Computer literacy for kids through fun & games

What is computer literacy? To me, computer literacy is about the general understanding of how computers work, from its hardware (1’s and 0’s gates), to its software algorithms (coding), to its user interaction (design).

I’ve spent countless hours researching ways to introduce my kids to computers. This post is about my plan, so far, to do so and in the process, inspire them to be creators and makers and have fun together while at it.

The age of 5 for our kids was a good year to start on their tech learning path. Once they can read they can do even more, like block coding in Sketch or makecode. Remembering that keeping it fun with an adult always there for support has been a key to success!

Here is the progression of the toys we played with and have plans to play with if things progress as planned 🙂 This list also makes a very friendly way for non-tech savvy parents to learn about computers.

Ages 5+: Board Games

Any board game can help build their brain muscles and prep them for what’s to come. A worthy mention though is Robot Turtles, which we bought in 2017.

Ages 5+: Circuit Scramble mobile video game

This is a fun way to introduce kids to logic and the inners of computer circuitry.

Ages 5+: Box Island mobile video game.

I paid full pop for this game, maybe $4 bucks! That’s really not much considering what my kids are getting out of it. Sure, there are lots of free games like this but Box Island is the best kids coding game I’ve tried for two simple reasons:
1) The graphics and animation are high quality and keep the kids entertained and motivated.
2) The character that the player sends instructions to does not rotate. This is huge! The game play becomes MUCH MUCH simpler and less frustrating because of this. You’ll understand once you try some of these games.

Ages 6+: Snap Circuits toy set.

My son has almost completed 200 projects with this. The sets range in size, price and theme. I’ve seen them discounted multiple times between 40-70% off!

Ages 6+: Musical Instruments

Playing musical instruments makes you think about patterns and order, which has similarities to coding. In a way, a musician is physically coding (playing notes) through an instrument which translates into music.

Ages 6+: Old/Broken Electronic Toys or Small Appliances

Old, dirty or broken toys and small appliances in need of some TLC are perfect to open up and show their inside parts to curious minds. Under adult supervision, we’ve opened up battery operated cars, small RC cars, and other toys to see all of the parts and talk about them. Sometimes we fixed or cleaned them so it’s a learning experience as well as an opportunity to revive an old toy. Win win!

Ages 7+: BBC’s micro:bit

This programmable little piece of hardware is so fun and easy to use. It’s half the size of a credit card so its very portable. It’s programmable from a browser or mobile app using visual code blocks that can be dragged to connect to other blocks, like virtual lego pieces. The micro:bit is a friendly way to introduce anyone, not just kids, to becoming a coder and digital maker. I’ll soon post what my son has created and what I’ve created with it.

Ages 8+: Raspberry Pi

We’re planning to get a Raspberry Pi to do some Minecraft coding. I’m liking the Kano Touch kit but could go with something simpler, more affordable and multi-purpose like the CanaKit Raspberry Pi.

Ages 9+: Robots!!!!

My kids and I can’t wait to get a robot! We’re planning to build a robot from a kit. But Sphero’s RVR is very intriguing because of its robustness, quality, features, AND you can expend it by attaching a micro:bit, arduino, or raspberry pi. It is a lot of money for a toy but it’s more than just a toy, Sphero calls it a robotic platform.

Learning Technology does not need to be boring, frustrating, or intimidating. These days we can find many accessible creative options for people to learn, teach and have fun creating.

Although I’m promoting computer literacy for kids, I truly believe in a well balanced childhood experience. Our kids are in different sports, they hike lots, and also get lots of freeplay time.

The above plan or list is just an approach for their computer literacy. There are many other helpful games, crafts, and fun ideas that I haven’t mentioned or explored. I hope this post helps other parents on their own paths to spending some fun quality time with their children.