Today’s kids have remarkably different childhoods than previous generations.
Naturally, just like Baby Boomers or other generations of the past, youngsters in the 21st century are raised by helpful parents and family members, while also becoming subject to the influences from complex socio-economic and cultural factors of their time.
But children today are experiencing an influence that has had a nearly quantum impact on social and cognitive development as well as learning styles.
Yes, you’ve guessed it: technology.
Born in the age of internet and hyperconnectivity, today’s kids are digital natives with an ability to pick up and master new technologies with a speed and fluency that boggles the mind.
While some of this is frightening to parents, it is also imperative that we all come to grips with the fact that technology is not going away, and that there are many positive sides to it as well.
One can also argue that in order to get a leg up in tomorrow’s world, it will be very important to understand the language of technology, and that there is no better way to do this than to learn how to code.
In addition to the obvious benefit of empowering kids with actionable knowledge they can use in the future, there are plenty of reasons why they should learn computer programming.
In this article, I will explore several important reasons why teaching computer programming is now mission critical as well as give you some advice on how to help your kids get started.
Top Reasons Your Kids Should Learn Computer Programming
Enabling your kids to explore the world of coding can be incredibly rewarding for them. From cognitive development and precious skill building, to creative expression and smart investment in the future – there are a lot of well-argumented pros we can discuss.
Let’s just go through a few of the most important:
Positive influence on cognitive development
The correlation between learning computer programming and cognitive development was first noted in the early eighties. Seymour Papert, MIT mathematician and one of the founders of programming language called LOGO, was among the first researchers interested in the subject of kids coding and cognitive development.
According to Papert, if children engage in high-quality computer programming education, they experience what is known as “Piagetian learning” or “learning without being taught.” He proposed that computer programming provides an environment in which abstract notions (previously too complex for kids to master) – become more concrete and tangible. Simultaneously, coding education teaches kids how to think, instead of what to think.
When kids face a coding problem, they quickly realize that breaking it into smaller pieces is the most effective way to solve it. This approach is called computational thinking and it’s great for tackling any other type of problem in the real world.
Although Papert’s findings were widely questioned at the time (mainly due to the insufficient size of the research sample), new studies conducted in recent decades showed that coding can indeed boost kids’ cognitive development, especially when it comes to metacognitive abilities, operational competence, self-assessment, and even divergent thinking.
STEM occupations are the present and the future of the U.S. job market
Computer programming teaches kids skills that are instantly relevant on the job market, and due to the fact we live in the ever-evolving age of digital transformation – these skills can be employed in various industries.
According to the report about STEM occupations issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, the future is blindingly bright for developers, programmers, software engineers, and computer scientists.
Employment in computer occupations is expected to grow by 12.5% between 2014 and 2024, which will result in more than half a million new jobs in the field. The economic side is also favorable: 93% of STEM occupations have wages above the national average. This means your kids will have amazing chances of excelling in their career, while also enjoying great financial stability.
Coding is a Liberal Art
Writing code can be equally stimulating as learning French or playing guitar. The main touch point between coding and liberal arts is the development of critical and creative thinking skills. Instead of relying on memorizing formulas or definitions, kids who learn computer programming are challenged to come up with their own solutions the moment they master the syntax and unlock the way sequences work.
Having a computer programming curriculum that’s well-rounded and age-appropriate is crucial for two main reasons. First, kids will gradually adopt new knowledge that will be comprehensive and thorough, meaning they will have a solid ground for employing their own ideas and experimenting. Secondly, they will have the opportunity to maximize their potential and strengthen their critical thinking, which is going to be a handy skill in real life. If they truly commit to learn computer programming, they will have a chance to develop their own hypotheses and test them out in reality, seek solutions on their own and apply logic and reasoning, and enjoy coding as a fun activity that encourages them to make their own choices.
In addition to above mentioned, there is a psychological benefit of learning how to code that’s not that widely discussed. Namely, when kids learn the basics, they will try out different things in practice and familiarize themselves with failing. Developing a healthy attitude towards failure and perceiving it as an important part of learning, means they will build confidence and persistence in the future.
Now that we’ve covered some of the main ways your kids can benefit from learning computer programming, let’s move on to the best ways to support them in getting started.
1. Start with Visual Block Coding, Then Move to Text
You remember how before learning how to ride a bicycle, you used training wheels or started off with riding a tricycle first? A similar teaching system is used when it comes to coding.
Before actually writing code, kids first need to understand how programs are made. That’s where visual programming comes in.
As seen in the above image, visual block programming is based on the drag-and-drop technique, where blocks are used to create executable code. It makes a natural first step, perfect for the youngest of students, that allows users to create even the most complex games with ease, simply by connecting the blocks. Programming components such as actions and events, are stacked together in a specific sequence, so kids can instantly see how their chosen disposition functions in reality.
