The ability to program has been described as the most important job skill for the future. Indeed, it’s one of the most awesome gifts you could offer your kids.
In this short article, I’ll share highly effective advice and resources to help you teach your kids Python.
The great thing is you don’t have to be a programmer!
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How to Teach Kids Python
First Things First
Why would you choose Python?
In fact, a lot of universities in America use Python (it used to be Java), as the primary language for teaching programming. If your kids start early, you’d be giving them an edge.
I wish I’d started learning to program when I was a kid. I actually started learning when I was in my late teens at the university. It’s not difficult. In fact, it’s one of the fascinating things you could learn.
Now, let me remind you about one thing you know for sure about your kids.
What Kids Love to Do
They love to play. Is that not the honest truth? Trust me; this is the most vital thing to remember as you introduce them to the wonderful world of Python.
We, as adults, tend to separate play from learning. We assume that learning has to be a serious activity. The truth, however, is that learning and play are not mutually exclusive. In fact, combining both is one of the most effective ways to teach your kids Python. So, let them play as they learn.
But what kind of play do I mean?
Games are the Secret
Let them play games. You know how kids love games.
When adults think of learning, we often reach for books. Let them get started with games – playing games developed with Python. Then, gradually let them know they could learn how to develop games using Python.
You know your kids, so make sure to select games they’d really enjoy. If they’re really engaged with the games, they’re most likely going to continue to a stage where they’d start learning more advanced stuff.
Here’s a fun fact: Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg played games and eventually built theirs when they were kids!
At a point, your kids would be having so much fun that their natural curiosity would trigger the desire to learn about the underlying programming concepts. At that stage, you could start giving them elementary and mid-level books on Python.
Here are links to some awesome books and websites. They are about how to use Python to develop games, fun projects, and key Python concepts. And, they’re focused on the beginner stage:
- Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming
- Coding Projects in Python
- Trinket (the site has support for educators)
- iD Tech
- Raspberry Pi Foundation (RPF)
Now, you know some cool apps, games, websites. Let’s check out other things you could do.
Participate in the Learning Process
We are all busy. I know. But you’d agree with me that we must never be too busy to actively participate in our kids’ learning. Teaching them doesn’t have to take a long time. Thirty minutes or sixty minutes on a regular basis is great. Try and learn how to play your kids’ favorite games, and play with them, now and then.
The goal is to be attuned to what’s happening to your kids as they’re learning. Are they enjoying themselves? Are the games boring? Do you have to introduce more exciting games? Are they having challenges? Is their interest growing or waning?
In the beginning, don’t focus on trying to teach them (in the traditional sense). Most of the games are so exciting that most kids would naturally continue learning on their own. Your role is to support, praise, and encourage them. Try to avoid going into “lecture mode.” It’s not necessary.
So, you’re essentially a facilitator.
Months or Years Later…
Later on, when you know they’re actively engaged with the games, you can then help them by being a “co-learner”. What do I mean? Set aside the time (perhaps on weekends), when you could start teaching them about key Python concepts and how they relate to the games they’ve been enjoying.
So, you’ll need to study up on each concept, a few days before you teach them. I’d suggest a concept per week. Don’t be daunted by the prospect of learning Python. It’s truly easy to understand and fascinating to boot.
The following are awesome resources you could use to prepare your “lessons.”
- Head First Python, 2nd Edition
- Python For Kids
- Python For Dummies
- LearnPython.org interactive Python tutorial
- Learn Python 2 by Codecademy
As an example, consider one of the most vital concepts they’d need to understand: Variables.
Variables are used for storing values. I often explain to kids that variables are simply containers where you keep stuff. I tell them their pockets, lunch boxes, and school bags are examples of variables. As the kids get older, you could explain that variables are memory locations for storing data that can change (“vary able”), as opposed to constants (that don’t change).
After a few months or years, you may well discover that the kids have taken charge of their own learning, and they may now be the ones teaching you.
Then, you know that your work is done.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should my kid start learning Python?
It depends. Kids grasp concepts differently. In the beginning, learning doesn’t have to entail hard-core coding lessons. That should come later. Playing games should be in the first stage. If your kids can play games, they’re ready.
Should kids learn Python?
Yes, they should. The ability to program in Python is one of the most sought-after skills today. It’s empowering because kids can start equipping themselves with the skills they’d need in the future. Some of the richest tech superstars started coding when they were kids.
What is the best way to learn Python?
By playing games, building their own games, and other fun projects, and later, when they’ve spent a couple of months or years at it, complementing these with books and apps designed to teach Python.