5 Tips to Engage Your Child With Code

The technology industry is booming all over the globe and it’s evolving fast! The urgency for Computer Science and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) initiatives are in high-demand to keep up with the way the economy, and therefore the job market are changing. One of the best things you can do for your child’s future is to introduce them to code – even if they decide it’s not for them, having a basic understanding of how code and the development of technology works will be a skill that will benefit them in the long run. For more information on the growth of the tech-industry and the demand of skilled-coders, refer to this article here: Tech Careers are the Safest Bet for Our Children – But are We Getting Them There?

The fact is, introducing your child to the code and the tech that makes up the world around them is necessary to start exposing our children to the importance of STEM skills as well as ignite their interest in STEM fields. Here are 5 steps to start a conversation and introduce your child to the world of code:

  1. Introduce your child to coding as a concept – “Code” can be a very vague term to a child who has not been exposed to the concept. Try explaining that the technology all around us works the way it does because someone used a special “language” that tells a device or system what to do. There are lots of coding “languages” that do particular things. For example, some languages make a website look a particular way, while other languages give a function to something. If you press a button on a webpage, there is a code describing what that button does. Without the code, the button is just a button.
  2. Show your child what coding is – Try having a discussion with your child about the technology around you that requires code. If you are having trouble, I suggest following this checklist:Watch this great introductory video about code and the technology around us: All About Code, for Kids!
      • Watch this great introductory video about code and the technology around us: All About Code, for Kids!
      • Provide an example of something you both use everyday that requires code. Here are some starting points: Computer, Tablet, Gameboy, X-Box or other gaming console, DVD Player, Facebook, or even Netflix.
      • Invite your child to brainstorm things with you. After each idea that comes up, try asking your child, “What do you think it needs code for?”
  3. Let your child try it out – There are so many resources that will let your child try code. Before you have them dive into a full program like we have on the STEM Village App, let them try a small activity for themselves. Be sure to stand by just in case they need your help. Any of the resources found in this list will be suitable for all ages: Top 10 Games to Get Your Kids Coding
  4. Discuss what catches their interest – If you explore any industry, you will find a tech-related role. Try not to overwhelm your child with the many directions they could take or prescribing what you think they should do if they want to learn more about code. The point of having these types of discussions with your child is to explore their own particular interests and see how code fits in. It’s about engaging them with their interests and what makes them feel confident. Try asking your child what problems they might want to solve in the future and what topics interest them. Finally, discuss how code may help them solve those problems. Maybe it’s an app, a new form of Artificial Intelligence, or even a new social network! Help guide your child through a brainstorm of their interests and see what gets them excited.
  5. Search for further opportunities to explore, together – There are so many options out in the world to engage your child with code. There are after school programs, camps, and thousands of online resources. I love STEM Village because it helps you connect directly with your child’s experiences and places the best online games, interactives, labs, and learning media (like videos and audible articles) right in one place. Furthermore, it helps update you on what topics your child is interested in so you can further engage their curiosity. Try understanding what kind of code your child may be interested in. Do they want to design something? Do they want to create a network? Do they want to animate objects? Once you have this understanding, you will have a better sense of what program is right to start with.

Our children deserve the power of knowledge and the confidence to learn. Join the conversation with STEM Village on Facebook and Twitter. Feel free to leave your own tip in the comments – we love to hear from you!

This article was written by Erin Carmody, an experienced educator, consultant, and Content Manager at STEM Village.