If you’re looking to improve your child's coding skills or wondering how to get them programming experience, and no matter if they're just getting started or working on becoming a better programmer, this handy guide is sure to help you on your way!
There’s no shortage of reasons why coding is important or incentives to learn to code; an understanding of how coding works is an essential ingredient to today’s most exciting, lucrative careers.
Plus, coding is absolutely everywhere! From gaming to social media to cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology, languages like Java and Python hold the keys to unlocking the modern world.
Many parents are, quite rightly, interested in getting kids started with coding early in their development. We’re all about that here at iD Tech!
So, if you’re a parent who could use a little extra guidance for inspiring your student, pair this post with some supplemental content written with you in mind: a parent’s guide to teaching kids to code and 14 ways to spark a love of STEM.
6 Steps to Improving Coding Skills Today
Again, even if you have a child who has never coded before, it’s never too late to get started, and - more good news - it’s also never been easier to dive in. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll walk you through six best practices for launching a coding journey so that all aspiring programmers (yes, even beginners!) can take their skills to the next level.
1. Set SMART Goal(s)
I’ll admit my bias here: the SMART Goal framework is proven, time and time again, to increase odds of success at just about anything, from sticking to those New Year’s resolutions to learning C++ for the first time.
Right now, your child might be in the initial stages of setting their goal—that’s awesome (and exciting!). The next step is to refine what they'd like to accomplish, set a timeline, and commit to how they're going to make it happen.
SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely; aka, they have all the components necessary to success. Here’s an example of what I mean by this:
Non SMART Goal: I want to learn to code.
See how vague that is? How will they know when they've achieved this? Where to start? Why is it important to them? With so many unanswered questions, they can do better and maximize their odds of succeeding!
SMART Goal: In 2 months, I want to be able to create a simple app using Java, one of the most popular, useful coding languages for kids. I will add the app to my digital portfolio of coding projects.
What do you notice here? Now, the goal is specific, has a determined outcome and timeline, and rationale as to why they're going after it in the first place.
So, spend some time setting kids and teens up for success by crafting SMART goals that are appropriate for experience levels and time commitments. If you find you need a little more information at this stage, that’s great! Do some research, and you’ll be better prepared to help get them started.
Looking for the best coding languages for beginners?
2. Assemble Resources
This may blend with step one, and honestly, that’s a good thing. You’ll want to get a sense of how kids are going to build those coding skills, and that will undoubtedly include some educational resources and platforms.
It’ll be tempting to pick up a copy of Coding for Dummies or follow a few blogs or websites and call it good; resist that temptation! To truly become a well-rounded, experienced coder, it’s ideal to have a healthy mix of books, podcasts, tutorial videos, and reputable websites at your disposal.
Here are a few staples to add to your tool box at this stage:
Books: Don’t write these off for their lack of techie bells and whistles! Publishing in print generally requires more vetting than publishing online, after all. Check out these titles for some excellent, tried and true, resources.
Podcasts: Easy to throw into any after-school routine, coding podcasts can be handy and efficient self-education tools.
Tutorial Videos: Only have a few minutes? Looking for something uber-specific for your child's coding project? Tutorial videos offer ready solutions. Codecademy, LinkedIn’s learning content, and Skillshare - just to name a few - offer a wealth of information in bite-sized video format.
Websites and blogs: This is probably an obvious suggestion, but coding websites and blogs offer some of the most relevant, up-to-date info out there. Check these out to get started, and look no further than this coding guide just for kids if that’s what you need!
Plan out how each resource will fit into your SMART goal, and include them by name in your action steps.
3. Find a Community
Resources in hand, it’s time to find a supportive community to help track progress! Studies show that by sharing goals, you’re much more likely to actually accomplish them; hence this essential third step in becoming a better coder.
This community could be a friend, family member, your social media, or through an online coding community like Stack Overflow or other popular forums of like-minds.
Kids can share what they want to accomplish! Better yet, they can share their goal and open the communication channels for checking in as they make progress.
4. Practice Makes a Programmer
Yes, that twist on a common phrase was intentional! Hear me out.
Perfection is not a realistic goal and fails the “R” SMART Goal test, but practice and progress absolutely fit—especially if strategized.
The specific outcome in mind will determine the right outlet for practice; here are some suggestions based on experience level to help start:
Practice, iterate, and, learn, and kids will be well on their way to thinking and coding like the pros.
Those need to pair up with an expert instructor can also look to online coding tutors—live help and customized curriculum to help build skills while keeping the process fun and engaging.
5. Share Results!
Have kids check-in with their "community" as they progress towards goals, but now is the particularly sweet time to share what they've accomplished.
Help them celebrate by putting together a digital portfolio, social media post, or general rooftop to shout from; it’s important for them to know its more than OK - and valuable - to take a moment to give themselves well-deserved pat on the back.
If you’re able, now is also a great time to seek out feedback from an expert; they’ll be able to offer constructive feedback, encouragement, and even suggestions for what to tackle next.
6. Repeat Steps 1-5
That’s right; a journey through programming is as infinite as the lines of code that power the Internet.
Think to yourself: what’s the best next step to keep growing as a coder? If you made an app, perhaps try your hand at coding a game or explore another coding language.
The sky’s the limit here, and know that iD Tech is cheering you on every step of the way!