Computer programming for kids is rapidly growing in popularity. As society continues to push into a technologically dependent society, there's no surprise that more people are looking into this industry, wondering how to learn the skills that seem increasingly in demand. Parents seem to be particularly enamoured with the thought of their children learning to code too. A recent study suggests nearly 90% of all U.S. parents want coding for children in their early years to become part of the school curriculum.
Learning to code at a young age can set a child up for a lifetime of success. With the normalisation of online learning, more and more children are comfortable with the idea of additional classes through online programs or academies.
What is Coding?
Coding, commonly called programming, is the creative process of individuals wherein they tell a machine or computer how to perform a specific task. The programmer outlines particular instructions, and the computer carries them out. The user writes executable scripts using programming languages like Python or Java. Essentially, coding is a method of communicating with computers. Those who know how to code can develop games, software, apps, digital content, and websites.
Is Coding Beneficial for kids?
Children can quickly learn, absorb, and retain knowledge as the young mind is adaptable and malleable. Children exposed to coding languages and opportunities at a young age have the benefit of learning critical assessment, exploring different perspectives, constructing creative solutions, and executing the trial-and-error learning process. Generally, the earlier a child learns how to code, the more effortless mastering the skill becomes (and all the subsequent skills coding encourages.)
Why is Coding Important for Your Child's Future?
Recent studies have found a positive correlation between computer programming and cognitive skill development. A study by MIT highlights the direct influence coding holds on cognitive development—students who knew how to code scored higher on cognitive ability tests than children with no programming experience.
When children learn to code, they essentially learn how to break complex problems into smaller and more manageable pieces to write a functional script. The process is formally called decomposition, a valuable skill in programming and real-world situations.
Additionally, coding follows a similar approach to problem-solving. In coding, the programmer needs to identify the problem, analyse the situation, create a potential solution, test the resolution, and repeat the process should the issue not resolve. Children learning how to code have a strong advantage in developing this skill. The longer children become familiar with coding, the more comfortable problem-solving becomes. They form the needed skills for writing, rewriting, troubleshooting, and debugging lines upon lines. Eventually, cycling through the troubleshooting steps to execute them properly becomes second nature.
Understanding the Creative Thinking Process
Due to the technical nature of computer programming, many people don't associate it with creative thinking (especially when factoring in the systematic and procedural act of coding). Programmers know first-hand that coding can promote creativity. Significant levels of creative thinking are required when programming from Scratch.
Kids who know how to code can develop games, animations, websites, and applications. They create interactive content by writing specific code (or snapping together a few blocks), but the blueprint for the design comes from their imagination.
As kids learn how to code, the way they consume technology and digital media shifts. When they play a new game, try a new app, or visit a new website, they can draw inspiration for their creation. For example, looking at an online fighting game may translate into an adventure story. Hypothetically, their coding experience could make this query a reality.
Coding Encourages Confidence and Resilience
If you've ever watched someone code (or tried coding yourself), you probably understand the precision required. While block coding is more forgivable, text-based coding requires perfect syntax. One semicolon or comma out of place is enough to render entire batches of the script completely useless.
As scripts become more complicated, children will become aware of the painstaking process of writing, running, debugging, rewriting, and re-running their code. The process promotes patience and resilience like no other hobby. Children who learn to code become more specific and confident in decisions (compared to children who don't code). A child coder becomes comfortable and sure of their choices. They bounce back from repeated failures and build confidence in many different areas of their life.
Why is coding considered important for your child's future?
While our society becomes more dependent on technology and the internet, the demand for qualified and experienced developers and coders will continue to rise. Programming is no longer a skill for the tech sector. All industries, from finance, health, retail, and education, will hold careers requiring certain levels of programming knowledge. The children experienced in coding will have definite advantages over their peers that don't possess these same technological skills.
