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Do your bit to change the world: teach your child how to code!

One parent tells us how they decided to teach their child to code - and how they learned together.

Suchitra Srinivasan, as told to Hannah Ballard
February 11, 2020

Raising children in the high tech age can be overwhelming at times, but it also offers new opportunities for kids and their loved ones to learn digital skills together.

With a global shift to developing #techforgood solutions, we’ve partnered with the BBC micro:bit Foundation to get more kids thinking about making the world a better place, with the do your:bit challenge.

If you’re a parent or caregiver, looking for inspiration on your journey to teach the children you care for to code, look no further! We spoke with Suchitra, mother of child coding and tweeting superstar Bhavi, about how she helped inspire a love of programming in her progeny.

You don’t need to be a coder to raise a coder

Suchitra is a working mom, who started her career as a software engineer.

“Not all software engineers are coders. There were many instances I felt I could have achieved more if I understood the code [...] but I never had an opportunity to work on my coding skills.” She told us.

Suchitra’s role involved testing software code to check it worked - and reporting bugs if it did not. When Bhavi was born, neither of her parents had coding experience - except for some computer classes they’d taken in college.

By the time Bhavi was 5 years old, with the world waking up to the importance of STEM education, her parents decided to see if she’d be interested in coding. “We got her a Sphero SPRK Robot Ball to program.” Suchitra reflected. “She amazed us by playing with it - and successfully programming it!”

Investing in an interest in learning to code

Once Bhavi discovered coding, she was off. Living in the USA at the time, her parents enrolled her in a coding summer camp.

Suchitra was proud of her daughter learning how to code in Scratch:

“[it was] such a remarkable achievement. She developed a game in 3 months during her summer camp. Now that we had found her interest, we [had] to research what Scratch is all about..”

When Bhavi was 7, the family moved to Canada - and Suchitra took a creative approach in engaging her daughter’s problem-solving skills:

“We mock up a real software company scenario, to do role plays. I act as a business owner and give her the requirements of how I want her game to be... like the monkey should be able to jump over the volcano when the user presses the up arrow, I need music in the background, I need to see the score, or I need ‘game over’ if he touches the volcano…”

Once Bhavi has her requirements, she hits the ground running: “Bhavi starts with her magic code: using Scratch to develop the game and programming the micro:bit to control the arrow keys.”

This approach means Suchitra - who is not a coder - can learn alongside Bhavi, and they get to enjoy some quality time in play, along the way.

Learning to code, troubleshoot and improve as a family

The extent of Suchitra’s own coding experience never impacts how far her daughter can take her projects:

“When Bhavi gets stuck somewhere, I’ll search the online Scratch community to see if the topic has been discussed… 99.9% of the time I’ll find a solution and explain to her how to fix the issue…” Suchitra shared, before confessing: “Since Bhavi is more well-versed [in code] than me, she just needs a suggestion or idea how to fix it - the rest she does herself!”

Once Bhavi has made her game, her Dad is invited to join the role play, and test it. “Remember, my old job?” Suchitra posed, “this is what it is!”

Bhavi’s Dad will report some bugs to her, which she then fixes. “Once it is all ready, I come back, as the business owner, to see the project. If I am satisfied, I accept the project and publish it.” Suchitra told us, adding that she always “pays” for Bhavi’s programming services with a small reward.

So how does playing software developer help the whole family learn?

“It motivates her a lot.” Suchitra said. “So far it is working great. Because of this exposure, Bhavi was invited to be a teaching assistant at her school coding club. And I’ve heard many stories about how she has inspired her friends to get coding!”

Any family can learn how to code

The number one concern we hear from parents is that they aren’t sure how they can teach their child a skill that they don’t have. Bhavi and Suchitra’s journey goes to show that anyone can learn to code - and learning together is often the most rewarding experience for a child.

Are you ready to Do Your :Bit and help your child make a positive change in the world? We’ve got plenty of resources on our website that you can work through together! The Do Your :Bit challenge runs until February 27th 2020, with winners being announced March 22nd.

About the author: I'm Suchitra, and I work at a leading bank as a Senior Business Analyst. Vignesh, my lovely husband, works for a leading bank as well. We live with our one and only Bhavishyaa - our wonderful and loving daughter. You can follow her coding adventures on Twitter!

We are a chatty family, with a welcoming home. My family is originally from Chennai, India, and my parents and sisters still live there. I have been living in Canada since 2018, after we moved from the US - and we are loving it here.

That’s about me!