As a parent, you may want to focus on the alphabet, numbers and developing the early literacy skills your child will need when he enters school. You may not yet be thinking about helping your toddler or younger child develop programming skills. After all, three- and four-year-olds won’t be heading to kindergarten for another year or two, and there is such a thing as too young, isn’t there?
Not necessarily. In our increasingly high-tech world, coding is a new type of literacy. It allows children to explore and create.
There’s a growing trend toward emphasizing code as a fundamental literacy. Educators, researchers and entrepreneurs argue that the basic skills of coding should be introduced when—or even before—children are able to read and write independently.
Research shows that teaching coding concepts helps introduce children to problem-solving, collaboration and creativity. Becoming literate in code is as essential to being literate in language and math.
Nancy Sheng, youth services librarian with the Edmonton Public Library (EPL), explains that the library’s Read. Code. Play! programs are really no different from its storytime programs. Storytimes break reading, writing and math down into manageable songs and interactive play. In much the same way, EPL’s four‑week coding programs focus on a different, age-appropriate programming concept each week.
- Patterns and loops
Patterns are a repeated sequence of objects, sounds or events. Patterns are important to programming since many programs have repeated sections and commands that make patterns. A repeated section in a program is called a loop. Children learn about patterns through the use blocks, beads or bags.
Commands are instructions. Children can learn about programs through activities that give them a command and have them carry it out the way a computer program does. These activities let children learn to follow routines, listen for instructions and work together.
Using tokens, crayons and grid paper with paths on it, children are given commands to create a sequence. This allows them to develop spatial reasoning. They learn about up, down and sideways while learning to work together.
- Conditional logic (If/Then statements)
When children use conditional logic, they learn what happens when they perform a specific action or change something in some way. For example, children may play a game using traffic lights: what happens when the light turns red? If the light turns yellow, what do we do? What does a red light mean?
Read. Code. Play! is a free, four-week program available at a number of Edmonton Public Library locations. For more information, speak to the staff at your local library branch.