Four Ways to Teach Kids Computer Science: Help for the Non-Tech Mom

I watched my niece play Angry Birds on my android device years ago. She clicked the screen in a way I had never considered. Then she adeptly used a move that helped her easily advance to the next level. Stunned, I asked, “Olivia, how did you know you could do that?” She turned to me and asked, “Why did you think you couldn’t do that?”

Thanks for the piece of humble pie, kiddo.

technology with kids

This generation of kiddos is full of kids like my precocious Olivia. Children today are comfortable trying and learning new technology. They know no boundaries. They walk into every puzzle with eyes open to pathways that our adult lens naturally misses.

We know we need to engage with technology, and we know we need to lead our kids through it as well. This point again was highlighted to me years later when my youngest son was only 18 months old. He ordered two seasons of Paw Patrol on our brand new Kindle to help us recognize the importance of enabling purchasing restrictions.

For me, however…. well, sometimes, it’s just not always that compelling! I might take my kids hiking or help them bake brownies, but teaching them to code is not my natural inclination!

But never fear, mom friends! There are resources for parents who might not enjoy being techy in their free time. 

I work with a team of educators who help teachers identify ways to integrate age-appropriate technology into the classroom. I’ve borrowed their tips for kids in my world and have a few you can use with your kiddo:

1- Coding.

Osmo Coding is a simple sequencing iPad game geared toward kids five and older. There’s a cute mascot named Awbie that your kid guides through a forest based on a series of simple logic combinations.

2- Programming.

Scratch is a free, bare-bones basic programming tool for students.  Similar to Osmo, kids click and drag blocks to build stories. (There’s also a Scratch, Jr. version for younger kids!) My second grader can hop on and successfully build a story using this fun tool.

3- Robots and Websites.

Still not sure about being the person helping your kiddo learn these skills? Help expose them to communities of learning about robots and websites through NewBoCo. On the first and third Saturdays of the month, elementary-aged students learn everything from programming robots to developing websites through CoderDojo. Each day is different, and kids rotate through hands-on learning stations. This is an opportunity for kids to explore technology, coding, and critical thinking at various entry levels.

4 – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM).

I didn’t use Kiwico personally, but I did gift a subscription to it for a tweenaged kid in my life who has everything she needs. Each month she received a box of DIY crafts and STEAM/STEM learning activities.

Finally, sometimes you just need to see what’s on the shelf, and you want someone to tell you what’s best for which age level. The Grant Wood AEA Digital Learning team has compiled computer science instructional resources for educators in the Cedar Rapids area, and it’s a great resource for parents, too. Filter by grade level to find resources that are connected to what students are learning in the classroom in our area, and bring it to your home for your kids to play.

We know kids today aren’t content just skimming through the free levels on Angry Birds.

With these resources, parents can help them unlock additional learning opportunities that will prepare them for a future where this type of learning is not just embraced, but expected.

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Renee Nelson
Renee holds three titles that are of utmost importance to her: mom to Cale and Ian; wife to Andy; and Communications Director for Grant Wood Area Education Agency. Although she has a Master’s degree from the University of Iowa, her heart still shines cardinal and gold for Iowa State University where she received her undergraduate degree. Renee’s a foodie who loves cooking, travel, her friends, her family, the Oxford comma, and happy hour. Cheers!

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