Coding for Kids in 2021: A Comprehensive Guide for Parents
Generally, parents rely on schools for educating their kids and giving them all the tools to succeed in life. However, the standard school curriculum today is not sufficient for kids to learn the level of coding they need to develop the skills needed for a lucrative career. And that is where the role of parents’ lies. They can take steps at home to educate their kids about computer programming with professional languages.
Coding is another word for computer programming. Kids can write code to tell a computer what function to do. If your kids are young, chances are you grew up hearing that coding is difficult and only highly skilled experts should mess with computer programming. So the concept of teaching young kids to code as early as playgroup seems a bit alien. But the demand for this era is for kids to learn coding early. This article is prepared to explain the ins and outs of coding for kids and how parents can help.
To start, I am going to point out research by an MIT mathematician which concluded that computer programming improves cognition in kids. Because programming and coding can help them understand abstract concepts much easier. These days’ young kids can navigate video games and touch screen devices very easily, which shows that you can be taught programming using the same mediums.
Kids that don’t learn computer programming from a young age fail to develop high-level adaptability, communication and logical thinking abilities, unlike their counterparts enrolled in STEM education. Computers are an integral part of our lives today, kids that don’t understand how electronics work can’t keep up with the changing technology and will eventually fall behind in life.
Some compelling reasons why you should introduce kids to coding include:
- Coding is the bridge that connects various aspects of STEAM education. We see new technological advances in various fields every day such as new robotic hands for amputees and creating computer-based architectural and engineering designs. It all requires computer programming. So for kids that know how to code well, the job market will be relatively easy to navigate.
- Coding encompasses many other benefits. It is a mental activity that enhances divergent thinking or the ability to think outside the box. These skills make kids better at other academic subjects as well and more qualified to understand real-world issues.
- Problem-solving and critical thinking skills are sharpened by learning to code. Computer programming works by writing code one step at a time, kids can apply that to real life and solve challenges by breaking down the problem into smaller steps and finding solutions one problem at a time. This ‘computational thinking’ is as beneficial for real life as it is for coding.
Why Teach Coding to Kids?
STEM jobs are expected to grow by at least 8% by 2029, according to the labor statistics. Coding is a great way to prepare your young one for a secure future. Computer programming is required in everything around us. From our cars to medical equipment, grocery stores and now for education and school as well, computers are used that require programming and experts to look after them. Simply put, coding is the need of the hour.
Coding from an early age is necessary so kids can hone their skills and be ready to step into the job market when the time comes. With a deep understanding of computer programming, there can be no limit to what a person can develop and engineer.
The US Bureau of labour statistics’ survey showed that 7 out of 10 highest paying STEM careers are computer programming related. This includes mathematical science occupations and engineering technicians amongst others. Hence kids that learn coding have a good chance of making noteworthy contributions to the society as adults.
When to Start Coding Classes for Kids?
Kids can learn to program and code as early as seven years old. The benefit of starting them early is that it lays a strong foundation with ample time for kids to practice and get better. Coding almost becomes muscle memory. Young kids can grasp the programming languages much faster. Piano lessons and guitar lessons are started early because the young mind is very malleable; coding should begin from a young age for the same reason.
The founder and CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey got his first computer when he was 8years old. He started playing around with code from an early age and by the time he created Twitter he was skilled enough to code a masterpiece. Similarly, the co-founder of Apple Steve Wozniak started to code from an early age. And he wrote the code for Apple BASIC from scratch, and it was the code that laid the foundation of the modern-day Apple PCs.
What does Coding for Kids Entail?
Some kids like the visual block while others are more interested in typing code. Coding for kids includes programming games and apps. Getting started is easy but the difficult part is to keep them interested in coding, that is why it is recommended to start with visual block coding languages for kids that includes animations and such. For instance, scratch is a great language to start from since kids only need to deal with the graphical blocks and it involves no typing.
Remember to always take creative approaches to teach code. Use real-world problems to keep kids engaged while teaching practical coding skills. Competitions are a fun way to code for kids. They can form teams and work under the guidance of experts and coaches. Here they learn to fail and then pick themselves up again; learning through trial and error is the best approach to take for kids.
