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Why Coding for Kids Is Something All Parents Should Consider

Devan Mcguinness
May 12, 2015

Coding for kids is considered a great "second language," but how can you help your child learn to code?

The decisions you make for your kids matter -- a lot. You search for the best preschools, hire the most qualified babysitters and sign your kids up for extracurricular activities to give them well-rounded experiences to set them up for their future. One huge element of your child's future? Technology.

With smart phones, apps and new technologies, coding for kids has become one way that parents are helping their children prepare for their futures. Even if coding doesn't become a career path, being able to understand computer language and how to use computers will help them in whatever career path they choose.

Srinivas Mandyam, co-founder of the children's coding program Tynker, says coding for kids can have a real impact. "It's crucial that our children become active creators and makers, rather than being passive users of technology," says Mandyam. "Computational thinking and computer programming are essential skills that will help them adapt and succeed in our increasingly digital world."

Help Your Child Build a Love and Knowledge of Coding
Kids can start learning code as early as they begin talking and using computers -- typically by the age of 4. Though your child's school may not offer computer science or coding in the curriculum, several resources exist for parents to make it available at home.

Jason Briggs, the author of programming book "Python for Kids," says that while parents are likely thinking about their children's future, kids just want to do something fun -- and that's why coding for kids is perfect. "From a kid's point of view, the most important reason [to learn code] is that it can be a lot of fun -- given the right incentives, such as developing your own games, programming a robot, writing your own website and so on," Briggs says. He adds that from the parent's perspective, coding for kids "can only help with logic skills, problem solving and at the very least you get a little perspective as to how all the devices that we're using on a day-to-day basis actually work behind the scenes."
 

Start Simple
 

  • Play a Board Game
    Even old-school board games can teach new ideas. Games like Code Monkey Island introduce children to logic concepts -- the backbone of coding -- in a fun, engaging way. From beginning to end it takes about 45 minutes, and it allows parents and kids to learn together.
     
  • Enroll in a Course
    Don't confuse course work with school work. Tynker offers self-paced interactive courses for children to learn programming and helps children develop computational thinking and programming skills in a way that will keep their interest and attention.
     
  • Buy a Coding Toy
    Young children will like toys like Cubetto, a wooden robot that can be programmed with a simple block interface. Older children can use an iPad to program more advanced robots like Dash & Dot.
     
  • Read a Book
    You don't need to hand your kid a heavy textbook to teach them coding. Books like "Hello World!" and "Super Scratch Programming Adventure!" are aimed at introducing kids to coding concepts with easy-to-understand language and fun images.
     
  • Download an App
    Coding apps can make interactive learning a breeze. Lightbot and Lightbot Jr. are perfect for all ages and work on a variety of operating systems. Kids can gain a practical understanding of basic coding skills through puzzles. Similarly, The Foos teaches kids the basics of computer programming through games and interactive characters.
     

Briggs adds that while there is no "best" programming language to start children on, he recommends Python because it's available for multiple operating systems, it's easy to install and it "teaches good formatting as a fundamental precept of the language and supports a number of major programming paradigms." He notes that his daughter preferred Scratch and encourages parents to allow their children to play around with whichever they seem to lean toward and just support along the way.

You don't have to be a coding genius to introduce this new language to your kids. You can learn it with them! Make it a family priority to pick up this important skill for the future and have fun learning together.

And check out these 12 Best Apps and Tech Tools for Back-to-School.

Devan McGuinness is a Toronto-based freelance writer who specializes in parenting and lifestyle. When she's not working, you can find her hanging out with her four kids and drinking a cold coffee. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

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