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Teach Children How To Program A Computer

Updated on August 24, 2017

Teach children about core computer technology

Chances are that your children will interact with computers most of the days of their lives. Computers have been available, functional and important since well before they were born. Chances are good that you are now fully familiar with computers as well. Are you going to be satisfied with your children merely running programs for the rest of their lives? Why not help them get started learning about the technology?

Even if you don't know anything about computer technology, you can help your children learn how to program. Programming languages are what make the computer work the way it does. Did you know that there are many programming language choices. Each has a name that it is known by. HTML, C, Python , PHP, JAVA, JAVASCRIPT, SQL and many more, are currently popular. Many more are in wide use but are generally obsolete. While there are similarities between many of them, there are particular tasks that are best done in a particular language. For example, C is good at interfacing with printers. HTML is not and is actually not a programming language at all. Computer programs are now the most complicated of human creations. Where a large jet airplane may have 200,000 separate components, many computer applications have over 1, 2 or even 5 million separate distinct components, or lines or code.

As computers have become easier to use, the controlling programs have become more complex. It takes programmers to understand what has been developed and to extend our technology in the future. It is up to us parents and grandparents. Children can merely use computers or start learning very simple concepts, write programs that will control computer operations and extend their knowledge into the future. With some training and encouragement, they can become the masters of the future technology field. It's up to them, (and you), to make it happen.

Computer Programming Basics For Children

A great way to prepare children for future exposure to the computer programming world is to discuss technical concepts with them. You don't have to know anything about it yourself. Just ask a few questions to get the children to think. What do they think a computer is? If they say a games machine, a teaching tool, a communications tool, or whatever, ask they why it is that. Chances are that they will explain a few of things that a computer can do, not what it is. Back before the invention of our modern technologies, a computer was a person who was employed to solve problems.

A computer is now a general purpose machine that is pretty much capable of doing whatever we think of for it to do. And what have we been asking computers to do? Everything. Computers sent men to the moon. They sent probes to all of the planets, an asteroid, a comet and even to outer space. Computers entertain, track trends, do math, speak, help the disabled. There are so many things that they do. They are truly the universal machine. Explain that the computer was invented in 1832 by Charles Babbage. He envisioned a universal machine that could perform calculations that would be useful for most any purpose. Babbage tried to build one but he was hampered by the lack of suitable machining and no electrical systems. Now less than 200 years later, we have computers that do what Babbage could never imagine.

What will computers do in the future? Anything that the children of today can envision and a whole lot more. Do your children want to take part in the future progress of computing or wait for others to deliver the future to them? They can be part of the future by learning something about programming now. Even a brief introduction could pay off huge dividends in their future.

What is a computer, anyway

Your child knows that a computer is for games, pictures, movies, instant chat. But what is it? It's a universal machine that is capable of doing anything. The computer is a collection of particular electrical components that allow it to do whatever we ask it to do. Each computer has a different set of components but there are a few that are present in most computers in use today.

Each computer contains a Central Processing Unit, (CPU), which is the major functional unit of the computer. Some more expensive computers have two or more CPU's to add speed. The CPU executes program instructions, or programs, that tell it what to do. These instructions are very simplistic commands. They make the computer perform basic math instructions, (add, subtract, multiply, divide), on two numbers at once. They make the computer move data from one place to another.

The CPU can test numbers and choose which instruction to do next based on the result of the test. The instructions are simplistic. For example, early computers could not multiply. If the programmer wanted to multiply 3 x 10, they would instruct the computer to add the number 10 three times. Here is an example of how the CPU would be told to perform this calculation:

MOVE A, 10

ADD A, 10

ADD A, 10

The first instruction puts the number 10 into a location called "A". The next command adds 10 to "A". The next command adds 10 again to "A". At the end of the third instruction, the number 30 is now stored in "A". This is a very simple set of commands. You could do the same with a command of "MOVE A, 30" in the beginning. Normally, the programmer would have the computer add "A" to itself repeatedly based on the number stored in another location, say "B". As you can imagine, this takes a lot of simple instructions just to get the calculation 10 x 3 completed. Each of the instructions is executed incredibly quickly so we, the users, observe the computer working faster than we could.

