How I Got My Kids to Learn to Code

Jen Apy
Jen Apy
Apr 27, 2015 · 3 min read

I’ve always been determined not to be one of those parents who pushes their kids to follow in their footsteps. I want my children to be independent thinkers free to pursue their passions. As long as they work hard and find their individual paths, I won’t complain!

Both my husband and I studied Computer Science as undergrads. We each sought the analytical challenges and exciting rewards that accompany creating with code — the ability to bring an idea to life by figuring out how to tell the computer what you want it to do. Although our careers have moved us into more managerial roles, we realize that our understanding of computers has been key to riding the waves of technological evolution (that will continue at an even faster pace in our children’s future).

Realizing the fundamental importance of having our children speak the language of computers, we’ve encouraged our kids to learn to code. But it hasn’t been easy. We’ve tried free online coding courses and puzzles, well-known game design summer camps, and robotics clubs. They’ve had fun, they’ve created some cool stuff, but their knowledge has not progressed beyond a “drag-and-drop” creation process that is easily learned then forgotten.

Then we found Tynker. The creation tools in Tynker use the same easy drag-and-drop approach, but the language is closer to a real programming language, with commands for nested loops, complex conditionals, setting variable values, and creating recursive functions. At the same time, Tynker’s language more closely mimics a child’s thought process and does not bog the child down in granular syntax (“if on edge then bounce” is so much easier to think about than the Javascript equivalent!).

But the best part is that our three kids, all of whom have different interests and personalities, were each able to find something they enjoyed with Tynker. Our oldest created a few arcade games then started on an app he wants to publish for the iPhone. He’s even been inspired enough to teach himself Javascript, after seeing the Javascript equivalent of his programs in Tynker. Our youngest now has a much better appreciation of how games are made and how to make games better. He likes to experiment with his code to see what else he can make (or make explode). My daughter was at first reluctant to learn, but being able to learn independently at home with Tynker boosted her confidence. She learned enough coding to bring a couple game and story ideas to life in Tynker. Then, after winning a tablet in a code debugging contest at Google, she was thrilled — she doesn’t shy away from unknown challenges anymore!

Why did Tynker work for my kids?

  1. It is fun to do, and fun for kids to share what they create.
  2. Lots of kid-friendly graphics and animations and the ability to customize everything (including fonts and sounds) gives Tynker a broad appeal (especially across genders).
  3. Gives kids the headroom they need to progress quickly to more advanced concepts when they are ready.

Other parents feel the same way (hear their stories). Another parent once told me that “Tynker strikes the right balance between learning and entertainment — it’s not a chore. Tynker somehow sparks the learning and inspires them to make things from their own ideas.”

(Jennifer Apy has worked with thousands of teachers and parents to find and implement innovative technology solutions to meet students’ instructional needs. Through service as a volunteer teacher, and as an actively involved parent in elementary and middle schools, she has brought real-world experience to the go-to-market plans for ed-tech companies. Connect with @jenapy on Twitter and LinkedIn, and Facebook/jendonapy.)

Jen Apy

Written by

Jen Apy

Jennifer Apy is an involved parent, a public education supporter, and champion for innovative educational products for children. www.ChildsFirstTeacher.com

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