Young children are sponges and are able to absorb and learn quickly. Children who learn another language before age five use the same part of the brain to acquire that second language that they use to learn their native language. Younger learners are also uninhibited by the fear of making mistakes, which is sometimes an obstacle for older beginners. (hence why it is so much harder to pick up a language in high school or just start learning computer science in high school).
AND learning a programming language (a coding language) is like learning a foreign language as when you are learning a new language you start with vocabulary and syntax. The same occurs when learning the language of the computer, you learn the vocabulary and syntax for each language first and then implement the structure.
We should be teaching computer science in elementary and even earlier. Research shows that learning a second language boosts problem-solving, critical thinking, and listening skills, in addition to improving memory, concentration, and the ability to multitask. Children proficient in other languages, including programming languages, also show signs of enhanced creativity and mental flexibility.
Children don’t worry about their mistakes as much as adults. Because they are still mastering their first language they are making mistakes and learning from them naturally. It is not learning via worksheets or notes but genuine learning. Which in turn gives kids confidence to fail forward and is the core of 21st-century learning skills. When you learn a language, you use it to express yourself. The same is true with code. Coding empowers kids to not only consume digital media and technology, but to create. Instead of simply playing a video game or using an app, they can imagine making their own video game, or envision what their own website, or app might look like—and they’ll have an outlet for expression.
Coding and computational thinking are a basic literacy in the digital age and it is imperative for kids to be able to work with and understand the technology, the technological vocabulary, and syntax around each concept. We have left the era of the scribal, where literacy was only for the chosen few, entered the printing press era, where it became for the masses. And are now a part of the technological age, where the digital presence is changing the way in which we interact as a society. Understanding the literacy of coding is a part of the core of the intellectual future.
Coding is more than a technical skill; it is a way to achieve literacy in the twenty-first century, like reading and writing. Coding is linked with literacy as both writing and coding encode and distribute information. There are historical parallels between writing and programming. Just as societies demonstrated a “literate mentality,” “computational mentality” is now emerging. This is parallel to medieval history when writing was a specialized skill and people became defined by their writing, coding is currently a specialized skill. Another historical parallel, during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, people were incentivized to learn to read and write because literacy tests were required to get married and vote. If you couldn’t read, you were left out.
Leveraging the ability to think gives kids truly think. Too often we provide children answers to remember rather than problems to solve. Mastering digital literacy moves the gears in our brain!
“ A computer is a bicycle for your mind” – Steve Jobs
A child who learns how to code will have the advantage in life with more employment opportunities available to them in the future, no matter which industry they decide to enter whether it be in the technology sector, finance, retail, health or other.
Learning to code gives children:
- Problem-solving skills
- Computer programming gives kids a challenge and helps them develop resilience
- Coding teaches children how to think
- A child expands their creativity when they learn how to code
- Cultivates mathematical thinking in application
So how can you start teaching your child how to code? There are many resources both online and in local communities. But you can start with simple unplugged activities. It’s easy, and all you need are items you likely already have around your house. See my fun airplane challenge here!
Some of the top coding platforms include:
- Code Club Projects
And if you are looking for local connections, we would love for you to visit us at the Dottie Rose Foundation. (dottierosefoundation.org) At the Dottie Rose Foundation, we encourage, support, and educate girls who have an interest in technology and want to learn how it can be used to enhance their learning and academic success.
Our camps and workshops offer hands-on experiential learning, so kids can develop the skill set they need and explore the areas of technology that excites them the most.
Having children learn coding at a young age prepares them for the future as coding and computational thinking help children with communication, creativity, math, writing, and confidence!