Programs with these simple instructions were the only way to control computers back when they were first invented. Now most people write programs using an English-like specification. It makes program development faster for programmers. The computer has a program that translates the English-like command into the simplistic CPU instructions. This has made programming simpler. So simple, in fact, that a child could do it.

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The Alice programming language for children
The Alice programming language for children

Learning the Alice programming language

Children will find that this is a fun thing to do

Alice is a free programming language that children will enjoy. In addition to being a graphical, story telling environment, it is also an object oriented tool. This means that pieces that are built can easily be extended with new capabilities. The language comes with demo programs that children can use right away. The tutorials show how. In one of them, there is a story about a rabbit. At first, it is sleeping next to a cell phone. The phone rings and wakes up the rabbit. Following the steps of the tutorial, you make the rabbit do additional things such as walk, jump and then squash the cell phone. Each step is an easy addition to the story. The objects are things in the story such as the rabbit and the cell phone. Each object has methods, those things that the object can do. The rabbit can sleep, walk, jump, etc. Each method can be changed. For example, you can make a jump take longer or shorter times. Check it out and see how easy it will be for your children to learn.

This programming language is a good introduction to programming because it establishes the use of logic by the child. For example, if the child wants something to happen in sequence, they have to understand the simple steps necessary. Move the rabbit, jump up, etc. If the rabbit should jump first and then move, the child will instantly understand how to make that happen. It is a great way to introduce programming in a simple fashion.

Python home page
Python home page

Python Programming Language

A free general purpose computer language

The Python language is another free development tool. With it, you can write fully functional programs that execute on your own computer. There is an ability to run it on the Internet, but this is likely too complicated for children, at first. Later they can explore the concept if they want. Python is an interpreted language. This means that it runs somewhat slower than other compiled languages. The difference is not important for those learning how to program. Interpreted languages help to get started faster. Once installed, a program can be typed right in or saved in a file. Check out Python for a good, general purpose programming language. It has classes and objects, too, so it will be fully capable as your child learns how to do more with the computer.

HTML on Wikipedia
HTML on Wikipedia

HTML Programming

The core delivery mechanism of the Internet

HTML, or Hyper Text Markup Language, is an interesting concept. It is something of a hybrid. Part word processor and part programming language. Learning HTML will be very useful to your child. This is especially true as they learn how to release programs on the Internet. At the core of HTML is the text controls. Here is how some text can be made Bold:

Add tag B for Bold: < B >This is BOLD< /B >

Note that there are spaces in the text here around the "B" characters. They were added to ensure that the HTML codes could be seen.

There are tags for bold, italics, underline and more. They wrap text and cause the desired effect. They each must be closed with a "/" HTML code. HTML is simple to start with but includes a lot of options that make the Internet what it is today. In addition, there are significant enhancements designed to work with HTML. They include PHP and Javascript,programming languages as well as XML, a data specification. Have your child work with the HTML tags before introducing the extensions.

Working in HTML usually requires a web server. You can use Notepad, however. Copy the HTML section below and paste it into Notepad. Then save it to a file called Program1.HTML in the "My Documents" folder.

< H1>This is the Header< /H1>

< b>This is bold< /b>

< i>This is italic text< /i>

< u>This is underlined< /u>

Note: take out the spaces in the tags!

Let your children play with this section of text and open it in their Internet browser. They can't break anything. Try leaving a / tag off. What happens? Add two or more tags. These are among the most primitive Internet operations that can be done.

Girls are rare in the computer industry

Since the beginning of the computer industry, men have far outnumbered women. This is despite the fact that the first computer programmer was a woman back in 1832. Another woman invented the compiler which represented a huge leap forward for the computer industry. As parents, we should recognize that girls are scarce in the field. Please help to encourage girls to get involved. There are lots of careers that they can access if they learn how to program.

