By Mark Niemann-Ross | Wednesday, July 25, 2012
It’s summer! It’s July! Your son or daughter has been decompressing from school for nearly a month, and now they’re bored, feisty, and looking for something new. Resourceful parents dig deep into their bag of tricks for something—anything—to keep the son/daughter from bugging their brother/sister. I, personally, like to think of this boredom as a window of opportunity to convert non-productive screen time into a learning experience, or, more specifically, a window of opportunity to spark an interest that may lead young minds toward wanting to know more about the skill of programming.
Sure, in the big picture, summer is all about getting outside, playing ball at the park, swimming in the pool, and, more or less, finding new and inventive ways of getting into trouble. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not advocating taking up residence on the couch. What I am suggesting is that along with that physical activity, summer is also a great time to stretch minds.
Programming is a real-world tool that provides context for structured problem-solving, math concepts, and improved study habits. That being said, of course no red-blooded kid is going to willingly dive into something as “boring” as programming. Seriously—video games are a much more amusing way to consume screen time than staring at a bunch of cryptic incantations written in some useless programming language. Are you kidding? Learn programming? Learn ANYTHING? I know kids that would rather cut the lawn than get stuck behind a textbook.
If your kid is the “I’d rather mow the lawn” type, here’s a thought—tell your kid they could amuse and amaze their friends by building their own video game. It’s entirely possible that they may end up creating something like Angry Birds or Farmville.
While your son or daughter's first programming initiative may not be as exciting as Angry Birds, practice makes perfect and the creation of basic Facebook games is a great gateway into the world of programming.
Getting your kids started may end up being the hardest part of this initiative. You’ll need to use your parenting super-powers of persuasion to introduce the idea and fire up their enthusiasm. This should be far easier than convincing them to floss their teeth, but there may still be some resistance. Back in my parenting days, I found it easiest to have this sort of conversation over an ice-cream cone.
“Hey,” I would say, using my nonchalant voice. “I was just reading about Facebook games. Have you heard anything about them?”
My kids would respond positively. Possibly launch off into an enthusiastic dissertation about their latest engagement with cows, birds, or jewels.
“I heard it’s not too difficult to create them yourself,” I would say. “If you’re interested, I think I could dig up some instructions and you could build one. What kind of game would you build?”
…and we’re off to the races.
Don’t be fooled, though—the training videos in the lynda.com library are only tools to help you encourage your kids to be life-long learners. In the end, you’re the parent with secret ninja skills of persuasion and encouragement. We’re only here to be your trusty sidekick.
If you have kid programming stories, or tips to share with other parents, we’d love to hear your thoughts! Please leave a comment and let us know your story, and keep us updated as you and your son or daughter progress.
Interested in more?
• All developer courses on lynda.com
• All courses from Ray Villalobos on lynda.com
• Foundations of Programming: Fundamentals
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