If you hope your kid will grow up to become a star developer, the earlier you can get their brains thinking in code, the better.
At the same time, many parents try to limit how much time their children spend behind screens. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under 2 years old and a maximum of two hours per day of "high-quality material" for older children.
Can you teach your kids to code without too much screen time? Thanks to Google's new project, that seems entirely possible.
Google just announced Project Bloks, a research project focused on making code physical for kids. Their Coding Kit does not include a screen, and no reading or typing is required. Instead, kids snap together blocks, each which has its own command. By stringing together a series of commands, kids can give instructions to a connected toy or device. For example, the kit can connecting to the Mirobot, a wifi-enabled drawing robot. The video below illustrates how the Coding Kit can be used to give the Mirobot drawing instructions on a sheet of paper.
Project Bloks brings together play, learning and coding into one kid-friendly activity. "Kids are inherently playful and social," Google Creative Lab wrote in a release about Project Bloks. "They naturally play and learn by using their hands, building stuff and doing things together."
Google Creative Lab worked with Paulo Blikstein at Stanford University and design firm IDEO to create an open hardware platform that designers, developers and researchers can use to bring computational thinking to kids. The Coding Kit is the first prototype of the group's collaboration. The team plans to conduct more research this summer and expand their reach. Ultimately, the goal is teach more children digital literacy. Even if they do not go on to become programmers, learning to code teaches kids problem solving, build confidence and challenges them to explore their creativity.
"When you learn to code, the biggest skill kids learn is persistence," says Sheena Vaidyanathan, a computer scientist and educator in the Los Altos School District. "They learn something doesn't work out, but you can quickly fix it and try it again in different ways."