6 renowned experts advice & tips on how parents can teach your child to code.

I'm guessing that if you are reading this, you don't need to be convinced why it is important to teach your children to code.   You may be aware that Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, is pushing Apple to help teach K12 students to code.  You've heard the facts that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts by 2020, there will more than 1.4 million software developer jobs than qualified applicants to fill.

Over the last month, I've researched and written a number of articles on the topic of coding for kids.

  1. 13 fun & simple ways to teach your K12 to code
  2. Coding for kids: Why code.org may be the perfect way to teach your child to code.
  3. Over 60 million kids have used Tynker. Should yours?
  4. What does Apple believe should be required in every school?

For my last article in this series, I turned to experts in the field of parenting, education and computer science.  I asked them to share the most effective service, methodology or tip for teaching children how to code.  Below we have advice from a former Gold Cannes Lion winner, an extraordinary 8th grader who is already making an income via computer science, the founder of Educents, a parenting marketplace for educational resources, a best selling author who is inspiring young girls, and a number of CEOs.

1. Play is HOW kids learn

"Educational Toys are the best way for the youngest children to learn about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  At an early age, play is HOW kids learn and does have a crucial role in children’s social and psychological development. Educational Toys encourages a child’s creative thinking and independence; develops problem-solving skills – these kinds of skills will benefit them well as they grow from childhood into adulthood.”  — Filippo Yacob


Filippo Yacob -A former Gold Cannes Lion 2016 winner, Filippo Yacob is the Founder and CEO of Primo Toys (www.primotoys.com). He is the creator of Cubetto, the most crowdfunded learning technology in Kickstarter's history, and the world's first screen-less programming system, which is currently used in over 100 countries and has introduced over 1,000,000 children in early years learning to computer programming principles.  You can follow Filippo on Twitter @primotoys

2. Surround your child with media, books, and role models that encourage your child about the positive benefits of coding.

“An important tip to teach children coding is to help them have a positive attitude about coding.  Emphasize what coding allows us to do in our daily lives and how it can be used to solve our biggest problems all around the world. Let them know that making mistakes while coding might happen a lot but to keep trying and ask for help.  Show them successful role models in technology that have made a difference.  Finally, find media, books, toys, and other products that encourage children and help build upon their knowledge and confidence. There are plenty of resources on the internet that will teach the skillset but touching the mindset is most needed. Without capturing a strong interest, children will move on quickly and may never return.  This is one of the reasons I wrote the book Sasha Savvy Loves to Code. — Sasha Ariel Alston

Sasha Ariel Alston is the author of "Sasha Savvy Loves to Code".  Sasha is a college student majoring in Information Systems at Pace University. With eight successful internships at business and information technology enterprises behind her, she encourages youth, especially girls of color, to pursue educational and career opportunities in STEM.

You can purchase Sasha's wonderful book on Amazon.com using my affiliate link. The minor commission I receive helps pay for the site, and doesn't cost you anything. I really appreciate it!

3. Find an online program that makes coding fun!

"Use a program that integrates some of your child's interests. It's easy to find programs that use video games, for example, including favorites like Minecraft. When kids are already engaged and interested in something like gaming, fashion design, writing, or art, adding an element like coding will only add to their feeling of accomplishment.

If you don’t know a lot about coding, don’t panic. There is a lot of support online for kids and other beginners. Before purchasing a program, check out their support forums and availability. Do they respond quickly? Is it child-friendly? Any high-quality coding program should be prepared to assist your child and yourself.

Coding can open up a world of possibility for your kids. The most important thing is to keep your attitude positive. Learn along with your children -- prepare to be challenged!

Also remember, coding can start at any age! And doesn’t have to use screen time. There are plenty of products out there that don’t require an ipad or online software.”  — Kaitlyn Trabucco


Kaitlyn Trabucco is the founder of Educents.com, a parenting marketplace for educational resources. Educents has helped thousands of teachers and parents by providing access to education. Educents offers thousands of educational tools that transform the educational process. Prior to launching Educents, she lived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, helping women entrepreneurs build their own businesses. She has an MBA from the Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business and lives in windy San Francisco with her husband.  You can follow Kaitlyn on Twitter @educents

4. Start with Scratch!

You can listen to parenting experts about how to get kids to code, or you can let a kid tell you.

