Coding didn’t start out on a computer screen and keyboard. Programmers actually wrote patterns and sequences on punch cards to “build” machine programs. Fuse beads and pegboards fundamentally work in the same way, albeit the beads are less challenging. Coding Charms was created to give kids a hands-on approach to programming concepts through pegboards instead of punch cards, which makes the process of learning how to code fun, simplistic, and unintimidating.
With Coding Charms, kids ages 8 and up can create patterns with the beads and follow a sequence of rows to build colorful charms, then iron the design to fuse the beads together. The DIY kit includes 2,000 beads in red, orange, yellow, green, purple, black, white, and blue, as well as a pegboard, a tweezer, two reusable iron sheets, and 15 key chain clips and oval hooks. The fuse beads are packaged in individual bags within a larger plastic tray that includes rooms for the hooks and pegboard. To stay organized, kids can use the bottom of the Coding Charms box to lay the plastic tray flat and arrange the colored beads within their respective spaces.
The pieces are small and easy to lose, so be careful when dumping them into their containers and laying them out before placing them on the pegboard. Kids might need a bit of help with the tweezers when placing pieces on the pegboard, but using your fingers also works just fine. Builders should use a flat and sturdy surface when designing the charms so that the fuse beads don’t fall off their pegs.
Adults may want to supervise when it comes time to iron the charms. Place the pegboard on a heat-safe surface and make sure to put the provided ironing sheets above the charm. Set the heat on medium and slowly move the iron around the design for approximately 30-60 seconds to fuse the beads together. Let the charm cool off before lifting it from the pegboard. Be aware that when removing the charm, it will look like the reverse of the grid because it’s ironed from the back.
Kids can also attach a clip to the charms to hang them on backpacks, lunch bags, or even Christmas trees. If the beads are melted closed, all you have to do is poke a needle through the center of the bead to reopen the hole and slide the opening of the clip through the bead. Then, place the circular ring through the oval hook and slide the keychain ring through.
Coding Charms also includes a 44-page activity book to help kids learn, understand, and apply coding concepts to their charm creations. The booklet guides kids through the process of working with fuse beads. It also includes a short history of coding, a basic background on programming languages, and real-life examples of coding in action. The workbook is sectioned off according to different coding concepts, such as “algorithms” and “functions,” that serve as the basis for building the 15 predesigned coding charms that kids can recreate.
The “sequences” section introduces kids to the algorithmic step-by-step process that programmers use to design TVs, computers, and other forms of technology. The pages that follow display two charms — a fox or a watermelon, for this section — that kids can create by following the color-coded sequences. To see if they’re on the right track, kids can refer to the “check your charms” section on the last page of the workbook.
Kids can also get creative with their programming knowledge using the “code your own charm” sections of the book. These guides give kids a blank pegboard that they can color in, as well as a numbered grid to compose their own lines of code, integrating the concepts they learned. The workbook also gives kids suggestions on how to display and play with their coding charms after they’ve been ironed flat by an adult.
This screen-free, hands-on approach to coding is the perfect way to introduce kids to STEAM concepts outside of the classroom. The fuse bead charms give kids a cute, decorative reminder of the coding “challenges” they accomplished and created. Who knows — maybe when they grow up to become web developers or animators, they’ll still have that charm hanging on their workbags as a keepsake!