Computer coding is essentially a language that computer uses. When we think about helping kids learn computer coding, we automatically think we need a computer first. But in fact, there are many ways to learn computer coding without a computer, as many thinking and coding approach can be learned in different activities off-screen. Today we share some off-screen activities that teach kids computer programming.
Learn Computer Coding without a Computer
Unplugged Activities for Computer Coding Skills
One of the important coding skills is to break a big task into smaller actionable steps. It is called to decompose. This is a skill kids can learn and practice in many daily life activities. This morning routine practice is particularly designed to prepare kids for coding. The article explains some key points to note and to add to the daily practice. You can even download a free template for your kids.
Another unplugged activity to learn decomposition skill is this game of teaching robot making hot dogs. Kids will quickly realize it is not that easy to teach machines or someone who doesn’t have any background knowledge doing a job that is so easy for us humans or someone with prior knowledge. After making hot dogs, you can try instructions of making a peanut butter sandwich. Once the instruction is finished, ask another child to perform the task strictly following the instruction. I can guarantee there will be some key steps missed.
One big concept in coding is the abstract thinking skill of using a symbol to represent something. I found this decoder is a fun activity to help kids learn the concept. For younger kids, you can build it into something like a scavenger hunt, a good example is this egg hunt.
A good computer programmer needs to be able to anticipate all potential scenarios and to incorporate all into the coding. To see what this means, try this coding game for critical thinking skill. This is such an important skill, not just for coding, but also for many other career fields.
Coding is basically a step-by-step guide for computer to accomplish a task, one practice for young children to understand coding, is to play Instructed Map Route. Mark on the floor the starting and ending points, and set a couple obstacles on the route. Have a child close eyes and follow the instructions from another one. The instructions are like these: step forward 3 steps, turn left and walk 2 steps, turn right and walk 6 steps, … When playing, remember to point out that the number of steps should be adjusted for the size of the steps. For early elementary school age kids, you can try this Hot Dog Coding Game (the download link is at the end of the article) that move the bread to the hot dog with provided coding blocks, while avoiding tables and chairs. For older kids, you can try this maze game, to go through the maze with clear instructions.
An important element in coding is to find the pattern in the seemingly irregular events. For young children, you can do some pattern games. For example, you can ask the child to line up a group of blocks that to have 1 green block for every 3 yellow blocks. You can find a calendar, then ask kids to color the days that he has math classes with one color, and the days he has English classes with another color, then ask the child to identify the pattern. There could be more than one patterns, for example one could be every Monday, Wednesday and Friday he has Math classes. Another pattern could be he has math classes 3 times a week.
Debug, diagnose what is wrong and correct mistakes, is an important task in coding, even more important than writing the codes. This printable Debug Coding Game teaches kids how to debug. It is essentially a problem solving skill that is useful for any job.
Unplugged Activities for Computer Coding Language
We all know original computer codes are binary. Now it is still binary, but more coding programs make it a little easier so coders don’t have to write binary codes. But it is still helpful for kids to understand how binary codes work. This fun coding activity lets kids code their names into necklaces using beads of different colors. It makes the binary concept easy for kids understand.
A very commonly used command in coding is “If … Then …”. It tells the computer to execute an action when something happens. For example, if someone type the letter A, then show letter A on the screen. A fun way to teach kids the language is to play the “If – Then” game. You can play it in the backyard, or in a park, or any open space. I like the ability to adapt to kids of different age.
These two coding activities with LEGO are great for those hands-on kids who loves LEGO. Kids learn the binary codes and basic coding commands while moving the LEGO mini figure around.
If you are looking for a good board game for kids to learn coding, Code Monkey Island is a great game for kids to learn computer coding logic and even some code syntax.
Robot Turtle is another fun board game for kids to learn programming fundamentals and language. Kids as young as preschool can play.
Would like to download the Free Hot Dog Coding Game mentioned above? You want to first visit the post 5 Crucial Coding Skills You Can Teach at Home for ideas on how to use the game. Then you can download the game at the bottom of that post.
Looking for more resource for kids to learn computer coding? Check out our picks of Best Learning Tools for Kids for Computer Coding. However, before jumping into any of these tools, you may want to read 5 Crucial Coding Skills You can Teach at Home without a Computer, why and how to teach these skills. What is a better way to learn than playing? Check out 12 Toys Teaching Kids Computer program and Coding.