My dad turns into a robot!

A tiny game you can play to encourage your kids to code

By stef

Coding. Something that you would probably associate with  sitting behind a laptop, typing. 

If we are going to encourage our kids to have a go at coding, I think we might want to try some other tactics too, because Minecraft and web-games are always just a click away when you’re trying to show off Scratch!

At its heart code is a set of instructions that we write so that something happens with a “computer”. I know, the idea of a “computer” seems pretty old fashioned! Code is everywhere and if we start thinking about it as “instructions to make stuff happen” then you’ll be able to explain mobile phones, cars, planes, business systems and lots more. 

The Roboparent 2000 Game

So I invented a simple game that you can play with your kids that doesn’t require any knowledge of programming, or a laptop, or even any electricity.

Stand still somewhere with some space. The kitchen is really good. 

Wait for the kids to come in and ask you for something. 

Then reply “I am Roboparent 2000. Please issue exact instructions”. You have to do this in a robot voice.

Then the kids will probably laugh and ask again for the thing that they want. 

Repeat what you said and then say “For example, you can say Roboparent 2000 lift your left leg or Roboparent 2000 turn to your right. What is your first command?”

Add a few beeps for good measure!

Then the idea is that the kids have to issue exact instructions in sequence for you to walk over to the cereal, get the milk out of the fridge and fill a bowl, if breakfast is what they want. 

It’s lots of fun and you’ll know when to stop. Then jump back suddenly into “normal” mode and feign total ignorance about the whole thing. “What are you talking about? I’m not a robot!”

The principles the kids pick up here can apply to lots of other things you might do together later - Scratch, Arduino, making Minecraft mods – all of these things are based on the idea of breaking down a task into a series of steps. 

Beep beep. What is your first command? For more ideas, check out my Kidcrafters talk.

Photo by Ben Hussman, Creative Commons licence.