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Playing Robot: An Easy Pre-Coding Activity to Do with Your Kids

Computer programming is all about giving the computer specific, logical instructions. One really easy activity you can do to that’s fun and is good practice for young coders is "Playing Robot."

You play the robot and your child has to tell you exactly what to do and in the exact order they want you to do things. For example:

  • Your child needs to instruct you to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You have the materials in front of you and need instructions to know what to do with them.

  • They start by saying, "Scoop the peanut butter on the bread." You can motion hitting the spoon on the cap of the peanut butter jar. Uh oh! Robot doesn’t know what to do!

  • They realize they have to tell you to unscrew the lid of the peanut butter jar, otherwise you won't know to do it! Computers only know to do exactly what you tell them to do.

  • You can play with other details as well—e.g., if they say "Put the pieces of bread together," you might put them together with the peanut butter on the outside, prompting them to specify you need to put the bread together with the peanut butter and jelly on the inside.

Kids get a kick out of being able to tell their parents what to do. There’s lots of opportunity for giggles if you really play up the opportunities to misinterpret instructions that are unclear, highlight when things are out of sequence, and act out the motions in an exaggerated way. Robot voices and sounds also add to the fun!

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