How can non-‘techie’ parents support their child in learning to code?

With the increasing relevance of job roles involving data analytics, artificial intelligence and many other terms that once belonged more in sci-fi movies than the office, digital literacy is fast becoming an essential skill on par with reading, writing and mathematics. It is therefore no surprise that children’s coding classes have become the latest must-have for eager parents wanting the best head start in life for their child.

The question is, how? Here are some suggestions to make your child’s foray into coding an enriching one for both them and you.

1)      Challenge your idea of learning

Most of us understand the days of learning by rote memorisation from books are long gone, but what if your child told you they are learning when they are playing Minecraft

Deddy Setiadi, a co-founder of Kodecoon, noted that “Many children today are already consumers of technology. Parents should leverage on their children's interest in tech and get them to be creators of technology, instead of just mere consumers.”

It has been proven that playing games can aid in learning, especially in developing cognitive skills and qualities like patience and discipline. An open mind, along with keen observation of your child, will guide you in achieving balance between indoor and outdoor play.

Deddy Setiadi, co-founder of Kodecoon, guiding participants at Kode It, Sparkies! 2018

Deddy Setiadi, co-founder of Kodecoon, guiding participants at Kode It, Sparkies! 2018.

2)      Have realistic expectations

Unlike academic classes touting fast and obvious results, learning to code is a journey. It is easy to associate jobs such as programmer and software engineer with programming skills but learning to code imparts computational thinking that can be applied throughout life.

For Kodecoon, teaching children how to code empowers them with the confidence and ability to create. “For example, one of the mobile apps that we teach our students in class is a chat group app. We can't promise that the chat group app will be as nice and professional as WhatsApp but we want to teach our children how a chat group app works and that such technology is not too far-fetched from them. They too can create one, it is possible.”, said Setiadi.

Participants of Kode It, Sparkies! 2018 working together on their project

Participants of Kode It, Sparkies! 2018 working together on their project.

3)      Get schooled

Ease into the world of coding with books such as How To Think Like A Coder: Without Even Trying and Help Your Kids With Computer Science; you can even share them with your child! If you have tech-inclined friends, pick their brains about the different types of coding languages or how the skill can be applied in various fields. This can help you to choose the type and mode of learning best suited for your child and identify quality resources both on and offline.

Speaking from Setiadi’s personal experience as an instructor, “Many parents fall in the trap of buying expensive, ready-made robots and gadgets that claim to teach kids programming. What we observe is that many of these technologies end up causing them to be consumers, with them simply manoeuvring the robots using a remote-control function. Children benefit most if they can go through the process of decomposition, abstraction, pattern recognition and algorithmic thinking. These are exactly the 4 key techniques we incorporate in our pedagogy in Kodecoon.”

4)      Turn it into a bonding moment

Beyond picking up technical skills, discovery is a big part of learning to code. Remember the thrill and excitement you felt when you learnt new things as a child? Share their joy and fascination by making yourself present and acknowledge their accomplishments. Positive attention is important in shaping a child’s self-esteem and can be a powerful motivator for learning. Non-techie parents might even pick up a thing or two in the process, opening the door for a shared interest.

Ready for your child to try coding? Join Goguru and Kodecoon at Kode It, Sparkies! 2019, a 3-day holiday camp this coming March holidays.