Programming for children: when to start, what to teach
In computer science classes, millennials mainly learned to type, mastered Microsoft Windows (at best, Basic), and played Super Mario. Today computers for children are as natural as refrigerators. How to help your child get comfortable in the digital world and get the most out of his constant updates? Let’s get it right.
Suitable age to familiarize the child with the computer. By the age of three, children develop muscular control over the fine motor skills of their hands. In other words, they can already notice the connection between keyboard and mouse controls and changes on the screen. At this age, they can even learn simple programs.
Children of older preschool age are able to receive information only from their own experience, information from other people is not so significant for them and often is not considered as a source of truth. In addition, children still cannot perceive individual details, so they write and read very slowly (for example, the page of a book for them is an indivisible object). It is difficult for them to make judgments and conclusions.
If you ask the child what to sew the shirt from: paper, fabric, birch bark, polystyrene foam or rubber – he will choose the fabric, but he can hardly explain why he answered that way. At the age of 5–7 years, the child cannot even be taught the basics of algorithmization (for example, write an algorithm for calculating the expression y = 2a – (x + 6) or describe an algorithm for completing homework in mathematics). Therefore, it is better to start programming training from the age of eight and not earlier.
Enroll your child in courses on early speech development or mental arithmetic. An excellent solution would be to focus on soft skills and develop a creative direction: sports sections, art or music school.
8–9 years old
At this age, the degree of egocentrism falls, the child is already ready to believe the teacher’s judgments and thus comprehend the information. Syncretism (the child’s desire to accept the connection of impressions as a connection of things, for example, the moon does not fall, because it lies in the sky) also disappears, and we can already understand how the simplest mechanisms work.
Psychologists distinguish between areas of proximal and actual development – skills that are formed in joint activities with other people. What a child can do on his own (for example, wear simple clothes) is already in the zone of actual development. If he still does not know how to tie shoelaces without the prompts of an adult nearby, then this skill is still in the zone of proximal development. In the classroom, the teacher creates a zone of proximal development.
So the child develops visual-figurative and heuristic thinking (when it is possible to make discoveries), he learns to solve logic problems in graphical and block form. To successfully master programming at this age, you need the basic knowledge of school mathematics: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division into single and double digits within 10,000.
You must also be able to solve combinatorial problems. For example: Murka’s cat gave birth to 8 kittens (6 fluffy and 5 red). How many kittens were born both fluffy and red at once? In addition, children need the skill to solve logical problems, such as graphic labyrinths, puzzles, drawing up simple algorithms, and finding the shortest path.
10-11 years old
In grade 4-5, in addition to performing elementary algorithms (for example, mark the following algorithm on map No. 1: leave Ozersk, get to Okeansk), the child learns the syntax rules of the programming language, and also starts working with branching algorithms, nested loops, variables and procedures.
To do this, you need to develop abstract-logical thinking: work with various performers, independently enter the program code and build causal relationships in solving mathematical and logical problems. So, as a performer, we can use a computer character that can perform various actions in the virtual world: jump, run, turn and so on.
In educational tasks it is required, for example, that he move the box. To do this, the child needs to enter the necessary commands in the program in a certain order. This develops abstract logical thinking, the child visually sees how his character moves, and understands when he makes a mistake when writing commands in the program.
Children themselves are drawn to technology and everything new, so it is important for parents to direct this interest in a useful direction. Programming only seems to be a complex and inaccessible area, subject only to units. If you carefully look at the interests of the child and correctly develop his skills, he can become “thereby a computer genius.”
about the author
Sergey Shedov – Founder and director of the Moscow School of Programmers.