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A Guide to Choosing a Great Coding Camp

Published Feb 19, 2019 | Updated Feb 19, 2020

You hear everywhere that learning how to code prepares your child for the future. Get the inside scoop on what coding camps are all about, and how to choose one that best suits your child.

“Computers are going to be a big part of our future...and that future is yours to shape.”

-Barack Obama

As parents who want to do the best for their children, you know you want to expose your children to coding in some way, but may be unsure of where to start. Unless your child is self-motivated or you have the luxury of time (and patience!) to teach a child, expecting him/her to learn to code by reading a textbook or following an online course is probably not realistic.

How many of you have heard one or more of the following? “This is boring!” “This is too hard!” “How much longer?”. Or worse still, you sneak up on them and catch them playing a game on their computer!

So, you decide to “pull the plug” on this and opt to outsource this effort to a coding camp. You go online and search for “coding camps” which retrieves a slew of options with similar offerings. Which one do you pick?

Here are some pointers to help you make that choice.

Which technology/programming language is the best fit for my child?

If your child cannot type easily, languages such as Scratch with “drag and drop” features work best. It allows kids to select commands from a menu of programming options. They can also conceptualize characters, create games and design stories. It helps them think algorithmically, which will prepare them for more complicated programming later on.

A child who types easily can sign up for Java or Python camps, both languages that are used extensively in industry. A popular way to learn these languages is by building modifications to the hugely popular game, Minecraft. 

If your child is not into Minecraft, he/she can sign up for a web design camp and learn HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Game design camps in languages such as Stencyl and mobile app building camps in languages such as App Inventor are some other alternatives.

Overall, choosing a language that is graphical and visually stimulating is key, as kids need instant gratification and would much prefer to write code that transforms a pig into a creeper (both Minecraft entities) than code that yields seemingly boring textual results.

Will enrolling in a coding camp now really help my child become a programmer in the future?

The answer to this question comes down to the type of curriculum offered at the camp. Some coding camps focus on creativity and play whereas others focus on programming. You will want to find out from the camp director/instructor what will be included in the curriculum each day and what the child will be able to do by the end of camp. This can help you ensure that your child will not be under-challenged or overwhelmed. 

For example, if they take a web design camp with us, they will build a website by the end of the week. They will begin by using drag and drop, creating something that looks appealing visually. But more importantly, they will delve further and learn to code in HTML, CSS and JavaScript, the technologies that power the website. A camp director or instructor should be able to explain the camp’s goals in terms like these, which can give you and your child a better idea of what will be offered and whether it is a good fit for them.

Will my child stay glued to a computer screen all day?

Good camps recognize the value of play, physical exercise and socialization. You will want to find out how much time is spent away from the screen, and the type of activities offered during those times.

How can my child retain what he/she learns during camp?

Find out from the camp if your child will have access to the software after camp ends, or if it can be downloaded and installed. Check to see if any resources can be provided that will ensure that your child will not experience brain drain and can continue to learn and improve upon what they did at camp.

At our tech camps for an example, all camps conclude with a project showcase where students get to show off their work. They then take home the project and instructions, so they can continue to explore the technologies well after camp ends.

What qualities would a good coding instructor possess?

A good coding instructor is knowledgeable, engaging and patient. They know how to make learning fun, when to step back and let the child figure things out on their own (this contributes to learning) and how to improvise and challenge the child when the situation demands it. As children often have a short attention span, a good instructor is patient to explain instructions repeatedly and in different ways, so as to make sure that the child understands concepts completely.

TechSmart Academy
By TechSmart Academy
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