When kids are introduced to coding, they gain appreciation of how digital technology work. Digital technology is a big part of many kids’ lives, as they are surrounded by smart phones, video games, video entertainment, websites, and even robots. What drives this technology are software or computer programs that are created by coding. Like learning about biology and chemistry, it is important for kids to understand the building blocks of an integral part of their life. They need to realize that what happens when they use technology is not magic, and they themselves can create programs that can be useful.
But knowing what happens under the hood of modern technology is just one of the benefits of learning to code for kids and students. Many of the other benefits are related to making them learn how to think and develop skills that they will need in the future.
Below are the main benefits of kids’ learning how to code, and why coding is important for kids and students to learn:
- Kids learn computational thinking – When kids learn to read and write code, they develop cognitive skills and learn a methodical, problem-solving process that resembles a computer. The process involves using abstractions and pattern recognition to represent the problem in new and different ways, logically organizing and analyzing data, breaking the problem down into smaller parts, identifying and creating the steps needed to solve the problem, running the procedures, analyzing the results, and determining if the results yielded an acceptable answer. Computational thinking can be applied to other situations aside from coding, as it is a way of thinking that solves practical problems.
- Kids learn to use logic – Logical thinking is required for coding. It consists of formulating step by step procedures to produce a desired outcome. It involves using expressions, selection, iteration, conditional and other logical statements and sentences.
- Kids learn problem solving – Coding teaches kids to break down complex problems into components. This problem-solving technique is transferable to a lot of other fields. For example, scientists solve problems by forming hypotheses and systematically testing these hypotheses one by one. Car mechanics diagnose car problems by replacing one part at a time to isolate the problem part. In coding, a programmer figures out bugs by generating intelligent hypotheses and tweaking parts of his code one component at a time to test which one solves the problem.
- Kids learn how things work, and create things that work – Coding teaches kids how to build, using cause and effect to make things work, and adapt them for his specific purpose.
- Kids learn to anticipate and avoid problems – In programming, kids learn how to “handle errors”, that is, anticipate problems that will probably emerge, and writing the correct codes that will prevent the entire program to crash when the error happens.
- Kids learn structural thinking – Kids learn how to build small pieces to add up to the solution.
- Kids learn algorithmic thinking – Algorithmic thinking is the ability to define clear steps to solve a problem or solving a task. It involves computational concepts like repetition, sequencing, and conditional logic. Kids use algorithm all the time, without even knowing it, especially with math (like solving long division problems) and science. Algorithmic thinking enables kids to break down problems and think of solutions as step-by-step procedure.
- Kids learn perseverance – Kids learn to persist if what they are creating is not working. They are compelled to analyze what is not working, why it is not working, and figure out how to correct it until it works.
- Kids exercises creativity, and in a fun way, learn to create stuff that works – Kids love technology, and “magically” creating things related to what they love provide them natural motivation. Learning to code encourages kids to exercise their imaginations and improvise when their resources are limited. Also, when they are able to create something that works, coding gives kids a sense of achievement and bolsters their self-confidence.
- Coding prepares kids for skills that are necessary in the future – The continuing pervasiveness and importance of technology in our lives would require a lot of workers with coding skills. It is expected that writing programs will continue to pay well into the future. Even many non-programming jobs that require the use of computers would require a bit of coding knowledge. In addition, when learning to code, kids also learn other important future skills like critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.
- Coding shows math in action – Coding shows kids the practical application of math, and why it is so important. Coding statements usually contain math expressions that need to be resolved for the program to move forward.
- Coding can make your child discover his lifelong passion, and can be helpful for him to decide his future career – Computer programming can be one the fastest growing and the most exciting profession in the next few decades, with the development of artificial intelligence, machine learning, data mining, and robotics. Kids exposed to coding can develop the love or even the passion for it, and discover that it is what he wants to do in life.
- For exceptionally creative and entrepreneurial coders, coding can make a lot of money – There are several stories of teenage coders who used their imaginations to create software, apps, games, and websites that enable them to become rich at a very young age. Stories abound about young app developers who become millionaires. A young Vietnamese game developer who created Flappy Bird was earning $50,000 a day before he quit. A lot of teens who offer their coding and web-building skills online are able to save enough for college.
- Coding encourages kids to think outside of the box – Coding sends a message to kids that they can create anything from nothing if they want to work on it. By coding, they can stretch what is possible. This fosters the progress of humanity, and the overall improvement of the quality of life.
As Bill Gates states: “Learning to write programs stretches your mind, and helps you think better, creates a way of thinking about things that I think is helpful in all domains.”
(Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg on why everyone should learn to code)
What is the best age to start coding?
Many good programmers claim that they start coding by age 5 or 6. But the best answer is when the child starts to show excitement and interest in it, like when a gamer child thinks that he can create his own game, or when he thinks he can create a program that will be useful or will entertain his friends.
A child best learns languages when he is young, and learning programming syntax is akin to learning a new language. Early exposure will shape how he thinks, and makes computational thinking second nature.
At 7 or 8, most kids have sufficiently developed logical and critical thinking skills needed for coding.
Kids as young as 10 can produce programs that achieve professional quality.