Teaching Kids to Program Without Screens

Teach your very young children to program without screens, and without literacy!I created a game called “Ready Robots.” Any kid can play as long as they are old enough to do “if you are happy and you know it clap your hands.” They don’t need to be able to read. You can make the game yourself by drawing your own cards, or you can download and print my cards.

To play, ask kids to lay out the cards in a particular order, then say “ready robots? Execute!” Then you and the kids should do each action in the sequence in order. Take turns making different programs for different people. Kids love making a program for their grownups to execute. See a video of the game in action!

I’ve played this game with kids for years. Even very young children can do it by imitating you and looking at the pictures on the cards. It can even build literacy skills by pairing words on the cards with actions. When I add a real robot, like an Aibo robot dog or Sphero or Baxter, I have the kids make the program with cards, then quickly type it into an Ein command line, to make the physical robot execute it. When using an Aibo robot dog, I first ask them to run the program (Sit! Wag your tail! Bark!) and then we have the robot do the same program.

For older children, you can add “if this then that.” Make little programs like “if I stomp my feet then you beep your nose.” Put the cards up on a white board or wall and add more and more rules. It is kind of like Simon Says but more confusing because you might have 4 or 5 different rules.

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