As a parent, I am always trying to encourage my kids to try new and different things. You’ll never know what you have an interest in if you don’t take the first step in trying. At younger ages, children rely on parents to make decisions around what they participate in and what they don’t. As a software developer, I knew I would one day introduce them to my chosen profession. I naturally found myself drawn to all things related to computer at a young age. With technology readily available around the home, I thought they may find it as exciting as I do, however to my surprise, since they are comfortable with technology it seems to be such a normal part of their life that they don’t think of it as more than any other appliance. It was time for me to give them a gentle nudge towards learning how programming fits into our life.This past weekend I sat through a day of Introduction to Ruby led by Ladies Learning Code. In their own words, the organization’s mission is “to be the leading resource for women and youth to become passionate builders – not just consumers – of technology by learning technical skills in a hands-on, social, and collaborative way.” This was a workshop aimed at introducing coding to girls from ages 8 to 13. I was excited to see what techniques they would use to make the subject interesting to children. I have thought a lot about how I would introduce software development to my kids but it has always left me stumped. What age would be a good age to try? Were their brains ready to think logically? These were all questions that kept me from trying. When I was forwarded information about this workshop, it was a good excuse to at least take the first step.
When we arrived at the class, we were warmly greeted by everyone involved in the workshop. This included the instructor, representatives from Ladies Learning Code and mentors – volunteers that took time from their weekend to help these girls learn. The whole day was filled with smiles and laughter, making it an ideal learning environment. I made an effort to sit back and just watch the teaching and learning process. This also allowed me to observe my daughter’s behaviour while learning something new. How does she react when she encounters a problem? How does she interact with peers as well as instructors? Does she ask questions? Does she volunteer answers when a question is asked? A lot of the class was spent typing but they were encouraged to experiment. This is where it got interesting. The kids had no problems trying things out. Most of the time, this resulted in errors but they kept on trying. They didn’t get discouraged which was a great thing to see as a parent. The highlight was when my daughter figured out how to get the program to display her name ten million times. (lol awesome) We had a tough time getting it to stop so we could move on.
While this workshop gave them a taste of what coding is like, I think it would be valuable to teach them some more basic logic skills before all the typing. Searching for ‘intro to coding for kids’ on Google returns a lot of results but here are some beginner resources that I found interesting:
- Tynker (tynker.com) – They have free Starter Packs that your kids can try.
- Hour of Code (hourofcode.com)
- Scratch (scratch.mit.edu)
Since the class, my daughter hasn’t mentioned coding anymore but it may be because school has started along with her other extracurricular activities. I hope one day she will bring up again and it could be something that we share. If not, I hope she learned that it’s not that scary and can be fun.