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How to support your child in digital making

The possibilities for young people to make things using technology have never been greater. Our ‘Young digital makers’ report, published last week, showed that a great proportion of them are already making apps, games and even robots (see infographic below). If you are a parent or carer, how do you support such a new and exciting interest in your children?

Recent Nominet Trust research showed that those young people who really make a go of digital skills are often influenced by an inspiring adult. These youngsters might be digitally adept, but they still need support and encouragement from grown ups to reach their potential.

So if your child is interested in digital making what can you do?

Let them know it’s valuable

The first stage is noticing, and letting them know that it is something worth doing. Although children and young people sometimes seem to do exactly the opposite of what you tell them to, whether adults show they think something is worthwhile is a big factor. This is especially when they come to choosing school subjects and potential careers. Letting them know that you thing digital activities are worthwhile can go a long way.

Encourage them to keep going

Interests often start with having fun, this was the most popular reason children gave us for why they make things with technology. However, it is when they reach a difficult challenge that the deepest learning starts. Often, this is just at the stage where many might be tempted to give up. A bit of encouragement can overcome this, suggesting they come back to a tricky challenge until they have solved it builds their problem solving and ensures they don’t stop just when they have just started learning.

Point them to some next steps

We have found that digital making is really diverse, ranging from editing images on screen to soldering and constructing robots. Lots of different tools and software are around to allow this to happen. If your child has mastered one thing, or even used it enough to lose interest, there are always more ways of creating you could point them to. To start with, try taking our quiz which tells you what kind of maker your child is and gives appropriate resources to point them to.

Get making with them

Our research found that 65% of parents and carers are interested in digital making themselves. It’s hard to find time for developing new hobbies, so why not spend some time learning alongside your child? Two heads are better than one when it comes to problem solving. You might be surprised how much the skills you already have in tinkering and making, thinking through challenges or even maths can support them.

Take them to a club or activity

Adults often worry about children spending too long with screens. It’s easy to forget that digital making can be a social activity. There are lots of clubs and activities across the country where children can get making face to face. We found 130,000 opportunities in the last year for children and young people across the UK. Find out if their school has a Code Club, look for Young Rewired State centres in your area, and explore many more clubs and activities over on Make Things Do Stuff.

Get involved yourself

If you’ve got the digital making bug yourself then lots of organisations are looking for volunteers to help grow opportunities for children and young people. You don't need to be a technology professional, just someone with an interest can make a real difference to encouraging children to get making. You could start a Code Club in your child’s school, volunteer with CoderDojo, or get involved with many of the organisations mentioned above. The opportunities for volunteering are only going to grow as more and more children get interested in digital making through the Make It Digital activities across BBC TV, radio and online.

Digital making has such possibilities for creativity and fun, young people deserve the opportunity to make it a mainstream hobby. Although it all seems very new and high tech to many of us, getting started isn’t hard. There are lots of resources out there for adults to point their children to, and even get involved themselves.

Get started by taking our quiz to find out what kind of digital maker your child is.

Read the ‘Young digital makers report’ for more on what’s happening across the UK.

Post photo: CC BY SA Lars Ploughman

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Oliver Quinlan

Oliver Quinlan

Oliver Quinlan

Senior Research Manager, Raspberry Pi Foundation

Oliver was a programme manager for Nesta’s digital education projects, exploring ways in which digital technologies can transform learning and teaching. He is now Senior Research Man...

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