How to Code with Your Grandchild


Parents love the idea of their kids learning to code. A recent poll showed that 90% of U.S. parents would like coding for kids to be a part of school curricula (from {coda}kid). Many people consider coding an essential new literacy. Why?

Coding is a way to promote literacy skills. 

  • Technology is a growing force in all of our lives — especially the youngest generation. Learning to program and think computationally allows children to engage with technology in a healthy and useful way.
  • Computational thinking is important to success in all academic fields. And programming a game helps children think in logical and analytical ways.
  • Programming is a forum for self-expression, promoting communication and oral language skills, as well as storytelling and meaning-making.
  • Research into classroom use has shown that children using coding apps improved their math, literacy, logic, and critical thinking skills. (Hassenfeld et al., 2020; Bers et al., In press)

Are you looking for an experience where your 5–8-year-old grandchild takes the lead? Programming a story or game with them will give your grandchild agency, control, choice — and the gift of your time.

Try using ScratchJr, a free educational app designed to teach computer programming to young children in a playful and inviting way. In ScratchJr children (and adults!) can snap together different programming blocks to control the actions of ScratchJr characters.

Together you can build something unique and get to play with your creation. And it’s an ideal way to collaborate with your grandchild, whether you are together in person or separated by distance. Just have your grandchild share their screen!

How does ScratchJr work?

Within ScratchJr, children can program characters to move, change appearance, and make sounds. Children also have the option to use the Paint Editor feature to decorate characters and backgrounds and to add creative elements to projects. They can even add their own voices and photos — then use the programming blocks to make their characters come to life.

You and your grandchild can use ScratchJr to tell stories and make movies, make and play games, and create art and music.

As children code with ScratchJr, they learn how to create and express themselves with the computer, not just to interact with it. 

Click HERE for a how-to guide for programming Jewish-themed and other games and stories with your grandchild using ScratchJr.

Jessica Blake-West has been with the DevTech Research Group since July 2020. Her work is primarily focused on ScratchJr app development, curriculum development, coordinating research studies, and community outreach. She works directly with students, teachers, and parents to help design fun and creative learning experiences for young children.

Photographs courtesy of ScratchFoundation/MIT

Special thanks to young ScratchJr coder Emi for suggesting this post.

Work Cited:
Hassenfeld, Z. R., Govind, M., de Ruiter, L. E., & Bers, M. U. (2020). If You Can Program, You Can Write: Learning Introductory Programming Across Literacy Levels. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 19, 65-85. DOI: 10.28945/4509
Bers, M.U., Blake-West, J., Govind, M., Levinsons, T., Relkin, E., Unahalkhaka, A., & Yang, Z., (In Press) Coding as Another Language Research-Based Curriculum for Early Childhood Computer Science., Early Childhood Research Quarterly.