Coding and computational thinking are increasingly becoming part of our children’s education. For adults, though, coding may still be a mystifying skill. A recent article describes five ways to teach coding without using a screen or technology. Whether you are a parent or teacher, comfortable with programming or not, you can use these approaches to help your child develop coding and computational thinking skills.

  1. Real-Life Routines: Any process that has repeated steps can be thought of as a program. Whether it’s getting breakfast on the table or getting ready for bed, you can help your child break down the steps of the process. Once that’s done, you can work with your child to look at the steps and think about ways to make the order quicker or more efficient.
  2. Cooking: Every recipe is like a computer program, providing a set of inputs, process steps, and actions to reach the desired goal. Even if your child isn’t old enough to handle a kitchen knife, you can have the “program” you to do the steps they aren’t old enough to handle yet. Should the final product not be quite right, you can work with your child to “debug” what went wrong with the recipe.
  3. Simon Says: Simon Says is a simple game that encourages programmatic thinking. If there is no “Simon says…” at the start, the instruction is invalid. Valid instructions need to be clear. This can be a gentle introduction for younger children.
  4. Tangible Programming Toys: Toys that incorporate, like the Montessori-inspired Cubetto or Lego MindStorms, can engage children through exploration of what programming does by letting them create and modify their own programs. While many such toys are expensive, if you have a Minecraft fanatic in your house, there are many free and low-cost tools to let them explore coding within the Minecraft world.
  5. Treasure Hunt: Building and executing a treasure hunt can provide a fun way to have your child create their own program of instructions. Whether it is putting together a handmade paper puzzle to get the next clue or having a gatekeeper who can give the next clue once a task has been completed, a treasure hunt can give your child the joy of watching their program be executed in real time.

Check out the original article for more ideas on how to incorporate coding and computational thinking into your child’s day.

Photo © 2014 by Jeff Jackowski under Creative Commons license