Coding for Kids: X Marks the Spot
Often when we think of coding we remember the complicated computer languages that many of us had to struggle through when we were younger. But coding for kids is actually much simpler in the beginning stages and is really all about breaking down a sequence into its smallest parts and putting them into the correct order, or being able to follow a sequence when broken down into these smallest units.
For example, if I tell my son to get ready in the morning, “get ready” really involves a number of small activities: get dressed, brush teeth, wash face, etc. And each of these can be broken down into even smaller parts! When my oldest son took a coding class in kindergarten last year, his homework would often consist of taking pictures of these types of sequences and putting them in order. Doesn’t look much like C++ or PHP, but it is actually laying the foundation for these more complicated computer languages.
When I took a coding class in graduate school, one of the hardest things wasn’t so much learning all of the commands but the incredible attention to detail that was required. It wasn’t enough to know the parts of the language, you had to know how to put them together and not miss a single step. Even as I blog in the more simplified html today, I know that leaving off a single / or > in my coding will throw the whole thing off!
So doing seemingly simple activities like the one below helps kids learn how to put together sequences made up of discrete units and trains them to pay attention to this level of detail. Beyond that, it can be really fun! Done well, these coding for kids games are challenging but rewarding as kids build on their successes and make patterns that really work.
The coding for kids activity below is based on my son’s homework from his computer class. You can find similar activities on JDaniel4’s Mom. I’ve tried to make the setup as simple as possible, so that it is easy to fit into your busy schedule. I set this up in just a few minutes, but it still provides for many variations of play.
The activities below can be adjusted for different levels. My preschooler and my 1st grader both enjoyed these games, though my younger son needed a little more help along the way. It was also a great way to reinforce the letter “X,” since this was the goal we were working towards.
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Coding for Kids: X Marks the Spot
You Will Need:
Game pieces, like from chess or Connect 4 Game
To Set Up:
Line up the game pieces into a grid. Since I had a mix of two colors, I made them into a regular pattern so it would be easier to the boys to visualize and remember. I used the inside of the game box to lay them out.
Using your washable marker, mark one game piece of each color with an “X.”
Begin by replacing one of the pieces in the grid with an “X” game piece of the matching color. Help your child write a series of up and down arrows that serve as instructions (an algorithm) to get from the bottom corner of the grid to the “X” (for example, two up arrows then three right arrows). Have them check their algorithm by physically moving their piece through their sequence. Practice this a few times until they are comfortable with it. If they are struggling, first have them physically move their piece and write the algorithm as they go.
Once they are comfortable with the first variation, have them close their eyes while you replace one of the game pieces with an “X” piece face down. Then write an algorithm for them to follow to reach the “X.” When they have completed it, have them flip over the piece they think is the correct one to see if they are right. They are so excited when they find the hidden “X”!
For older children, have them become the game maker by placing the “X” game piece on the grid face down and giving you an algorithm to follow. My 1st grader really enjoyed this. My preschooler liked to just invent an algorithm that we then followed together (without an “X” piece). He needed a little help to make sure he didn’t write a sequence that would take us off the board, but it was still fun!
Have fun with these coding for kids activities and invent your own variations!
After taking a break last year due to the arrival of Baby #3, we are back with one of my favorite series, the 31 Days of ABC! You can look forward to 31 more days of activities, crafts, books, apps, and more, all dedicated to teaching young children the alphabet.
I am so happy to be working with an amazing group of kid bloggers, who will be sharing their amazing ideas with us in the coming days. And this year for the first year we are also adding a giveaway, so be sure to scroll to the end and enter for a chance to win!
So join us as we jump, skip, hop, and read our way through the alphabet this October!
Don’t forget to follow our 31 Days of ABCs Pinterest board for even more great ABC ideas!
31 Days of ABC
Teaching the ABCs – October 1
A – October 2
B – October 3
C – October 4
D – October 5
E – October 6
F – October 7
G – October 8
H – October 9
I – October 10
J – October 11
K – October 12
L – October 13
M – October 14
N – October 15
O – October 16
P – October 17
Q – October 18
R – October 19
S – October 20
T – October 21
U – October 22
V – October 23
W – October 24
X – October 25
Y – October 26
Z – October 27
123’s – October 28
Prewriting – October 29
Books, Songs, & Apps – October 30
Alphabet Clip Cards – October 31
Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win this great prize package, open internationally!
3 month subscription to the Kidloland app, which includes 575+ interactive nursery rhymes, songs, stories, and educational activities to help children learn ABCs, animals, fruits, vegetables, shapes and more!
The Alphabet Experts Mega Bundle from Kindergarten Connections contains 500+ of alphabet printables, including tons of activities for each letter of the alphabet! ($58.50 value)