Should girls learn to program too?

Great Programming Books on Amazon

Alice programming language and other general introductions are available on Amazon.

Programming Poll

Have you received computer programming instruction?

See results

Your programming comments or experiences are welcome

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    • Taranwanderer profile image

      Taranwanderer 

      4 years ago

      Very good - I wish I'd learned Python years ago. Good thing it's never too late to start programming with computers, by checking out degree programs. https://hubpages.com/technology/Careers-in-Electro...

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      This is great. I remember buying my first computer about a million years ago. I think it was a sega. And we had type things like that to do things. I just can't remember how we did it but it nearly ended in the open fireplace. That was even before they made the games that had little to no graphics. I think my second one had a 32kb or meg hard drive. Gosh now I am showing my youth. Great lens by the way

    • CornellMarCom LM profile image

      CornellMarCom LM 

      5 years ago

      I wish I had gotten involved with programming several years ago...I guess I just have to do it now..

    • vineliner57 profile image

      Hal Gall 

      5 years ago from Bloomington, IN

      Interesting lens. My son is currently studying programming at the local community college. It's a good line of work when you get into it at higher levels. Outside of building wordpress sites, I don't have the patience for it, and am thankful for the ones that do. As they say, "Code is Beautiful!"

    • askformore lm profile image

      askformore lm 

      5 years ago

      I learned assembler programming in 1969. I am a computer-dinosaur LOL i.e. extinct!

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 

      5 years ago

      I love how the answer choices to the question above are either yes or of course. My kids were all introduced to computers in kindergarten, so girls are getting exposure these days.

    • rawwwwwws lm profile image

      rawwwwwws lm 

      5 years ago

      BLESSED. We need more women in engineering and science. YES, WE MUST TEACH CHILDREN HOW TO PROGRAM!

      - LOVE LOVE LOVE this lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      "Do your children want to take part in the future progress of computing or wait for others to deliver the future to them?" Now that is one exciting and challenging statement to encourage all to teach children how to program a computer and be an active part of that anything they can envision future.....you sure can sell an idea that your passionate about sir!

    • JoleneBelmain profile image

      JoleneBelmain 

      6 years ago

      I absolutely loved computer programming when I was in school, it was so much fun and I was so good at it :)

      ~BLESSED~

    • sentanta lm profile image

      sentanta lm 

      6 years ago

      thanks for sharing - I enjoyed the python section. A scientist recently referred to python as the "super-glue" that holds modern, quantitative science together.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      thanks for sharing but teaching kids can be a hard task most time.

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 

      6 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      Great lens.Thanks for sharing.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      6 years ago

      Really good, pinned to my board "this I want you to know." It is the computer age.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      Another great lens!! Thanks for sharing!

    • alsomelbel profile image

      alsomelbel 

      7 years ago

      Very interesting lens, I think I'll have to create a write-up about this one on my blog. I'll tweet you the url when I complete it. :P Thanks for the very encouraging tweets and the fantastic lens.

    • rozalex lm profile image

      rozalex lm 

      7 years ago

      This is great! I enjoyd it a lot!

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      7 years ago from New Zealand

      Great lens, I will be coming back to study some more info you have written here after all I am only a child at heart.

      Thanks for sharing.

      *Blessed*

    • TapIn2U profile image

      TapIn2U 

      7 years ago

      Good information! Thanks for the tip. Sundae ;-)

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 

      7 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      HTML has been one thing that I have learned to some extent since writing in Squidoo. I love to color-up lenses. Informational lenses sometimes need a bit of color. Of course, questions and polls help to make them interesting. ;)

    • theoxingyi lm profile image

      theoxingyi lm 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for the tip about Alice that looks great. I've been looking for something similar, but this is much slicker.

    • profile image

      aleskotnik 

      7 years ago

      Great Post, I would just add the JavaScript among "must know" languages.

    • gypsyman27 lm profile image

      gypsyman27 lm 

      7 years ago

      This lens points out the need for education above and beyond the traditional. I am in agreement with you and I hope you keep advocating for extra curricula educational opportunities for young children. See you around the galaxy...

