I started coding around that age [about 12] and one of the things that helped me was being part of a right group. The kid needs to belong to the right group — where the other kids energise and motivate rather than seeing coding as something uncool.
Pull your children away from those with a lot of negative energy — those who make geekdom uncool or those who try to portray geekdom for only particular gender/race/nationality.
Then there has to be key motivation given by parents. My father told me coding was the future [back in 1995] and thus I could prioritize that over everything else. I had posters of heroes like Sabeer Bhatia [founder of Hotmail] and Bill Gates stuck all over my room. Don’t make computer science as an inferior subject to Physics/Chemistry/Mathematics — at a time when computing is eating the world.
- At a time when the media keeps flooding about music/sports heroes, you need to talk about coding heroes — from Grace Hopper to Lady Ada Lovelace, Donald Knuth, Alan Turing, John von Neumann to Steve Wozniak, Paul Allen etc. I’m sure most kids would not have heard of any of them. You learn their stories and talk about them during dinner time.
- For girls especially, make it clear that programming is not just for boys. In fact, the earliest programmers were primarily women. If they can build code to fight Hitler, surely the girls can code modern day Python and machine learning applications. Learn about the stories of: women programmers and use them for inspiration. In fact, my personal inspiration was a character I saw in kindergarten in a movie Vikram (1986 Tamil film) where a girl from IIT Madras would be able to save India from a nuclear missile attack through her hacking skills.
- Buy a Raspberry Pi and robotic kits that can use the Scratch – Imagine, Program, Share programming. Here are a few ideas: kids Archives and become a part of Raspberry Pi Community.
- Back programming projects with interest in mathematics. Get a group of kids do a lot of mathematics projects. In the same school where I developed an interest in programming, other kids were so crazy about solving problems in mathematics. We used to beg our super awesome maths teacher to give us 100s of extra programs. Many of those kids are now leaders in silicon valley and other areas. The teacher was talking about large numbers — Googol and Googolplex a year before the company Google was founded. Mathematics matters.
Make learning a habit
Finally, learning to program cannot be a mere summer camp or a class you take up once. It has to be a daily activity — like language, sports, music etc. You have to put a multiyear commitment. Don’t make programming a victim of other academic pursuits. You have to make time every day creating something interesting.
While I have not personally tried these nor have any association with these, I found the following to be interesting: