Think the programming is being oversaturated

How kids can learn to code at home: 6 tips for parents

One of the most sensible ways to use quarantine and self-isolation is to learn something new and, in a broader sense, teach your children something new. Learning to code is one of them for your children. With enough time and focus, now is the best time to start. Here are some tips on how to have fun learning to code for kids.

First of all, if you think that you are not suitable for this job because you are neither a teacher nor an educator, don't worry. Your role in teaching your children to learn programming is less about teaching and more about leadership. Of course, none of you expect you to be a professional computer specialist (unless you are, then skip to our list of tips right away).

Children learn quickly and absorb new knowledge like a sponge. Steer (carefully) in the right direction, give the right tools, patiently follow their steps and be there when they ask for help and don't understand something is all that is currently required of you. Sure, your kids will trick you if they get really good at programming, but the upside is that at that point they'll be playing on their own - while you can do whatever you want. Either way, it's a win-win situation!

Side note: If you want to go deeper into it, Why If children should learn to program at all, we have good news. Our blog is full of articles and success stories devoted to cognitive, motor, and social skills and their myriad benefits of programming and STEM teaching that you can discover anytime. Find out how programming helps develop independent thinking, problem-oriented skills, collaborative skills, digital literacy, self-confidence, various social skills, design thinking, creativity and greater equality.

The bottom line is that STEM skills are the bread and butter of the 21st century and that learning them early brings the same benefits as with a language.

However, a market that is seemingly oversaturated with tools and construction kits in all shapes, sizes and colors can overwhelm the search for the right one. If you find yourself in this exact situation, follow the checklist we created for new parents to programming. Whatever you end up buying, it will undoubtedly be a success!

The first step in learning to code: Invest in good toys for your children

At first glance, STEM toys appear more expensive than regular plush toys, which is because unlike most plush toys, there is a lot of technology and product development behind them, backed up by thorough research and repeated testing. While a good STEM toy doesn't have to cost a lot, it is still a reasonable investment in something that will provide results as valuable as programming skills - skills that will benefit children in school as well as in the future job market.

More importantly, you look at the properties of the toy. Is it something that children can build on, i.e. something that offers different levels of difficulty as soon as they make progress (in short: toy based on a modular system) or is it a toy with a single shape and only differs in terms of its functions? We recommend the modular toy - we explained why in a previous blog post. In summary, it is easy to understand, customizable, encourages self-determined play (which in turn encourages independent thinking and creativity), and is usually expandable. The toy with building blocks is great for different age groups as it grows along with your children and their cognitive skills

Address the age group of your children

After you have checked the basic quality of the toy that you plan to use for your children to program, you should consider the age of the toy. Based on the cognitive development at different stages of their youth, children can process different levels of complexity. The youngest children (starting at 3-5 years old) get along well with purely visual, repetitive tasks that show direct results (e.g. drag and drop, programming in real time). They mostly still think that things only exist when you see them, cannot plan ahead and therefore have to be rewarded for their work with direct feedback (e.g. a task works or does not work).

At this point, you can introduce your children to programming toys that are neither electronic nor need a screen. Alternatively, you can use simple coding apps that don't even require a product. The key point here is that kids understand the logic behind programming well enough before moving on to more complex toys.

For our products we created Robo Live (control of a robot in real time) as a kind of predecessor for predictive programming for the youngest children. Then, once they are older and able to use various functions and features in a sequence, they move on to Robo Code for preprogrammed commands. The highest level of complexity that we offer in terms of apps is Robo Blockly (8-14 years old), which enables the programming of various functions at the same time as well as the construction of complex codes, including variables, functions, operators and much more. We also offer our own Python and Arduino programming interfaces (APIs) for kids who would like to customize their Robo Apps - an option for the most advanced learners.

Don't focus on screen time: Learning to code means a lot more to kids than just sticking to a screen

Today, many parents are concerned about screen time and the impact it can have on a developing young child. While a measure is always reasonable, we want to make a compelling case for why it shouldn't be overly focused on when what it indicates only complements the technical side of the task.

Most programming toys come with an app, but most of the creative work for the kids takes place in the physical, real world.

For example, children can control real things with our apps, spending most of their time tinkering and building and working on the physical implementation of their concept even before they work on the code. The physical product is the shape, while the app brings it to "life" - movements, sounds, flashing lights, etc. are made possible. Here the screen serves as an aid to the end, but of course not the end itself. However, this is how we should think of screens and electronic devices in order to build healthy relationships with them (and not just when it comes to learning to code for children). In some ways, working with programming devices can help develop a healthier relationship with screens. An interactive relationship is created which clearly merges into the physical world and which can be supported by screens.

Help them understand the basics - but let them determine

While programming is definitely about a goal (solving a problem), the ability is up to any programmer to do it himself. Therefore, don't push your kids into any particular method, especially because their ideas will be so much more fun than you could have imagined. Finally, their imagination and abstract thinking are at their peak!

Programming means finding solutions to technical problems. To help children understand the concept, try to show how programming helps them in everyday life. An alarm clock is just a little machine programmed to ring at a specific time of the day, a microwave is programmed to reheat food, and a recipe - well, a cooking recipe is the most basic code you can find and you use it every day!

When children understand that programming is just a way of solving problems, they will see programming on a deeper level than just a duty, something they do every day, just in a slightly different way. Then go to your own programming toy and present solving your "problems" (tasks) according to the same principle. Prepare exciting challenges about problem solving and applicability (like ours Robo Creator Challenge and Robo Makers Marathon).

Ultimately, it's about the journey and not the destination! 😉

Put fun first

This ties in with the previous point, but in a slightly different way. Learning to program should be fun for children and not an obligation. Don't approach this with the expectation that in a few weeks your child will be a programming genius. As usual, let them do things at their own pace, discover their own curiosity and perceive learning as an adventure rather than a must. Just because STEM toys are more about learning than most other toys doesn't mean they can't be fun in the first place. Learning through play is one of the most effective ways to acquire knowledge!

Learning to program together: meet up with other children

Before you say - but that's just not certain! - don't forget that you can make the quarantine thing possible by connecting via video conference! Either do that until you can meet again or plan the next meeting to play with several children who are just starting to learn programming (not everyone needs their own toys - Robo Wunderkind, for example, is the perfect tool for community projects for 3-4 children) .

Community learning is ideal for young children. It teaches them to listen, compromise, bring their idea to the group, discuss the purpose of different approaches, and encourage trial and error. The more children who contribute and share ideas, the faster they learn and make progress. Making new friends (and giving you the opportunity to take a break as a play partner) is an added benefit.

We hope we could win you over to teach your kids how to code! If you need even more motivation, you can contact us Instagram stop by, there we share all the great creations of our young users.