Why Is Coding Important For Kids To Learn?
We hear about coding all the time. With the technology built by computer programmers constantly surrounding us - our phones, smartwatches, and even our thermostats - it feels like everyone wants to learn a little bit about this world. Still, your children have a vast array of activities to choose from to enrich their education, so why should learning to code be a priority for your children?
How to Get Kids Started with Coding
At Juni Learning, we provide online coding classes with a private instructor. We teach students ages 8-18 the fundamentals of computer programming, as well as advanced computer science topics you wouldn’t normally see outside of a college curriculum. The Juni curriculum is very project-based, and our students develop the skills and confidence to build their own apps, websites, and games, as well as to pursue advanced technical topics in other fields. Even for kids who don’t aspire to become software engineers, coding teaches critical problem-solving skills.
Promoting Logical Thinking
There are a number of reasons why it’s important for kids to learn to code. First, programming concepts teach kids logical thinking. Our students learn how to approach problems systematically, and to implement and test their code one step at a time.
To understand how coding teaches logical thinking, let’s consider programming the game of Hangman (which is actually part of our curriculum!). First, we have to think through what data we need to keep track of and how we will store it in the computer's memory. We must keep track of which letters have been guessed, what the correct word is, and how many guesses have been made. We need to use our knowledge of variables and data structures to decide how to represent each of these things.
Then, we need to consider the logical ordering of our code. We need to continuously ask the user to make a guess, to check whether that letter part of the word, and to respond to the user about their guess! All of these things allow us to practice fundamental concepts in programming, like loops and conditional statements.
In thinking through how to program each feature of the game, the student learns how to break problems down into smaller parts and work through each one sequentially. This problem-solving skill applies far beyond computer programming; nearly all problems need to be deconstructed in order to be solved. Let’s say your child is trying to figure out how to study for a physics exam. They need to break down the material into manageable chunks, understand how they relate to each other and what sequence they follow, and plan a study schedule to cover all of the topics. The same skills that enable them to build a game of Hangman are applicable to any type of real-world situation.
Coding also fosters creativity in students. There is a common erroneous stereotype that STEM fields are strictly “technical” while fields like English and art are strictly “creative.” This is a false dichotomy - creativity is critical to coming up with technical solutions. Similarly, artistic fields also require a knowledge of technical details to make progress. Coding teaches kids to think creatively about original solutions for problems, and this type of creativity is broadly applicable.
Even our youngest students, using Scratch, are able to program stories with their own characters, backgrounds, and animations. They can program their own songs and illustrate their own costumes for the characters. Coding teaches kids to be creative within the structures of computer programming and to take those problem-solving skills elsewhere!
Should Every Child Learn to Code?
Kids have a wide range of interests and talents, and not every child wants to become a software engineer. Still, we believe it’s beneficial for all kids to have basic coding knowledge. Much like reading, coding is literacy for the 21st century. Understanding how we program computers will allow your kids to better understand technology and understand the impact of technological advances on our economy and world.
In our post on empowering kids to love coding, we state that:
Our goal isn’t for every single one of our students to grow up and become software engineers (although we wouldn’t be upset if they did — there will be 1 million more computer science-related jobs than graduating students qualified to fill them by 2020!)
We aren’t solely creating more software engineers in the world - we’re looking to prepare your child for any cross-disciplinary career of their choice, as well as for the tech-driven 21st century. Coding is a part of so many careers; in fact, over half of all coding jobs are outside the tech field. Having basic coding skills will prepare your child for any number of careers even outside of STEM, including healthcare, art, manufacturing, and law.
When Should Your Child Learn to Code?
At Juni Learning, we teach coding classes geared toward kids as young as 8 years old. If your child has basic reading skills, they can begin learning the fundamentals of coding for kids. Much like learning a new language, younger children often pick up computer programming more easily. That said, we offer a curriculum for students up to age 18, and your child is welcome to join at any point.
Which Programming Languages Should Kids Learn?
For our youngest students, we teach Scratch as their first language — a block-based programming language, to introduce them to the principles of computer science. This way, they don’t need to memorize commands - they can instead use Scratch’s pallet of commands to drag-and-drop the code. Scratch allows our youngest students to understand the logic of the commands in a fun way without getting stuck on syntax-related details.
Afterward, our core curriculum teaches Python and Java, as well as additional courses in web programming. Each of these courses takes about 3-6 months for students to complete. We’ve carefully chosen Python as the focus of our courses because its syntax is human-readable and concise. It also abstracts away some low-level programming considerations in languages like C++ and C, so students can focus on the logic rather than the details. Furthermore, Python is commonly used in industry and is a versatile language - it can be used to build games, design websites, and analyze data.
At Juni Learning, we think coding is one of the most important skills a child can learn. Not only does it build tech literacy in an increasingly tech-focused world, but it also teaches kids logical thinking skills and creativity that they can take with them into every other area of their lives.