In the old days (like, 10 years ago), young kids' academic studies revolved largely around recess and learning to share toys. These days things are a little different. Socially advantaged kids today are learning real life skills from the earliest ages.
A quick search will bring up countless examples of programs offering “pre-coding”, “screenless coding prep”, and other programming education targeted at kids as young as preschool. Many of these programs are designed by large tech firms, like Apple's Everyone Can Code curriculum, for example.
The fact that big software companies are pushing for more kids to learn coding, means they are predicting increased demand for technically talented employees in the future.
Introducing your child to programming languages and concepts will help them achieve success when they begin looking for a job. It will also give them valuable tools and resources for shaping their own learning path through elementary, middle, and high school. By the time your teach savvy young one begins applying for colleges, they will have a huge advantage over kids who are just starting to learn coding skills.
If you're curious about the options for introducing your child to coding, read on. We'll cover some of the big reasons why learning to program is good for kids, what opportunities it can open up for them, and how to find online educational resources specifically designed for elementary and middle school aged kids to learn coding.
Why should kids learn programming
In 2017, The Washington Post published an interview with MIT professor Max Tegmark. In the interview, Tegmark said that asking whether someone today is for or against the rise of AI is “like asking our ancestors if they were for or against fire.”
Staying relevant in the digital economy
The rise of technology in the workplace is inevitable. In just the last couple of decades, centuries old industries have already been completely disrupted or even ceased to exist due to better and faster alternatives based on new tech. The power and scope of artificial intelligence will continue to grow, and to replace people with machines in almost every sector of the workforce.
Wouldn't you like to guarantee that your child is ready for the only kind of job that will be available by the time they enter the workforce? The digital economy will require more and more skilled coders, computer scientists, and engineers as our reliance on tech grows.
Teaching your young kids to code will provide them with a strong foundation of knowledge that will make it that much easier for them to find a place at the forefront of tomorrow's economy.
Inspiring kids to seek out more advanced learning
Kids who learn serious math, logic, and other advanced reasoning skills at an early age are more likely to pursue STEM subjects in later academic life.
The inspirational power of learning to program is especially important for young girls who are interested in STEM subjects. Check out this quote from an article on Science Daily:
A study from the University of Washington's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) finds that, when exposed to a computer-programming activity, 6-year-old girls expressed greater interest in technology and more positive attitudes about their own skills and abilities than girls who didn't try the activity.
If kids are given the foundational logic, reasoning and language skills inherent in learning to write code early in life, they will have the tools in high school and college to be creative in their learning style. Seeking out specific knowledge requires the ability to organize your thoughts and think logically. Coding is a great tool for teaching logical reasoning to children.
Programming languages are languages
While you may not be able to use computer programming languages to ask where the bathroom is, or how to get to the library, they are nonetheless languages in a very real sense. Language learning skills are at their sharpest in young children, and coding can help to establish universal language skills that will help kids learn human languages.
What is the best programming language for kids
Children are smart. Way smarter than they're usually given credit for. Kids in first and second grade are capable of learning complex logic principles, high level mathematics, and other traditionally “grown up” topics.
The key to teaching kids these complex subjects is to deliver lessons in a way that sparks their creativity and allows them to explore. The perfect coding language for kids would allow them to experiment fluidly with multiple coding paradigms, switch between different data types with ease, and create programs that easily handle a wide variety of unstructured data.
If you're an experience coder, you might notice that these requirements for the ideal kids programming language sound a lot like a sales pitch for Python.
Python is an excellent language for kids to learn coding. Python delivers big time in all the areas that help kids learn. The syntax is simple, it can easily handle whatever unstructured data a kid wants to feed it, and it allows experimentation with different coding styles.
Teaching basic coding principles for young kids
As a parent of a young kid you probably remember your kindergarten and 1st grade experience involving playing with blocks, and running around the playground during recess. Today, kids as young as 4 are learning to build software applications using object oriented coding techniques. This is the world we live in, and it's awesome. Today's youngsters will go to high school and college already possessing the programming skills necessary to build fully functional software.
That said, kids are still kids. Throwing a coding textbook in the crib and hoping for the best probably isn't going to do much for your child's understanding of programming.
To get your kid started in the right direction, consider signing them up for a kid's programming course.
Programming for Kids and Beginners: Learn to Code in Scratch
This course on Udemy is designed to get kids coding from the ground up at an early age..
The course uses the Scratch programming environment to teach young kids the principles behind coding and software development. Scratch is a simple visual programming environment developed with kids in mind by the MIT Media Lab.
- Create smart and fun games
- Create animations and cool visual effects
- Code – one of the most important skills to learn!
- Understand complex computer science concepts by intuitively applying them in games
- Learn text-based programming languages 2x – 10x faster
Instructor Daniel Ciocîrlan holds a masters degree in computer science with a focus in quantum computing. Daniel has taught computing subjects for over seven years to all ages of students.
For more info on teaching kids basic coding principles in Scratch, head to Udemy now (link to the course on Udemy).
Teach Your Kids to Code: Learn Python Programming at Any Age
Another great course on Udemy, this one is from Dr. Bryson Payne, and is designed for kids that are a little older or who already have an understanding of basic coding principles.
In this course, kids will learn to code their own apps using Python. The engaging lectures, fun exercises, and hands-on projects in the course will have kids writing their own usable code in no time.
In this course, kids will learn to:
- Code your own apps and games in Python 3.6 for Mac, PC, or Linux, from pre-K to college level
- Draw colorful spirals and shapes with Turtle graphics in Python
- Create fun, playable games like War, Yahtzee, and Rock-Paper-Scissors
- Build interactive apps that respond to user input and mouse clicks
- Master variables, loops and functions to prepare for more advanced programming courses (and a brighter future)!
The instructor, Dr. Bryson Payne is a tenured professor of computer science at the University of North Georgia. He is also a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP®); Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH); and Director of the Center for Cyber Operations. Dr. Payne is the author of two books on learning to code in Python and Java.
For more info about learning Python for kids, head to Udemy now (link to the course on Udemy).
Competitions, scholarships, and other programs for young coders
If instilling logic, math, critical thinking and language skills in your kids isn't enough of an incentive to teach them to programming, how about cash prizes?
There are lots of coding camps and fun activities available for kids these days. There are even competitions where they can win cash and other great prizes. Teaching your young child to code will give them the opportunity to join an ever-growing social landscape of tech-savvy youngsters. It might even get them a scholarship or two when it's time to apply for college.
If you want to explore options for programming for kids, start with the online education resources mentioned in this article. Even if your child doesn't choose to pursue a STEM career, coding will prove to be a valuable experience for them and will open doors later in life.