When Should I Start Teaching My Kids Programming?
I was eight years old, sitting in my father’s office. He had been a coder since before I was born, and that day he had determined that he was going to teach me how to write software. It was a cramped little room, and we were using a computer that had dual floppy drives—one for the operating system and another for the application. These weren’t the 3.5” floppies or the 4.25” floppies, but whopping 8” floppies!
The problem is that eight year olds don’t really have that much of an attention span.
My dad attempted to each me how to use BASIC—a precursor to GWBASIC, and VISUAL BASIC and now VB.NET. We had the cool line numbers (where you had to put in 55 between 50 and 60 if you forgot a line) and a primitive code editor, but eight year old me couldn’t see doing the kind of stuff that he was doing.
That was until I got my first program.
I had a sheet of tractor-fed paper that had code on it to build a program that would race cars across the screen. The cars were ascii art, and you could put them on the screen and they would move. A random see would change which one won the race. I keyed in the code, got it running, and then had fun trying to change the shapes, figure out what the winning condition was, and then adding vehicles.
From there, I wrote a program to do voting in my high school’s Student Government in Visual Basic 1. That was fun, and I put things in so I could see how things were going even before the polls closed. Unethical, considering I was running for Governor? I was only running because I didn’t want the other guy to run unopposed.
In any rate, I think that with all the opportunities you have today, you can use games, mods, and plugins to pique your child’s interest around the 8-10 year old time frame by showing them how to make simple modifications. In the coming weeks, I’m going to attempt to teach my kids, and I’ll let you know what works and what does not.