    • gypsyman27 lm profile image

      gypsyman27 lm 

      7 years ago

      I can really relate to your ideas of providing learning experiences above and beyond traditional classes. Bravo, and you have provided an example with this lens and others written by you. I am a fan. See you around the galaxy...

    • dani3l lm profile image

      dani3l lm 

      7 years ago

      great information, everyone should have some basic HTML knowledge that uses the internet.

    • Luminosity LM profile image

      Luminosity LM 

      7 years ago

      This is a lens full of rich information about programming.

    • Monika Weise profile image

      Monika Weise 

      7 years ago from Indianapolis, IN USA

      My daughter sat on my knee when she was too short to reach the keyboard. Girls should be encouraged if their interests leads them to computers.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      7 years ago

      I am surprised that men outnumber women in the computing field, as my experience has been with mainly women programmers, etc. Great lens. *SquidAngel Blessed*

    • capriliz lm profile image

      capriliz lm 

      7 years ago

      Girls can do anything they want, and they are just as capable at programming as the boys.

    • profile image

      DongMei 

      7 years ago

      HTML is the extent of my coding ability so I am very in favor of younger people learning as much about programing as they can. It is a skill that will be increasingly useful.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      7 years ago

      Very informative lens! I was lucky enough to be introduced to programming in high school, and continued taking computer science courses in college. I hope females will continue to get involved in this exciting field.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Thank you so much for your kindness this holiday season. My words cannot express how grateful I am. I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas season....best wishes for you.

    • reflectionhaiku profile image

      reflectionhaiku 

      7 years ago

      I have truly high-tech kids that computer skills come natural to them. Thanks for this helpful lens as well as your angel blessings -

    • HorseAndPony LM profile image

      HorseAndPony LM 

      7 years ago

      I have a BS in EE and have a strong background in programming. I think everyone should learn the basics of programming. Thanks for the info. My daughter would love to begin programming. Alice seems like a good place to start.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image

      Kay 

      7 years ago

      I like to joke that we have silicon chips flowing through our veins. I come from a family of programmers. My son is in 7th Grade and has been taking computer programming for two years now.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 

      7 years ago

      OMG, what a great idea! Start 'em young. My dad sat with me when I was in first and second grade teaching me advanced math -- along with the slide rule.

    • Yourshowman LM profile image

      Yourshowman LM 

      7 years ago

      Nice lens with nice thoughts.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 

      7 years ago

      I'm back- I love this page and think there's a whole library of content that you will expand on as you grow on Squidoo.-:) My seven year old would be a whiz on squidoo with a little teaching. Kiddoo?? Featured on More November Blessings under How To.

    • joanhall profile image

      Joan Hall 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thanks for this info! My kids had started using SiMPLE, but it seems that it doesn't work with our new computer and they had to quit. I will definitely check out Alice and some of the other languages you mention.

      Love the duel, too.

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

      JoyfulPamela2 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Awesome! Computer skills are definitely an important part of our homeschool experience. Adding this to my computer education resources page for my kiddos. = )

    • EdTecher profile image

      Heidi Reina 

      7 years ago from USA

      I love using Alice to help teach kids, including girls, about programming.

    • spunkyduckling profile image

      spunkyduckling 

      7 years ago

      Let children decide for themselves. Yes it's a valuable skill but it should not be forced or mandatory.

    • WhitU4ever profile image

      WhitU4ever 

      7 years ago

      What a perfect subject to learn in home school! So glad you visited one of my lenses so I could find this one. I will add a link to this one from of my home school lenses. I have a seven year old, and right now she is learning to type using a CD-ROM program called Typing Tutor. You are so right: children need to be prepared to deal with their generation effectively.

    • javr profile imageAUTHOR

      javr 

      7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      @anonymous: This is an interesting point. I would like to determine how you a child should be when they can start to learn how to program. Of course children are often much more capable than we think.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      7 years ago

      children should learn it but not at a very young age. :)

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 

      7 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      informative and useful article.

