How My Mom Taught Me to Program

Also, teach your kids how to figure things out for themselves. Mom pretty much did this by staying really busy herself. If we couldn’t figure something out, instead of solving it for us, she’d tell us how to look for solutions. I learned to google, to look at others’ code examples, and to read the manual.

Another thing about mom staying busy: she doesn’t have time to be pushy. Don’t push your kids in this or they’ll probably hate it. Just let them be, and help them when they ask for it.

Here’s a note from the editor (Mom/Velda) … In case you’re wondering WHY you should teach the kids to program, check this out πŸ™‚

Before we even talked about languages, Mom had us play games that mimic programming. Like Light Robot — just try not to get addicted. Your kids will too.

Then you can ease in to something like Scratch. I’m pretty sure many of you have heard about Scratch, but for those who don’t know any thing about it, Scratch is a place where your kid can explore programing. They don’t even have to memorize phrases! It has a menu with natural phrases that are used as everything they need to make a good program. The first time on Scratch usually doesn’t take much guidance, so let them do their own thing for a while.

Codecademy teaches about JavaScript. Let them follow the course, and every so often let them do another project. This can get to be really hard to do, even for me. Encourage them to go on.

JUDO is a Java IDE for children that teaches you about the basics of real programming. From conditionals, to operations, and even graphics! The first step is for them to learn the basics of JUDO. This can be from looking at example programs, reading the tutorial, and from trying it out themselves. After they figure it out, ask them to make a small program that asks for your name, says hello, and does other fun things. For example, it may be changing the background if you said something specific, or drawing a shape if you didn’t say anything.

Last but not least, how about some real-world programming experience? Can kids do that? I’m just getting started myself. Open Source Software lets you download a program and modify it however you’d like. So we can download, for example, then play with it however we’d like. If I figure out something super handy, maybe I’ll publish it back.

So that should about cover it. I hope you learned what to teach your child. This is how I learned it, and your kid can too. Got any questions? Just ask.


  1. Maile

    Great post. Ethan! Thanks for the resources. My kids are enjoying an iPad game called Kodable. Benji, who is almost five years old, really, REALLY likes it. He thinks hard about the levels and seems to have an analytically-inclined side to him. As he gets older, I’ll definitely be looking for ways to help him learn about programming.


  2. Dustin Davis (@DustinDavis)

    Thanks for all the tips Ethan. How old are you if you don’t mind me asking? I’m a professional software devloper and I’ve been wanting to get my kids off of minecraft and get them learn programming. I think they will really enjoy it. These pointers will help me point them in the right direction and get them started.


    1. emc01

      Hi Dustin. I am turning twelve soon. For your kids, I would suggest lead them to making a game. That way, they could play that instead of Minecraft! Though you’re going to have some difficulty getting them OFF Minecraft in the first place… I’m addicted to it too.


  3. Alex

    Thanks, I am practicing currently on Codeacademy, but putting together all the available resources I can. I am also curious about programming books, have you read any? I am looking to learn Web Development first, so anything on JavaScript/PHP would be great.


    1. Velda

      Hey Alex, Ethan’s out so I hope you don’t mind me answering this. He hasn’t read very many programming books really, as he likes learning hands-on, but he does tend to skim manuals and refer back to them.

      Have you thought about getting in touch with your local PHP & JavaScript communities?


      1. Alex

        Thanks, that’s what I thought as well. I guess I am being indecisive because I am still in the early stage, but really looking forward to the journey.

        Truth to be told, there aren’t that many communities around. (I live in a fairly low populated town) I know of one, it’s a few miles out of town and as far as I know they are focusing more on Pascal/C/C++. I am looking to develop a few sites for myself, the reason I want to learn WebDev languages. But thanks for the input, I have gathered quite a lot resources online.

        Just one more question, I know Envato has got video tutorials on several languages, and I have watched a few of them. Would you agree it is easier to learn by reading online tutorials and using sites like Codeacademy? Watching those videos was fairly painful to be honest.

        I love Automattic and the way you guys handle everything.


      2. Velda

        We’re pretty lucky around here to have a good PHP users group and generally great support for open source communities πŸ™‚ If you don’t have that, maybe you can start something, or check in online with another group.

        I’d recommend jumping right into things rather than watching videos / reading books. So if you want to learn web development, start by setting up a local PHP/MySQL/Apache installation. You can get one for your operating system, or you can use a virtual machine. Google / youtube will have tons of how-tos for that. Then just start trying things. How would you learn to cook? Not so much by reading cookbooks or watching videos but by actually trying it. And failing sometimes. And trying again anyway. Give it a go πŸ˜€

        Also consider jumping on an open source project project, looking for things that need to be solved, and solving them or watching how other solve them.


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