There’s no doubt that coding for kids is a valuable skill nowadays. Many parents are eager to introduce programming to their kids early on, so when is the best time to do that? Is it possible to teach coding to kindergarteners or pre-k kiddos?
Absolutely! Yes, you can help little ones explore the core thinking skills and very basic concepts in fun, age-appropriate ways.
Pre-k and kindergarten aged kids have curious minds and love games and hands-on activities. Learning to code aligns with these capacities perfectly, and there are simple, engaging ways to encourage them to think like programmers.
Learn to code through play
Before we get started, a quick note for context. Learning to code is exciting and fun, but is coding hard?
It's true; coding is a complex and sophisticated skill.
So, can you really learn to code in kindergarten or pre-k?
The honest answer: not exactly. Meaning, it’s not reasonable to expect kindergartners or preschoolers to become coders.
But with that said, that doesn’t mean that fun with coding has to wait. You can get the ball rolling in order to help kids get better prepared to become basic coders perhaps only a few years down the road.
How to do it?
Young kids learn best through play, so it’s best to keep things light and fun. That way, kids can practice thinking and acting like coders in a low-pressure, highly entertaining environment.
There are plenty of benefits to play-based learning and yes, fun matters, especially at this age. A sense of fun and enjoyable memories associated with new subject matter sets the stage for later growth. Interactivity is also important; kids should be able to ask questions and experiment as they play.
Plus, by exploring coding at a young age, kids can build their:
- Sense of curiosity
- Problem-solving skills
- Trial and error abilities
- Love of STEM
Coding for Kindergarten: Games, Activities & More
Positive early experiences can transform into lifelong interests and valuable skills, as we’ve seen time and time again at iD Tech. Think of the following activities as a means of creating a foundation for all things coding that kids can build upon over time.
Let’s dive in!
Solve a Maze
Let’s be honest, we could all use a few more “unplugged” activities anyway, and this maze activity offers a very simple introduction to coding.
Coding is nothing if not meticulous, and it’s never too soon to start building those planning and problem-solving skills. In this activity, kids can create and then solve their own maze, complete with directional arrows and optional obstacles.
This maze activity also prepares kids for the format of block coding, the next step in a young programmer’s journey.
Navigate an Obstacle Course
Indoors or outdoors, this activity is sure to get kids thinking (and moving)!
This activity requires partners; one partner is the “coder” and the other the “robot.” Like real-life programmers working with programming statements (more coding definitions for kids), the first partner will give their “robot” step-by-step instructions to navigate the maze.
Limited in space? This activity can be modified for a simple task like tying a shoelace, or you can create a card maze. In this outdoor adaptation of the game, kids draw out a grid and get to train robots with squirt guns!
If the robot hits the edge of the maze (or makes a mistake), the programmer will need to “debug” their instructions. As an added challenge, kids can time themselves, change configurations, try writing out the entire code sequence, and/or try to find the most efficient way through the maze.
As they take turns as “robot” and “programmers,” kids get a fun, hands-on introduction to programming, algorithms, and debugging code.
Explore Apps & Online Games
There are plenty of apps and programming-based games that help teach kids to code, but for the youngest kids, it’s important to choose with care. Don’t be surprised if these programs are a little lighter on the coding and heavier on gamified learning aspects; that’s a good thing for kids this age!
LightBot offers a variety of puzzles kids can solve with basic coding concepts. By interacting with each puzzle, kids will be exposed to concepts like sequencing, overloading, loops, and conditionals.
With Kodable, kids can interact with cartoon characters and games so fun that kids might not even realize they’re learning about coding.
Both platforms offer increasingly challenging games and puzzles; as kids’ abilities grow, they will be able to keep up with appropriate activities.
Get Hands-On with Hardware
Visual and kinesthetic elements are key for kindergartners and pre-k kids, and the right hardware provides both.
This adorable Code-a-Pillar is a toy with an educational twist; kids can learn early coding and problem-solving skills as they interact with the robot. Sound, movement, and over 1,000 possible combinations provide hours of entertainment and learning along the way.
For more hardware fun, check out Coding Critters, a perfect way to learn alongside a cute robot puppy and storybook full of coding adventures.
Let the journey begin!
With a solid foundation of the basics, there’s no telling what youngsters can accomplish next! In this blogger’s opinion, digital literacy will soon - if not already - be as important as traditional literacy. So why not get kids started on the path?
But for now, encourage learners to experiment and just enjoy the learning process. This is an important stage in their development, so make sure to positively reinforce kids’ curiosity and let them know that mistakes are ok!
Doubtlessly, professional coders would agree that both mistakes and the drive to stay curious are critical to success in this field.