Gregory Wickham is an NYC 8th grader who has been coding since he was 7 and earning money at it since he was 12, including managing college-aged interns.  He lays it all out for you, why kids should learn to code - and why they should teach their parents -  here: http://peopleofcolorintech.com/articles/why-kids-should-teach-their-parents-how-to-code/

Gregory advises "Start with Scratch.  You don’t have to, but in my opinion, Scratch is the best programing language to introduce to beginners.  It teaches you the basics of most programming concepts, and makes it one million times easier to pick up other programming languages (that was hyperbole, of course; it is probably more like 10 times easier.)."

5. Make Learning to Code So Fun Kids Don't Realize They Are Learning!

"Technology giants, like Grace Hopper, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, didn't learn how to program and build products by taking mandatory courses in school. They all taught themselves through play, by building interesting projects and learning new techniques whenever necessary.The projects came first and the concepts were just a means to an end.

We think this is the most effective way to develop deep understanding in students. We structure learning through fun projects and introduce skills or concepts only after students realize that new knowledge is needed to solve a problem.

Our project-based approach draws from two core ideas: accidental learning and competency-based education. In plain English, that means we believe that:

1.  Students learn best when they’re working on enjoyable projects and not necessarily trying to learn a particular skill

Accidental (or Incidental) learning, is a phrase coined by cognitive scientist and learning theorist Roger Schank and refers to the everyday learning that takes place in all of our lives. For example, an international traveler might need to figure out how to get from the airport to her hotel. Through the process of solving this transportation problem, she would also learn how the city’s subway system is structured and a few basic phrases in a new language. The traveler didn’t set out with an explicit goal to learn about the city’s subway system or a new language, that learning just happened accidentally along the way.

Kids just want to play and build cool stuff they can show off to their friends.


2.  Students should be assessed on the skills they demonstrate, not seemingly relevant but arbitrary metrics like the breadth of material they’ve been exposed to, the number of projects they’ve completed or the length of time they’ve been with us.

Competency-based education is an approach to learning that’s explicitly focused on student mastery. 

We only move students forward when they’ve demonstrated mastery through rich, meaningful assessments like independently completing project-based work, ‘teaching’ instructors or other students about a concept or presenting their process for a particular project.

This approach is only possible in a culture where students are comfortable learning at their own pace and judging their progress against themselves instead of against their peers. Different students will excel at different topics in our curriculum, and helping students discover and build on their strengths while also connecting with peers who complement those strengths is an integral part of the experience we create in our studios.” — Omowale Casselle

Omowale Casselle, is the  co-founder & CEO of Digital Adventures.  Digital Adventures teaches kids to build with technology at state-of-the-art learning studios throughout the Greater Chicago area.  You can e-mail Omowale at omowale@digitaladventures.com.

6. Children can be taught the basics of coding without sitting in front of a screen

"Believe it or not, children can be taught the basics of coding without sitting in front of a screen. Marble runs are excellent low-tech tools that can help young children understand the broad ideas of programming- identifying a desired outcome, designing, building, testing, and debugging. 

A marble run or marble maze is usually a set of plastic or wooden tracks and connections that can be arranged in many different configurations that will make marbles behave in certain ways as they travel through the course. By building the pieces of the run, children learn cause and effect and how each building block effects the final outcome of the run- just how coding works! And just like coding, most marble runs don’t work perfectly the first time so children have to learn how to troubleshoot, think critically, and make repairs that will allow their marble run (or program) to work in the way they have envisioned. In the end, children will have planned, built, tested, debugged, and rebuilt a “program” that sends their marbles whizzing down a track. 

Most kids get into programming because they want to make cool things and a marble run is a really cool thing!”  — Theresa Duncan

Marble run

Theresa Duncan is a play expert and co-owner of Villa Villekulla Neighborhood Toy Store (www.VillaVillekullaToys.com) in Fernandina Beach, Florida. She is passionate about educating parents and caregivers on the power of play because quality play is critical to grow children into intelligent, resilient, compassionate and successful adults.  You can follow Theresa on Twitter @ameliaislandtoy

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