    • Jack2205 profile image

      Jack 

      8 years ago

      I started writing computer programs, using three different programming languages, a few years ago. Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • Jhangora LM profile image

      Jhangora LM 

      8 years ago

      Nice lens. I am more interested in SEO, but try to pick up some html to help me create better blogs and sites. I try and motivate my 10 year nephew to start making games but he is always busy playing them.

    • profile image

      GrowWear 

      8 years ago

      First computer class, and I programmed a simple payroll program that would deduct Fed and State from the gross and give the net. Will always remember how much fun that was. I hope parents will encourage programming for their daughters. Certain the geeky sort like me would really enjoy it.

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 

      8 years ago

      Fabulous and well written. Thank you so much.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 

      8 years ago

      Awesome lens, blessed :)

    • javr profile imageAUTHOR

      javr 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      @thesuccess2: Hopefully they will pick up a bit of programming knowledge someday. My son has taken formal training and enjoys it. I'm exposing my daughter to these lenses for her first exposure to programming. Thanks for the blessing!

    • JanieceTobey profile image

      JanieceTobey 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for this information! I'm going to look into Alice and Python!

    • thesuccess2 profile image

      thesuccess2 

      8 years ago

      I couldn't interest my kids though they pass their lives on the Internet. Great idea for a lens (keep developing it!). Angel Blessing

    • Anwarart profile image

      Anwarart 

      8 years ago

      In today's society, knowing how to use a computer is important, but it's also important to know something about the inner-workings of one as well. Learning how to program is a great step that can open many doors in the future. It's also a boost to your confidence when you create a program that works. This lens is great, and I enjoyed reading it.

    • javr profile imageAUTHOR

      javr 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      @rwoman: A foundation of knowledge that includes a little computer programming will always be of use. Thanks for the comment.

    • javr profile imageAUTHOR

      javr 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      @glenbrook: Good question about HTML. I made a lens to examine whether it is a programming language.

    • atirial profile image

      atirial 

      8 years ago

      A really good lens on a very important topic. With computers used in some many areas now it's a shame more people aren't learning how to use them - even if some people are not exactly encouraging girls into IT!

    • rwoman profile image

      rwoman 

      8 years ago

      I was a computer programming minor in college but as that was ages ago I have relied mostly on teaching myself the basics. The earlier we start the better!

    • glenbrook profile image

      glenbrook 

      8 years ago

      I've never heard of the Alice programming language, I'll have to check it out. As for HTML, is it really a programming language or more of a formatting language? I really like php, it mixes well with HTML, its free, programs can run in any browser.

    • javr profile imageAUTHOR

      javr 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      @ajgodinho: Glad to have you on side! Thanks!

    • javr profile imageAUTHOR

      javr 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      @indigoj: Thanks for the support!

    • javr profile imageAUTHOR

      javr 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      @norma-holt: Thank-you very much!

    • javr profile imageAUTHOR

      javr 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      @anonymous: Thank-you. I'll expand on this and my related lenses in time. By all means, encourage your son. Good luck to him!

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      8 years ago

      Very interesting lens! This is something that I will look into for my son - who is already sort of a computer "geek" like me. =)

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 

      8 years ago

      Great lens on such an important topic. I am featuring this on Educating Young Minds.

    • javr profile imageAUTHOR

      javr 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Lisa is correct about how it is not complicated. Much of the complexity has been automized for us. You have given me a great idea for another lens.

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 

      8 years ago from Scotland

      In this day and age it is so important that children understand computers, they really are not scary and complicated at all! neither is building webpages, If I can do it anyone can !

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      8 years ago from UK

      Excellent introduction to the options out there to get kids interested in programming. Even if programming is not the only IT discipline worth pursuing, it is good for everyone to have an opportunity to understand the fundamentals of how computers work.

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 

      8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Nowadays kids know much more about computers than we knew. In this tech age, they are exposed to a lot so I think it's important to include some level of programming in their curriculum...blessings! :)

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