In order to learn computer programming the right way, kids need to get a firm grip on the logic behind coding and understand what loops, methods, variables, and other vital concepts are, and visual interfaces enable them to do so. For example, Scratch uses specific shapes to mark loops: the blocks are shaped like sideways “U” letters, making it easy as pie for kids to recognize and memorize what repeat loops are. Blockly, which is more of a visual editor than an actual programming language, allows kids to see the code that drives each visual block via the side screen.
In our personal experience, it does not take long for kids to outgrow the visual programming languages and move on to typing the codes themselves.
2. Find Projects That are of Interest to Your Child
The best way to motivate your kids to learn computer programming is to support their curiosity and let them freely choose their main interests. Once they realize the “machinery behind the scenes” of today’s popular games and apps, they will understand the vast possibilities of coding in means of creating fun final products. This will trigger their creativity and inspire them to learn, because there is an undeniable application of their programming knowledge in the real world.
If your kids are interested in Minecraft coding, then learning Java makes the perfect choice. Here at CodaKid, we use helper files and the Eclipse text editor to bridge the gap between coding and creativity, and simplify the learning process. Kids can learn how to create Minecraft mods with minimum strain, all thanks to the great curriculum and the experienced software developers, educators, and designers who are at students’ disposal. Java is great to start with specifically because its core concepts are shared by so many other programming languages.
As you can see, there are plenty of choices. The moment your son or daughter masters the basics of computational thinking, he or she will find it easy to alter the main subject of their study in the future.
3. Seek out Online or Local Courses in Academies
As coding for kids continues to gain traction, a lot of new and amazing learning resources are emerging. Thanks to the internet, there is a plethora of possible online courses kids can try out. Physical books and guides are undoubtedly useful too, but the lack of interactivity may be off putting to your child or leave a wrong impression that coding is something dreadfully boring.
Choosing the right type of studying materials can make a difference between actually sparking your kids’ interest to learn and them deciding computer programming is not something worthy of their time.
There are a number of high-quality local courses across the globe and some of them are even free such as CoderDojo, GirlsWhoCode, or Hour of Code events.
Lastly, we at CodaKid offer online coding courses for as little as $21 USD per month (when billed annually), in addition to camps, codeathons, and other types of face-to-face learning.
4. Find summer tech camps
Summer tech camps are an amazing way to mix fun, socializing, and learning. They enable your kids to learn computer programming while also enjoying outdoor fun. They typically have a lot of hands-on activities and encourage kids to participate in different problem solving exercises, such as debugging, user testing, and prototyping.
Besides the actual technical skills, computer programming summer camps nurture project collaboration and teamwork, which helps your child to develop communication and social skills. One of the most prestigious camps is definitely iD Tech, held on various campus locations such as Stanford and MIT. The downside? It is very pricey.
We at CodaKid also offer summer tech camps for those who can brave the heat of the Southwestern United States. We specialize in working with kids aged 6-15, so you can rest assured true experts will be by their side to support them with learning computer programming. In fact, we have a perfect 5 star review on ActivityHero to prove it.
5. Find a mentor
If you have the budget for it, you can easily find a private tutor who will teach your kid the basics of coding, one-on-one. Studies have shown there are benefits of this specific type of tutoring, especially because of the thorough feedbacks and on-going corrective procedures.
If you want your kid to learn computer programming this way, it’s best to seek out for recommendations. However, keep in mind there is always a risk you’ll pay too much and not get the expected value for your money. Ensure that the potential tutor has credible references and a proven history of great teaching methods, suitable for your child’s age.
Also, there are a lot of young developers who are actually willing to volunteer and mentor your youngster for free, partially for the sake of a good cause, partially so they can gain more teaching experience. This is a praiseworthy and noble thing developers often commit to, under the “bringing it back to the community” motto. Spreading knowledge this way is humane and it pushes technological progress forward. No matter who you choose to mentor your child, make sure there is a clear agenda for every session, a teaching plan, and a defined schedule for the future.
Every child has their own interest and it’s up to parents to ensure them great education and conditions to help them achieve their potentials. Technology has created a whole new landscape for our children, but it is just a tool; it is up to us how are we going to use it.
As you can see, there are many different ways to help your child learn computer programming. Make sure you’re not too pushy: simply open the doors for them, let them experiment and enjoy playing around with code, and we guarantee they can find something they like.
Coding is certainly something that will help them make the most of their imagination, strengthen their cognitive abilities, boost their creative and critical thinking skills, but also support them in becoming a healthy, confident, and strong individual.
Are you interested in getting started? Check out what learning modules CodaKid has to offer and feel free to contact us if you have any additional questions.