Computational thinking is comparable to a task being completed in a series of steps. For instance, a child learning to walk might have to focus on balance, speed, and posture. Similarly, computational thinking fundamentally involves breaking down a problem into manageable steps. While some argue that computational thinking might be trickier for primary school children to master, however, it can serve as an important starting point.
Introducing computational thinking at a young age can have ample benefits later in life. Using puzzles and games, or any other method that engages students in carefully looking at the bits and components of a problem can help instill computational thinking skills. So, the article below enlists some interactive games and activities that will help young ones foster their computational thinking early in life.
Fun and engaging games & activities to promote computational thinking
Computational thinking skills are necessary to build an analytical mindset, recognize problems and plan solutions. The inclusion of games and activities in the curriculum leads to a competitive environment that fosters growth, leadership, and engaging time in the learning space.
1. Make me a Sandwich
Computational thinking involves the decomposition of processes to understand the overall task. This game focuses on breaking the task into manageable steps.
- To play this game, ask students to bring materials for a sandwich
- Divide the students into teams of 2 members each
- Begin the timer and ask them to make a sandwich
- Once done, they need to write the step-by-step process of making the sandwich
- The team that makes and writes the process first wins the game
Such a classroom game enhances the learning environment and students become faster at recognizing the steps for making a sandwich. They also learn to coordinate and get the task done in minimal time.
2. Build it Nice
Building blocks have been famous when it comes to educational toys. This game focuses on making students realize how each step matters in computational thinking.
- To play this game, give building blocks to all students
- Divide the students into teams of 3 members each
- Now, assign them different pictures of the prototypes of building blocks
- For example, if it is a house, they need to use blocks to build it
- The team to complete their work first wins the game
As students get an opportunity to work with blocks, they develop motor skills and also learn to recognize small steps in a huge task. This boosts computational thinking and polishes their mind with analytical thinking.
3. Pizza Abstraction!
Abstraction is one of the important stages of computational thinking. This game focuses on abstracting materials to form the desired outcome.
- To play this game, you will require cutouts of small red circles, small black circles, and small mushroom-shaped cut-outs
- Make many such cutouts and put them in a huge box
- Divide students into teams of 3 each and ask them to draw a circle on a sheet of paper
- Start the time and ask them to find different cutouts and make a pizza
- The red cutout represents pepperoni, the black represents olive and the mushroom remains the same
- The team to make the perfect pizza wins the game
As students have to find different ingredients for a pizza, they are bound to learn about attracting only the needed materials. They might also discover how they should keep the pizza consistent with the usage of accurate ingredients only.
4. 3 Buckets!
Decomposition is an important aspect of computational thinking. This game focuses on teaching students to sort and decompose to arrive at final results. The game is all about realizing what goes where in a timely manner.
- To play this game, get 3 huge buckets and label them as fun, education, and miscellaneous
- Now, have a place where too many materials from the classroom are kept together
- After this, start the timer for 2 minutes and announce any one category
- Students need to run and find objects of that category and put them in the bucket
- For example, if you announce a fun, they need to gather all soft toys, board games, or other playful materials
- The student to collect most right materials in the right bucket wins the game
As this game is all about finding the right materials and sorting them, it plays an important role in building computational thinking skills. Such a game enables students to recognize different categories and allot them accordingly.
5. Punctuations Placard
Computational thinking is all about algorithms and the usage of different signs and symbols. This activity focuses on the easy identification and application of punctuation marks along with their usage.
- To conduct this activity, divide students into teams of 3 members each
- Now, ask them to make different punctuation placards where the six punctuation marks – full stop, comma, semicolon, colon, a hyphen, and exclamation mark should be drawn in a large size
- After this, the teacher starts reading different sentences
- After each sentence, any team can raise their placard to denote which punctuation fits in the sentence
Only when students know the usage of confusing elements, like punctuation marks, can they develop computational thinking. This activity enhances critical thinking and develops focus.
6. Diced Up!
Computational thinking also involves the usage of numbers and recognizing patterns in them. While patterns can be taught with the help of many other activities as well, however, through this activity, students can better understand how one problem can have multiple solutions in a disciplined environment.
- To conduct this activity, ask students to write numbers from 1 to 10 on a chart paper
- Make sure these numbers are big and clearly visible
- Against each number, they need to place dice in pairs of 2 to represent that number
- They need to have such 2 pairs of the same numbers
- For example, if the number is 7 then they can have 1 pair of dice representing 5 and 2 and another pair representing 6 and 1
With this number sense activity, students develop critical thinking and find ways to represent the same thing in different ways. They also learn to develop patterns in numbers and understand math in a practical sense.
7. Paint it Out!
Recognizing patterns through different sets of information is critical in computational thinking. This activity focuses on finding creative ways with some elements and making it all different at the end.
- To conduct this activity, give a blank sheet of paper
- Now, draw 4 different shapes on the board which can be a square, a triangle, a circle, and a rectangle
- After this, ask students to use these shapes and create any art using a pencil
- Once done, they need to paint the entire picture
While students find it creative, this activity boosts computational thinking by allowing students to create relatability between shapes. It also brings variations in outcomes as some students might draw a robot while others might create something abstract.
8. What’s the Case?
This is a simple discussion activity however, it triggers the problem-solving mindset. It empowers students to think, break problems and come to a solution.
- To conduct this activity, divide students into teams of 3 each
- Now, 2 teams shall be participating together
- Discuss a problem related to the classroom, school, a corporate story, or anything that requires a solution
- After discussing the problem, ask students to share their understanding of the problem, similarities to real-life situations, and the solutions.
Group discussion is an excellent way of fostering a comprehensive learning environment. Such an activity boosts computational thinking as it allows students to understand patterns in the problem and they learn to decode it to find solutions.
9. Plan, Show and Do!
Computational thinking is enhanced when students recognize the importance of different steps in a process. This activity allows them to browse different situations and plan their actions.
- To conduct this activity, write different situations on chits
- The situations can be the following
- How to set up an online business?
- How to make a list for shopping?
- How to make a to-do list for the day?
- Now, each student picks a chit and had 3-4 minutes to devise their step-by-step solution
- Once done, they need to role-play and explain the solution
As the activity promotes logical thinking, students develop a problem-solving attitude. They also explain steps and techniques as to how to get a task done. Such explanations lead to better thinking and also provide insights into the class.
Being able to apply computational thinking to solve problems is what makes it a critical component of any lesson plan. When computational thinking is applied at an early age through the inclusion of games and activities, students can better understand the concepts and clarify doubts.
Students get an opportunity to recognize patterns and even develop a problem-solving mindset thereby enhancing their mathematical understanding, critical thinking, and analytical skills. Teachers and educators can make use of different games and activities to offer a diversified learning platform.
I am Shweta Sharma. I am a final year Masters student of Clinical Psychology and have been working closely in the field of psycho-education and child development. I have served in various organisations and NGOs with the purpose of helping children with disabilities learn and adapt better to both, academic and social challenges. I am keen on writing about learning difficulties, the science behind them and potential strategies to deal with them. My areas of expertise include putting forward the cognitive and behavioural aspects of disabilities for better awareness, as well as efficient intervention. Follow me on LinkedIn