Want your kid to be the next Zuckerberg or another programming genius but don’t know how to code yourself? No problem. Coding classes are probably going to be offered in (UK based) schools in the near future anyway, so they’ll take care of your child’s programming education. However, it’s always good to give them a head start because the younger they get into it, the better they might potentially be.

A good resource that I would recommend for getting kids to start early (despite not being a parent or anywhere near that stage) is Daisy the Dinosaur (5-9 yrs old) and Hopscotch Kits (10-14 yrs old).

These products, developed by Hopscotch, aim to get young kids (especially girls) to code. There are many resources out there to learn how to code, but kids do need a special learning platform because their attention span is not lengthy. Therefore, you’d need a fun, interactive and visually engaging platform for them to learn in.

Daisy the Dinosaur (released in late December 2011) is an iPad app which has an easy drag and drop interface that kids of all ages can use to animate Daisy to dance across the screen. The app claims that kids will intuitively grasp the basics of objects, sequencing, loops and events by solving the app’s challenges. After playing Daisy, kids can choose to download a kit to program their own computer game. It is worth noting though that it is syntax free, so you won’t learn any technical information from this app. This app primarily aims to develop the logical thinking and problem solving skills first, which is obviously essential for becoming a good programmer. The app, which has had over 3000 downloads to date, is currently FREE!

For the slightly older kids, Hopscotch Kits currently has a Puppy Drawing Kit, which basically lets you draw a puppy using Coffeescript.js. Coffeescript is a variation of Javascript but with easier syntax and was chosen for its compatibility with all browsers. I personally went through this exercise to check it out and while it is fairly basic, it’s challenging enough for adult beginners to get stuck into. I actually got stuck at one question and had to click on the hint button. However, you do need knowledge of basic geometrical concepts like points, circles and planes in order to complete the challenge. For parents with younger kids, you might want to consider doing this exercise together with your kid because it would be challenging enough for you to engage in too.

In an interview with Hopscotch’s CEO, Jocelyn Leavitt, she said that a lot of people have the preconception that you need good math and science skills to be a good coder. However, you very rarely need to be good at math to be able to code, you just need good logical skills. The Hopscotch Team claims that programming is more about communication with the computer and software developers, which usually goes underemphasised. A lot of people just don’t realize that they have the capacity to be good, because they are scared to be very technical. This is precisely why their Daisy the Dinosaur app is completely syntax free.

Although Hopscotch products would appeal to all ages (well at least to all beginners), their interest is primarily targeting kids because a lot of times, the very best coders start when they were kids.

So, what are you waiting for? Get your kid hooked NOW.

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