Interesting Career Facts to Consider:
- Jobs that require coding skills will pay $22,000 per year more than jobs that don't hold the same skills
- The job market stated general programming jobs grew 12% faster than the entire market average
- Marketing professionals highlighted that individuals with general programming experience held a substantial advantage over those without those skills
- MIT unveiled pilot schemes to promote coding into the curriculum at New Hampshire
When Can a Child Start Coding?
Experts seem to agree that children can learn coding and programming languages at the earliest age possible. As children develop various skills at different rates, it's hard to pinpoint a specific age. Generally, you can teach a child the basics of skill around the age of five or six. Introduce kids to various logical games, mainly if they simulate the coding skill. Children can move on to more demanding exercises as they become more comfortable.
Studies suggest that children who code from the beginning of primary school will achieve better academic performance throughout their schooling. Compared to children that don't engage in coding-related learning, a higher percentage of kids who start will gain interest in STEM through college and professionally.
How can you make it interesting for a child to do?
Fun and exciting activities will hold different meanings to different people. While one child might love to play the guitar, another may enjoy football. The key to making coding interesting for a child is to develop a love of problem-solving, number sense, logic, and digital literacy.
Consider a child's interest when working out how to make the activity fun. Find an interest and then use that to your advantage. A few coding ideas include toys that focus on coding basics, games and activities, cause and effect activities, and STEM activities.
Participating in coding with children
Exposure is one of the easiest ways to participate in coding with children. Parents and teachers can show children coding basics outside of screen time, using a muffin tray, small toys, paper, and markers. The idea is to mimic algorithm development. Engaging in make-believe play, building pretend robots, or advanced conditional programming concepts will also build coding skills.
Working with modified outdoor games like treasure hunts, follow the leader, and hopscotch can also get kids excited about coding. These activities can demonstrate the diverse and interesting uses of computer programming.
Many in-person and online classes can inspire children to learn about coding. Try looking for local classes and talking with school administrators or librarians to learn about coding clubs.
Top 10 free coding tools
Look no further if you're looking for tools, programs, and platforms that support children in programming and coding. These links are helpful websites, resources, or templates to help your child on their coding journey.
This company offers online, on-demand, and in-person coding classes and camps. The free on-demand course is the perfect way to begin the coding journey. This website provides a free on-demand portal called "Introduction to Scratch Coding".
This website is arguably the most popular website for coding, offering free classes, courses, and tutorials worldwide. With interactive maze games, kids engage with the material at hand. The average course length is 15 to 20 hours long.
Children mainly use these widely popular platforms. Developed by MIT students, the websites are geared toward 6 to 16 years old. This platform integrates visual code blocks that are simple to follow instead of requiring code.
The perfect combination of text-based coding and RPG gaming, Code Combat is an immersive experience with fun games accessible through browsers. The free version of Code Combat offers in-depth introductions to computer coding science.
When you're looking for a fun and simple approach to coding, LightBot is precisely what you need. The app-based experience works well for all ages, designed by actual coders. The puzzle game requires advanced coding knowledge, promoting problem-solving skills.
Khan Academy is one of the highest praised free websites for kids. It offers an extensive library of subjects that allows users to search and learn almost anything for free. This platform is ideal for kids 12 and older with the semi-complicated menu option. There's something for everyone with topics covering coding, biology, and math.
This free platform offers coding lessons for kids. The web-based service teaches coding to children through interactive online gaming. Users help a monkey gather bananas, working through a series of tasks and challenges to code the monkey.
Crunchzilla is the most straightforward teaching platform, helping your kids develop a solid understanding of coding. It engagingly delivers the details. This platform is ideal for preteens, adults, and 12+.
This fun and interactive website will help your child learn to code while integrating coding into gaming. Blocky offers many games, teaching children how to code using interactive challenges. Games include mazes, puzzles, music, birds, and movies. With drag-and-drop options to solve the puzzle, hit targets, or create a story.
Finally, Stencyl is a beautiful gateway platform for beginners wanting to get into coding. Inspired by Scratch, kids will learn to code through games, which can publish on iPad, Android, Mac, Windows, Flash, and iPhone.
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