Should Kids Learn to Code Early at Home?

learn to codeBy Leigh

Coding sounds like an extremely complex term that is reserved for techies or nerds, but it is nothing more than a string of commands to tell a machine to do something. Although not everyone is fit or even able to make codes, for those who can learn to code, it can become a very rewarding activity. Among parents and educators, there is a debate going on discussing whether kids should learn coding at a young age or not.

For Coding at An Early Age

Coding is something that can be easily done at home with just the basic materials – an Internet connection and a computer. The main advantage of coding is that there are many resources offered online that are free and there is no need to spend money on expensive courses unless certification is needed. Hence, for parents who want to introduce kids to programming, this is an attractive option.

The rationale behind exposing kids to coding at a tender age lies in their ability to grasp a concept very quickly during this period. Piaget states that from 2-7 years (the preoperational stage), children accumulate knowledge through language, symbols, and mental imagery. At this stage, their brains are just developing and are capable of absorbing many things.  Coding by itself is a language, albeit robotic, so it should also be easy for young minds to learn the concept and its applications.

Britain, for instance, is the first G7 country to make coding compulsory from 5 to 16 with the goal of enabling kids to create codes (age 7) and to do programming by the time they turn 11. The rationale behind this is to find out if there is any talent or inclination from the young in computer programming and if there is, to support and sustain these talents.

Against Coding at an Early Age

The other side of the debate is that by introducing coding to kids as young as 2 is simply unkind because it forces them to do something. At this age, they are hardly out of their training pants and coding is probably not the activity toddlers want. They should be able to enjoy this time in their lives and parents should be able to do the same. Some coders also said that they have not understood what it meant when they were young and it was only when they reached their 20s that things clicked in their heads. This means that even though they were exposed to coding at an early age, they did not understand a thing until they were older.

What’s the Middle Ground?

There is no harm in trying to expose kids to coding when they are young. Although there are brilliant programmers and coders who started as early as 5, going for those as young as 2 is an exaggeration. Between 5-7 would be a good compromise, but for those who manifest an interest in coding at an earlier age, it would be sacrilege not to nurture their interests. While pressuring a kid to learn coding is just plain mean, for those who do show an interest, you might be polishing a diamond.

When is it Too Late?

Although it’s never too early to learn coding, it’s never too late either. The right age to start learning anything is when it interests you. So if you’re a teenager passionate to learn coding then it will automatically become easier to learn, even if you don’t have any experience at all. If you’re in high school, choose a commonly used programming language such as C++, HTML, VBScript, or JavaScript. Or if you want to modify a favorite game by coding a mod, you might choose a game-specific language like Papyrus for Skyrim or Lua for Minecraft. Go online and search tutorials, get books about the language, and practice writing code.

Benefits of Coding and the Future of Society

Reading and writing code is not just a computer skill; it’s a form of literacy. Coding helps kids empower themselves. By learning to program, they have access to tools that they can use to express themselves. Coding promotes logical thinking in kids, helps stretch the mind, teaches problem solving, and fosters creative thinking. That’s true whether they go on to become programmers, take on a different technical role, or work outside of technology. With more students becoming fluent in coding, we will have an increased pool of talented programmers in the future.

Exposure to coding is critical, but it should not be forced on kids who have no interest or inclination. Kids have individual styles and interests. Some learn to code at an early age, some start later, and others never show any interest in it. While not everyone can become good coders, familiarity with the craft is invaluable as we live in a highly-digitalized world. Coding provides insight into the beginnings and roots of computer science, and for that they’ll benefit even if they wind up not using their coding skills later.

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