10 Tips on How to Teach your Child to Program in Python

Tips on How to Teach your Child to Program in Python

Today’s children spend many hours on computers, tablets, phones, or games. No wonder they are curious about how these games are made. They may even want to create their arcade, quest, or strategy game — a good time to introduce your child to the basics of coding. Few famous programmers or founders of IT companies have not started by writing a computer game. According to the researchers from the best write my paper services, today, the tools for software development have become much more straightforward and intuitive. One such tool is the Python programming language and the friendly environment that surrounds it.

Why Python?

Among the programming languages used in the real world, Python is one of the most in-demand and successfully used in areas ranging from data analysis and intelligent chatbots to parsing websites and writing games trained on artificial intelligence algorithms. This is not the only reason why Python is a good choice as a first programming language:

  • Commands and syntax are simpler and easier to read than other programming languages. The language requires careful coding (for example, indentation is an integral part, not just a means of formatting).
  • Python contains many built-in libraries and a massive community of programmers who develop their libraries and programs for various tasks. In most cases, the child can find their own answers to the questions that arise.
  • Formal errors are detected while running the program, making it easier to find them. This increases the student’s motivation to continue learning.
  • Together with Raspberry Pi boards and other similar platforms, Python makes it possible to connect the computer and the outside world, implementing, among other things, the concept of the Internet of Things. It makes the programming process more visual and exciting.

Here are ten tips to get your child excited about Python programming.

child with computer

1. Don’t force it

First of all, there is no need to be overly intrusive. A traumatic experience can cause a negative attitude toward the subject. First, it is more important to show the existence of such areas of human knowledge and occupations which can be both interesting and valuable. Further is a matter of predisposition — all in due time.

2. You don’t have to start with Python right away

Google Play and the AppStore offer many apps that can engage a child on a more superficial, intuitive level than writing a word program. At some point, the student will want something more “adult.”

Difficulties may arise with the language barrier for non-English speakers because programming in Python is similar to writing an algorithm in English. However, this is an excellent reason to get acquainted with it early.

3. You may already have Python installed on your computer

The Python distribution is included by default in many operating systems. On a Mac or Linux, for example, all you have to do is type python in a terminal or open a page with an online Python interpreter. This “embeddedness” will show that you can do programming whenever and wherever you want, just for fun.

4. Write your own program

If you know how to program, write a simple game that you will not be bored to play together. For example, who will guess the fastest number from a predetermined range (with hints of “more / less” in case of failure.)

If the child is interested, you can go through the program code line by line, explaining what this or that part of the code does. When the child asks what will happen if you change something, you should not only explain but also show the result. In this way, you will gradually get the game continued in a new way: change the code – run – check the result.

5. Try something simple but not boring together

Next, you can write something from scratch together, breaking down common programming concepts. There’s not much point in starting with an explanation of variable types and other not-very-appealing things (it’s easy to get familiar with that as you go along). It is better to consider a small script that combines a few (but not too many) ideas.

For example, there is a countdown to launch a rocket, and you have to write the word “Let’s go” at the end. The following ideas are introduced at the same time:

  • a variable that takes values
  • a “for” (or “while”) loop
  • a range object (for example, range(10, 1, -1))
  • “if else” clause
  • output the string to the screen with the function “print”

When explaining, try to keep a balance. On the one hand, your comments should not be too detailed; on the other – you can not let the program instructions turn into a set of magic spells. To check the understanding, you can offer to edit the code so that the result of its execution has changed. For example, start counting with five instead of ten in the model above.

If the child makes a mistake, do not tell them in advance. It is better to deal with the error message together so that, in such cases, the student feels more confident and doesn’t give up. Make sure that the child is aware of how the program is executed. You can ask them to describe in words why this or that is needed.

Other ideas for starting activities for children with different inclinations:

  • Encrypting Secret Messages. A code for encrypting messages and a program that encrypts and decrypts messages.
  • Shopping List. Search through the list, sort list items alphabetically by value, and consider advertised promotions on items.
  • Drawing colorful graphics in Tkinter. It is helpful to materialize the result of the drawing by printing it out on the printer.
  • Phone Book. You can use as fields not only phones but also other characteristics: friend/relative, gender, age, hair color, etc. Task: find a person with a particular set of qualities.

6. Introduce an element of randomness

Introduce the student to importing several libraries using the “random,” “time,” and “math” modules as examples. The “random” library allows you to introduce something unpredictable into your own projects (e.g., games). Students can use the “math” module to automate the solution of academic tasks. Library “time” will help to apply different elements of delay. Such modules also fuel interest in creating something based on several available features.

7. Give room for creativity

Before the next step, it’s okay to take a swing at something more extensive. Or at least look at how big projects work together. It may turn out that the path of constant experimentation is far more appealing than studying manuals. At this stage, you can create a clone game of one of the well-known, uncomplicated games using the PyGame library. There are many tutorials on how to use it on YouTube.

You can go a different way and modify one of your favorite games. For example, Sims 4 uses Python for in-game modding. There are open-source projects written entirely in Python (such as Frets on Fire). Such free projects are natural sites for learning and practicing programming and working with other people’s code.

If your child is interested in more practical projects, suggest implementing something from school assignments. For example, SymPy helps solve algebra and symbolic calculations, NumPy and SciPy for numerical modeling, and Matplotlib or Plotly for data display.

8. Buy your child a self-study book

Yes, the projects in the previous paragraph may seem quite tricky. What to do if you don’t have enough time? Self-learning books for kids come to the rescue. Academic textbooks are not usually very clear to children, but a book with beautiful pictures will fuel interest, systematizing knowledge, and offer ideas for new projects.

Below we have compiled a selection of the three most exciting books for children of different ages and temperaments.

“Coding for Beginners: Using Python” by Louie Stowell

Coding for Beginners: Using Python is a book with vivid illustrations, suitable for elementary school age. It contains exciting projects on creating your games and clear instructions.

“Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction To Programming” by Jason R. Briggs

It is more of a tutorial with practical sections. The book will be handy for those who want to start a programming club.

“Teach Your Kids to Code: A parent-friendly guide to programming” by Bryson Payne

The book is suitable for children the same age as the previous one. It is true that compared to Briggs’ work, this one is much more vividly written. Therefore, parent/teacher supervision should be required less frequently despite the title.

9. Connect Python and the real world

The abstract side of programming can get boring after a while. You can liven up the attention by doing a project in which Python forces the computer to interact with the outside world. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use a Raspberry Pi board, controlling GPIO outputs with Python, for example:

  • Turning LEDs or other electronic loads on/off
  • Changing the brightness of the LED glow (a variation of the squiggle)
  • Reading button/key presses

Writing code for projects based on these ideas will broaden your horizons with different microcontroller programming tasks.

Doing a project that implements a complete idea is even more attractive. By combining the capabilities of Python and Raspberry Pi, you can create a robot, a morse code transmitter, a weather station, or even an automatic object recognition system from webcams!

10. Patience and Care

The advice we started with is also relevant at the end of the list. If at any point the child feels that programming is not their cup of tea, there is no need to change their mind. It is good if they understand this in time and continue to find their own way.

Be patient if your child enjoys programming and you want to support their aspirations. Make sure that the child develops in many ways. Advancement in other areas can make a young programmer inspired by an interesting interdisciplinary intersection, an opportunity that no one had noticed before. Thus, a project that will change the world can already be born at school.

Good luck with your parenting and pedagogical work!

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