Learning how to code isn’t necessarily what parents expect their children to do after school. However coding is a very valuable and sought after skill and is therefore one way to enhance your child’s prospects in the future.
In this article, Chatty Garrate explains why coding is one of the best hobbies your child can have, and shares what you can do to help them learn how to code today.
Why Teach Children How to Code?
When you teach your child how to code, you don’t simply set them up for a future as a computer programmer. Here’s why you should encourage your child to learn how to code:
1. Coding boosts children’s problem-solving abilities
As parents, we want our children to be able to solve real-world problems using the best possible method. That way, they can expertly tackle complex situations confidently.
In the field of programming, coders constantly write and rewrite thousands of lines of code to get the program to work. When kids take on a coding challenge, they need to figure out the right strategy to use — if that strategy fails, they need to try again until they get it right. This, in turn, challenges their logic and boosts their problem-solving abilities.
2. Coding enhances children’s computational skills
Kids with learning disabilities are often intimidated by maths because they can struggle to grasp abstract concepts. However, when they write code, they can visualize how certain computations work. The numbers will no longer look like mere symbols but will start to make sense. This is because they see the real-world applications of certain computational concepts.
Children who know how to code will be able to understand maths better, and in turn, this will boost their confidence and academic performance.
3. Coding teaches children how to persevere
For professional coders, it’s perfectly fine to fail. That’s precisely why coders need to have perseverance — when the program doesn’t work, they need to keep going, even if it’ll take them weeks to figure out what went wrong. It can be frustrating, but they will not give up even though they’re met with failure multiple times.
Debugging isn’t fun, but it shows your kid that they can try again if they fail. It teaches them that they can bounce back from their mistakes and that bugs are just temporary setbacks they can get through.
4. Coding encourages children to think
By teaching kids to code, you can encourage them to think — really think.
Computer programmers don’t write code for the sake of getting a program to work. They need to figure out how to write clean code — this is code that’s easy to read and easy to maintain. To do that, they need to be able to use logic to break a problem down.
Children who learn how to code will need to find the ideal solution to the problems they will encounter. If a solution works but it’s not the best solution, they need to come up with new code.
Help! I Don’t Know How to Code
Teaching a child how to code when you don’t know anything about coding can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources that offer free source code. These were designed to be understood by school children, so don’t worry — you will be able to wrap your head around basic concepts.
If possible, gain a general understanding of programming languages. You don’t need to become a real programmer, but it would help to understand the basics. This will help you guide your child through the more complicated parts of programming. Here are a couple of free resources to check out:
Tips on Teaching Children to Code
Now that you know why your kids should learn to code, let’s take a look at how they can learn to code.
1. Use Scratch for first-time coders
You don’t need to be a programmer to teach your child how to code. You can even write code without actually writing it! With MIT’s Scratch, children can create programs, games, and more through its drag-and-drop interface. The program then writes the corresponding source code in real-time and puts it side-by-side with what your child created. In this way, you and your child can picture what real-world programs would look like if they were written in code.
2. Let your kids figure it out on their own
When your kid does their homework, you don’t tell them how to do it — you allow them to do it on their own. The same goes for coding. It can be tempting to grab the keyboard, but you should give your child the chance to break down the problem by themselves. You can guide them through the concepts, but they should be able to solve the problems, even if that means they’ll have to fail at times.
3. Don’t force your kid to learn a specific language
4. Don’t tell your kids how code works — show it to them
Your children can’t learn to code if they can’t see it in action. If you’re telling them about the basics of the “if-then” function, don’t describe it — instead, show them a sample of the source code (W3Schools has plenty of these).
Again, use Scratch if coding isn’t your forte. As kids create programs using its drag-and-drop interface, Scratch shows you what its source code would look like. Go through the code line-by-line and encourage your child to tweak it to see how it will change the program.
5. Consider gamification
Professional programming isn’t fun, so if you want your child to get into coding, choose an engaging way to do it such as gamification. Games reward your children whenever they complete a code, that way, they won’t feel like they’re doing additional homework. It’ll feel more like after-school activities that they look forward to every day.
Coding is one of the best hobbies your child can adopt. It teaches them how to problem-solve, how to persevere, and even boosts their confidence and academic performance. Plus, who knows? Maybe your child is a computer programming prodigy who’s waiting for the perfect opportunity to show off their skills!