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We learned about the basics in computer programming while building our very own board game. This was an incredibly fun activity. My 5 year old loved working on it and loved learning some new programming vocabulary with the lesson too.
In this activity, my child learned the very basics of computer programming, specifically the definitions behind programmer/ programming, code / coding, algorithm, bug and output.
- Large poster board or cardboard (recycle those Amazon boxes)
- Various colors of construction paper cut into game pieces (our squares were 1.5 inches by 2 inches)
- Regular paper to write down the rules
- Glue Stick
- Pencil, Pen or Marker
- Hat or bucket for your game cards
- Game pieces (we used PJ Mask figurines)
Instructions for Making the Game Board:
- Measure and draw the squares to be cut from each construction piece of paper. Have your child cut out the squares – their ability will vary depending on age and skill. (My daughter wanted a PJ Masks game theme so we used red, green and blue construction paper. You can cut out as many squares as you would like / see fit.)
- Allow your child to make the game board. I allowed my child to choose the game board path for the game. She glued on all the squares and decided on the beginning and end spaces. She also decorated the game board using markers. (For our game, she chose PJ Masks head quarters as the beginning and ending spot.)
- While my child was creating the board, I worked on developing the rules with her input. A young child has a big imagination, so the rules that they want to implement in the game might not be simple. Try your best to listen to your child’s ideas but make the rules very simple. This is a learning experience for them, that a program has to write simplified lines of code for a computer to understand how to perform each step. Instead of creating a ‘spinner’, we placed the symbols from the rules sheet into a hat to select our next moves.
Playing the Game and Ways to Use Coding Vocabulary:
- user: The person that selects the next step for their player to move.
- programmer/ programming: The person that made the rules or the act of making the rules for the game.
- code / coding: After the user selects their next move, the computer reads the algorithm (steps) or more specifically the ‘code’ (symbols) from the rules sheet to determine how to move their player. In this example, the user also acts as the ‘computer’ moving the game piece.
- algorithm: An algorithm is a process or set of rules to be followed. We didn’t write instructions for our game but if we did, they would include – each player takes a turn selecting their next move from the game cards in the hat, then matching the symbol from the game card to the ‘code’ (or symbol) in the rules and finally move their player according to those rules.
- bug: If you find that your rules need to be adjusted or changed because they do not work accordingly, that would be a great example of a ‘bug’ in computer code. A programmer must go into the code, find the bug and fix it.
- output: After following the ‘algorithms’ for the game, each player will land on a specific spot on the board. That is the output from the ‘computer’ reading the code.
This was a fun activity to do with my child. My child had the opportunity to be creative and collaborative (we worked as a team to get it done). Also, my child learned some new STEM vocabulary. I am a strong believer that using STEM vocabulary early, helps children grasp concepts much faster as they grow. They will be less intimidated.
While my older child and I were working on the game board, my younger child worked on hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. She cut with scissors and glued pieces she cut with a glue stick to a piece of cardboard.
We recently added these three coding books to our library. They’ve been extremely helpful in explaining what various coding vocabulary means and they also provide tangible activities for a child to complete as they grow in knowledge, understanding and attention span.
Let me know what you think of this activity or these books. Have you found other great coding resources? Want me to check out or review something you’ve seen that teaches basic coding? Would you like me to give a full book review of these? Let me know in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org!