Steps to Follow to Get Started
For parents that are just starting the coding journey with their kids, here are a few tips to make sure you start on the right foot:
- Make it relatable: when coding use such approaches that spark the kids’ interest. Kids love video games and animations so use the programming languages that can be used to create games. That way you won’t lose their interest after a few days.
- Find a community: Kids love to talk about their new knowledge and newfound interests so having a community of kids with similar interests helps keep kids engaged in coding for a long time. Engaging in competitions is an efficient way to find friends for your kid. Or use chat rooms in online coding classes.
- Follow their lead: listen to your kids when they tell you they want to change the language or move to advanced levels. Perhaps find them a mentor who can guide them properly. Kids learn best when they are in charge of the direction they take with coding or anything else for that matter. Just like engaging kids in sports, let your kids decide what kind of programming they want to do.
- Seek proper guidance for yourself: With online or in-person coding lessons, there will be some tutors that only teach basics or only cover one language. For advancing in computer programming you need to educate yourself about different languages so you can help find the right classes for your kid. For instance, learn the difference between visual block and writing code. You can seek the help of a friend or neighbor who is well versed in programming to help your kid grow his coding skills. You just have to know enough about coding to make sure that your kid is headed in the right direction.
- Progress on time: don’t wait too long before moving on to the advanced levels of coding. Consider the basic levels as training wheels on a bicycle; you need to remove them to learn how to ride properly.
Online Coding Resources for Parents
Below mentioned are some free coding websites and apps where kids can learn different programming languages. All of these are available online so kids all over the world can use them. For convenience, we have divided it into two age categories
Coding for kids K-2 (ages 4+)
Hour of Code (website)
This is an initiative of code.org where one-hour coding lessons are provided. It has various classes such as Minecraft, AI and dance party. In each of these visual graphics are used to teach code to beginners. It is treated like a video game where characters go through a path and kids code the movements. Kids can code animated characters to dance to various songs and have a dance party.
EDVON coding classes (website)
EDVON offers one-on-one coding classes for young kids’ ages 6+ that are a part of STEAM education. You can learn the basics and then advance to more sophisticated coding. Sign up for free trial courses and then receive lessons on various programming languages including Scratch and Python among others. The website offers valuable courses that build a strong foundation in computer programming.
Code karts (app)
This app is for preschoolers or very young kids. It is perfect as your kids’ very first coding app. They can first observe how the game works and how programming is done. Then play the game and be introduced to the coding side by side. The challenge is to program the car to reach the finish line. Kids continue to correct the code until they win against a computer-controlled car.
Scratch junior (app)
Scratch programming language is made for beginners. Young kids can move graphical blocks to create shapes and stories. Kids can even add a picture of themselves or add sounds into the program. Characters move according to how kids code them.
Coding for kids Grade 3-8 (ages 8+)
Khan Academy (website)
Khan academy is for various age groups. They offer programming basics courses in multiple languages. Students take online classes and have the freedom to interact with teachers, fellow coders and professional programmers available on the platform.
Code monkey (website)
This website teaches kids to write code by playing a game. Kids guide the monkey to its banana. The teaching method is creative so kids are engaged for a long time. The goal of this platform is to teach kids enough code to eventually create their own video games.
Move the turtle (app)
To keep kids interested, this app uses a turtle that guides kids through the coding journey. Kids are presented various challenges step by step and this way they learn to create complex codes by dividing the task into smaller steps.
This app is perfect for beginners in coding. Created by Apple, it teachers kids to learn Swift programming language using graphics such as a playground. Code learned here can be applied to other robotic devices as well such as LEGO Mind storms and drones by Parrot.
Computer programming classes should now be considered as a necessity because of the value and need for coding knowledge. You don’t need to buy a lot of equipment to get started; a simple PC or a chrome book will suffice. Most of the programming languages can operate easily on new laptops.
Computer programming and STEAM education offer skills that can be used to solve real-world issues. You will be failing the kids if you don’t teach them to code in this day and age.
Engage your kids in coding from a young age because their brains are very quick to learn new information. Follow the tips mentioned in this article to make sure you begin the process correctly. Click on the links of the free resources to start your kids coding challenges today!