Coding is such a powerful skill for kids to learn, but it might not be exactly what you’re thinking.
By “coding”, you may be thinking we’re going to teach our preschoolers how to sit at a keyboard and write a program in a computer language.
Coding is all about defining functions and commands that we want a program to do. So, for this experiment, we are assigning symbols, colors, or instructions to specific movements within the game. These coded instructions dictate how we move through the game and what steps we take.
By coding a maze using only paper, you can introduce your child to the foundations of coding while fostering their problem-solving abilities. This hands-on activity allows children to think logically, be creative, and develop critical thinking skills—all without the need for screens or electronics.
Navigating our way through the game based on these commands we make helps our kids learn the basics of sequencing instructions and logical thinking, just like someone who codes in the real world does!
How to make the Unplug and Code Paper Maze technology experiment
Supplies you will need
For this experiment, you will need the following:
- These FREE printables: the empty maze and coding directions
- Small objects for the obstacles
Before you start
Please watch your child around scissors, especially if you are using adult scissors for this experiment.
We also want to allow our kids to take control of this experiment! If and when possible, have your child lead the experiment with your guidance when needed.
Here is how to do this experiment with your toddler:
Step 1: Print and cut out free printables
First, print out the free printables that I linked in the Supplies section of the post. You will have access to the coding pieces to cut out and the empty maze.
Once everything is printed out, cut everything out for the experiment.
Step 2: Have your child write their name
If your child is able to, have them write their name on the maze. It gives them a sense of ownership over the project and encourages building their writing skills!
If your child is at the beginning stages of writing their name, no worries! While my kid was figuring out how to write her name, it helped to write the letters of her name in dots and have her trace out each letter.
Step 3: Add obstacles to the maze
Using your small objects, place them in spots around the maze before you start coding.
This is another great opportunity for your child to take ownership of this experiment! Have them find small objects and place them where they would like on the maze.
Step 4: Take the first pass at the code
Now it’s time to introduce the concept of coding!
Explain that coding is like giving instructions to someone or to follow. From here, we will help them translate their maze design into a simple coding language.
First, decide on the starting point on the maze and you can build your code upon that point (I chose the bottom right corner box to start).
Demonstrate how these instructions work by tracing the path with your finger and adding the next “line” of code to get yourself through the maze.
It doesn’t have to be perfect on this first go-around! If it were, then there would be no need for the next step, which is about testing and debugging our code.
Step 5: Test out code and debug
Once you have built the code together, run through it by guiding your finger with each command as you run through the code.
If you run into any obstacles, you know that you have to debug your code; something isn’t right!
The technology behind the Unplug and Code Paper Maze technology experiment
This experiment teaches:
- Problem-Solving Skills
- Logical Thinking
- Persistence and Patience
How it works
This experiment introduces children to the world of coding. It’s a great introduction to coding because it teaches the essence of coding: creating commands to complete a task!
In order to work through the obstacles in the maze, we have to add individual lines of code to navigate to the end. This activity introduces the basics of coding, fostering problem-solving skills, logical thinking, and creativity. This is also a great experiment to help to understand the concept of sequencing instructions and encourages persistence and patience as they navigate through the maze.
Since we’re not using screens for this experiment, it’s a great way to introduce the concept of coding and thinking through a problem step-by-step in a fun and interactive way!
Creating and navigating through a maze requires kids to think critically and find solutions to overcome challenges.
As they encounter dead ends or obstacles, they will learn to analyze the situation, adapt their approach, and devise new strategies to reach the goal. This process fosters their problem-solving skills and encourages them to think creatively.
Coding a maze with paper introduces kids to the concept of sequential instructions and logical thinking.
By using a command for navigating box-by-box through the maze, they learn to follow a sequence of steps to get through the maze. This activity helps develop their ability to follow instructions, improving their logical thinking and sequencing skills.
Persistence and Patience
Mazes can be tricky and challenging, even for adults. Engaging in this activity teaches small kids the value of persistence and patience.
They learn that success may require multiple attempts and that it’s okay to make mistakes along the way. Encouraging them to keep trying and providing support when needed instills a growth mindset, resilience, and the understanding that overcoming obstacles takes time and effort.
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