool things. Who knows they might catch the programming bug and build the next big app or website. My daughter and I watched David Lang’s TED video together on robotics under the sea. She found it exciting and relevant as she is attending a PERFORM class of Under the Sea. I have invested in a number of new robots to teach kids programming. Well that’s the topic for another post. Below are some tools that I have used with my daughter to inspire and excite her about programming:

Raspberry Pi is a credit-card-sized single-board computer developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the intention of promoting the teaching of basic computer science in schools. I hookedit up to our TV and used a spare keyboard, mouse and power cable to get it started. I downloaded the Raspian Operating System onto a SD card and logged into the graphical user interface. There are loads of resources for projects and articles for begginners. We played some games using MIT’s Scratch.

Scratch is used to create games, animations and stories and share it online. Scratch helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively — essential skills for life in the 21st century. Code Clubs across the country use Scratch to gets kids to learn coding in after school clubs in primary schools. It is a very visual language and kids love playing with it as it is like putting Lego blocks together on the screen. My daughter is yet to write her own code but loves to play the games available on scratch and is eager to learn programming. I keep reminding her that she needs to learn to read and write before she can program.

Lego Mindstorms EV3 is a great way to introduce kids to robotics and programming. Mindstorms can teach kids new skills like teamwork, effective communication and problem solving. It is also lot of fun to build 3D models and then get them to perform based on the commands that you give. My daughter and I have built the TRACK3R and EV3RSTORM together. We built the robot together, then downloaded the program and watched the robot move around. As she grows older, she can create her own programs.

Some iPad apps that I have used to get her interested in programming and introduce the basic concepts in a fun and interactive manner are:

move the turtleMove the Turtle A friendly Turtle introduces my daughter step by step to the basic concepts of programming in a colourful graphic environment. This is a fun game for both adults and kids. The more my daughter plays this game, the more she will become familiar with the notions of loops, procedures, variables and conditional instructions.

Unblock Me Free is a simple and addictive puzzle game with the goal to get the red block out of the board by sliding the other blocks out of the way. Helps kids build logical thinking skills. My daughter has tried the beginner levels. The higher levels are too complex for her now but that doesn’t stop me from playing it.

fix the factoryFix the Factory (Lego) is a new puzzle game that uses EV3RSTORM and a Robot factory. My daughter loves to make the robot walk, rotate, grab, and put battery packs at the factory. It is an addictive puzzle game full of unexpected obstacles that are guaranteed to challenge your logic thinking, your spatial intelligence and your robot commanding skills.

What tools and resources have you used to introduce kids to programming? What are some challenges and successes in inspiring the next generation of young developers? Please share your thoughts and feedback.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Nita August 26, 2015 at 3:58 PM

Nice thought. Well articulated.


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