Programming For Kids

What coding is, how it can be made a topic in a playful way in elementary education and what learning opportunities it offers.

In kindergarten, of course, it is not a matter of teaching children programming using programming languages or source codes. Rather, it is about the playful promotion of skills that are not only necessary in coding, but also in everyday life:

Learning opportunities through coding:

  • Learning through active action
  • Orientation and structuring competence: order systems are built up, ability to classify, seriation. Capture of spatial position, forms and proportions.
  • Understanding of symbols develops as a prerequisite for writing and arithmetic.
  • Foresighted and networked thinking
  • Creative competence: own ideas are developed and tested
  • Problem solving competence and finding one’s own creative solutions
  • Media competence: first experiences with robots, dealing with computers
  • Linguistic-communicative competence: getting to know new terms and acquiring language comprehension
  • Emotional Competence: Conscious Experience
  • Social competence: ability to work in a team, consideration, ability to criticise

What is Coding?

Coding or programming means giving commands to the computer or robot by entering a code and in this way creating games, programs and websites or controlling robots.

The code consists of characters and symbols that stand for certain commands. The code can look and type very different: from very simple typing of control keys (e.g. Bee-Bot) up to complicated programming languages.

Children usually know the computer/tablet as a device for using digital games, programs and apps and for surfing the Internet. The medium is primarily used for entertainment or information retrieval. The content is merely recorded, but not created. Programming, on the other hand, means becoming the creative designer of media products and thus of one’s environment. Those who can program become active themselves, can develop something new and implement their own ideas. It is also becoming more and more important in everyday life, because those who have at least a basic knowledge of coding will not only have better chances on the job market later on, but will also be able to move through our (media) world in a self-determined way and actively shape it.

Programming in kindergarten

Through playful programming, children learn to solve problems effectively and creatively. This can be achieved through various games and exercises, working with simple programs and/or working with robots. Gradually, the children build up IT skills and an understanding of how a computer works – that it only executes commands that we give it through different codes.

Through playful programming, children learn to solve problems effectively and creatively. This can be achieved through various games and exercises, working with simple programs and/or working with robots. Gradually, the children build up IT skills and an understanding of how a computer works – that it only executes commands that we give it through different codes.

Learning to program with simple software and robots

There is a whole range of (often free) learning software as well as simple robots in the field of coding. These have the advantage that the children do not have to type in source codes and can also work without existing reading and writing competence. This is referred to as “visual programming languages”. The children control the behavior of robots with the help of different symbols or design game worlds and animate self-designed characters by combining colorful building blocks.

We took a closer look at and tested pedagogically valuable learning robots & programs for the elementary area. Here you will find our tips and ideas for use in everyday kindergarten life:

Bee Bot, Blue-Bot , Cubetto, Ozobot Evo, Scratch Junior

Coding without a computer

In order to introduce children to programming, it is not necessary to work with the computer/tablet or learning robot. It can be started very small – for example with the body and space-related movement or tricky logic games. Games that focus on the joint and above all creative solution of cognitive problems are ideal. Through joint action, these games always combine communication and social learning with the promotion of problem-solving competence.

The children also develop an understanding of how a computer works and get to know the way of thinking that is necessary for programming – such as splitting a task into individual work steps and executing them one after the other (corresponds to sequencing in programming) or repeating a series of work steps until the task is completed (“loop”).

Example building blocks

You can encourage this way of approaching problems by, for example, giving instructions to the children when cleaning up: “When you have cleaned up all the red bricks, start with the blue bricks and repeat the task.

Or you can give a child the task of constructing a simple building with the bricks, with a second child watching closely and trying to remember or write down the individual work steps. Now a third child is added who is supposed to rebuild the building according to the instructions of the second child. Here, too, a task is broken down into its individual steps and these are carried out one after the other.

Further ideas

  • In our media pedagogical practice ideas you will find numerous ideas on how you can playfully promote children’s understanding of computers without using them.
  • In the game Programming Robots, the children themselves represent robots and steer each other through space. They experience how computers work in a playful way.
  • Computer Science Unplugged from the CS Education Research Group at Canterbury University offers a collection of simple games designed to promote IT skills without computers.
  • Simply integrate them into everyday life by sequencing or if-then performing tasks.

Learning from Facebook inventor Mark Zuckerberg – that’s what Udemy offers, for example. Beside such a prominent lecturer the platform has to exhibit still another further advantage: Many courses to learn programming are also available in German. In total, more than 40,000 seminars are offered, ranging from website programming to machine learning and software development. The prices vary from free of charge up to about 50 Euro per offer.

The Codeacademy is committed to teaching all important computer skills step by step. After a short registration, engineers can start learning programming directly and free of charge. Whether it is about building an interactive website, data transformations or HTML, the range of offers is broad. The menu navigation in the sidebar makes it possible to return to previous points at any time in order to repeat individual aspects. However, advanced users will not discover much new here.

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