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Computer Programming for Kids

By: Charlotte Fereday - Updated: 1 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Programming Children Programming Learn

It’s all very well us teaching our children to use a computer programme and navigate their way around the internet but what about teaching them how to write a computer programme or build a website?

The computer programmers of the future will need to take the computer world one step further and how better to do this than to get an early start? Not all children are cut out to be computer whiz kids but if your child has shown an aptitude, or just an enthusiasm, for maths and technology steer try to steer their passion towards constructive programming (and ideally away from hacking). Maths is fairly key to successful programming so if your child finds maths a struggle they are unlikely to enjoy experimenting with talking to a computer.

The Basics

There are many software packages (some of them free) that are designed to get children thinking about creating their own games, graphics and internet content. Many of these packages work with content editor systems whereby the child can just drag and drop attributes into designated areas and then play them back to see what they have created.

For young children who are interested but not advanced enough to understand the complexities of ‘real’ programming this approach will feed their interest.

The Next Step

To understand how programming works you really need to understand the hardware, and this is especially true for children whose default question is ‘why’. Give your child a guided tour of the inside of a computer (there are books that give a fairly simple view of this) explaining how the programme tells the computer what to do and why that works.

An understanding of computing cause and effect will help your child to understand when their programme doesn’t work what the problem might be.

The Language

Most child-friendly programming guides seem to work in Java and use this language as an example to show how you build a programme by linking concepts such as variables and functions, operators and expressions, and more complicated ideas including object oriented programming.

Programming code is called a ‘language’ for a reason because the terminology is hard to grasp unless you start at the very beginning.

Getting to Grips With It

For most kids programming will be bewildering unless it’s introduced in the right context. Child friendly programming books and tutorials will frame the learning process in relevant terms and with many examples from their own experience. For example, many early exercises will focus on creating a simple game or animation so the child is rewarded at each stage with a tangible achievement.

Moving On

Once a child has got a grasp of basic Java other programming languages will enable them to do more complex things and build better, more challenging programmes. If they progress to C, and C++ they will be well on the way to a high paid rewarding career, not to mention hours of fun writing and playing with their own software.

A Brief Warning

If your child is into programming it’s probably a good idea to give them their own computer. They will make mistakes early on could end up doing untold damage to your files. It will be worth it when, a little further down the line, they can debug your computer problems more effectively than your IT support.

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