4 ways to introduce coding without screens
Learning to code is a skill that is becoming more and more important in our technology-driven world. By understanding how to program a computer, kids and young adults can set themselves up for more career opportunities in the future. Coding is not just for gamers and geeks! Computer programming skills are for everyone, and anyone can learn to code. When we first get started teaching the basics of coding to kids, it’s best to go unplugged. Unplugged coding activities teach the foundations of coding without a computer. These hands-on and interactive activities are perfect for little coders just getting started.
Use a grid
One of the simplest ways to get started coding is by making your own 5×5 grid. Using a grid, players will have to navigate obstacles in order to make it from start to finish, just like a maze. Players will give instructions in ‘code talk’ and these instructions make up the algorithm. Using a grid, kids can learn to sequence by making sure they put their steps in the right order.
At Teach Your Kids Code, we have a variety of screen-free grid-based coding activities. One of our easiest activities that you could do right now is learn to code with a deck of cards. All you need for this activity is a deck of cards and some small toys you already have around the house!
Play a board game
Here’s a great new addition to family game night: Robot Turtles (INSERT YOUR AFFILIATE LINK)! Robot Turtles is a fun family game that helps kids to develop coding skills without the use of screens. In this fun game, players will have to sequence the correct steps to direct their turtles to find their jewel. Kids won’t even realize they are learning the skills essential to computer programming by playing this super fun game.
The game is designed for kids age 4 and up, and can be modified to be more challenging depending on the age and skill of your child. Kids do not need to be able to read to learn with this game. There’s a good reason this was the most funded tabletop game in the history of Kickstarter!
Practice Solving Binary Code
Did you know that computers only understand the numbers 0 and 1? All of the information stored on computers, right down to our photos, apps and programs is stored in a series of 0s and 1s. This is called Binary Code. All of our decimal numbers can be represented as binary numbers using a series of 0s and 1s.
You can teach your kids how to ‘crack the code’ with binary numbers using this fun decoding activity. In this activity, we use pool noodles to uncover the correct binary number for each decimal. This activity is perfect for kindergarteners because it also encourages practicing the skill of subitizing, which is being able to identify the number of objects in a group without counting.
Have fun with chain reactions
Chain reactions are one of my favorite ways to teach basic coding concepts to little kids. Chain reactions are so much fun to watch and teach important skills important to coding. When you design a chain reaction, you are using the important skill of sequencing to predict what will happen each time you set up your chain reaction. Computers aren’t smart and need things to be given to them in a particular order, a sequence. By designing chain reactions, you will expose kids to this important concept.
A Rube Goldberg Machine is a chain reaction designed to perform a simple task in an over complicated chain reaction. These machines are fun to watch and build. You can try building one for yourself. For some hilarious Rube Goldberg machines, check out Joseph’s Machines Youtube Channel.
Once you’ve mastered coding unplugged it’s time to move onto more sophisticated programming. Check out code.org for some awesome and completely free lessons to get kids coding on the computer right away.
Katie is a mom of two rambunctious boys and a self-proclaimed super nerd. With a background in neuroscience, she is passionate about sharing her love of all things STEM with her kids. She loves to find creative ways to teach kids computer science and geek out about coding and math. You can find her blogging at Teach Your Kids Code. Check out her facebook page too!