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Four basic steps to help a kid get started with coding

Computer programming (aka coding, aka writing software) is being called the new ABCs of the 21st century. Children who “speak code” will rule the Earth (and even beyond it)— or at the very least, they will better comprehend the logic behind digital design, apps, and the computer-driven technologies that we increasingly depend on (very often with our lives).

This viral video serves up some star-studded examples of why coding is worth learning:

Convinced already? Here are four steps to help a child get started with coding:

  1. Give them a book about coding (or famous coders). Books, which are written using the original ABCs, are still one of the truly magical learning tools for young children. A great reading book with engaging characters — like Linda Liukas’s Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding — often inspires further exploration. (Hello Ruby and two other books are included in our Curious Coders box.) We also recommend the many wonderful children’s biographies of great computer scientists, from Ada Lovelace to Bill Gates.
  2. Get them engaged with games and toys that encourage “computational thinking.” Not every child will be the next great computer programmer, but author (and computer programmer) Linda Liukas argues that they should at least develop “computational thinking,” which includes the ability to break down a problem into steps, to spot patterns, to identify and remove errors, and to collaborate with others. Many board games and toys exist that help children develop computational thinking. This list from Working Mother includes two of our favorites: the Think & Learn Code-a-pillar from Fisher-Price and Cubetto, the wooden coding robot, from Primo Toys (one of our partners on the Curious Coders box). We also love the many lessons and exercises available from CSUnplugged, a website created at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand to teach kids “computer science without the computer.”
  3. Let them play and create online. This blog post from Edutopia lists some of the great coding platforms for children, including frees ones like MIT’s Scratch (another STEM Reads partner), Code.org, Khan Academy, and Google’s Made with Code — and Tynker, a paid subscription-based platform.
  4. Link them up with a coding group or community. Believe it or not, coding with people (either physically or virtually) can be fun! These events and platforms encourage “community coding:” Scratch Day; Hour of Code; Girls Who Code; Black Girls Code; and MathandCoding (which neatly incorporates our Curious Coders theme and our upcoming Math Mania theme, in honor of Math Awareness Month).

What other kid-friendly coding resources would you add to this mix?

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