The pace at which our world is continuing to go digital is truly astounding. The inner makeup of our digital world is comprised of perfectly aligned 0s and 1s - often abstracted into a human-readable language known as code...
The coming generations are going to need to be aware of the technology they’ll be working with on a daily basis. Bonus points if they know of its inner workings to some degree as well.
Now I’m not here to tell you that every child should learn to code. Each child is unique, and as such, they may not be into the wild world of programming.
What I will say is coding opens up a plethora of opportunities for our children. They won’t all necessarily take the road down an IT career path (though the IT job market is hungry for young coders).
What happens when a kid learns to code is they immediately become creators. They level up in so many different ways as I’ll outline below. As a professional Software Engineer, I can attest to all these first-hand.
So let's find out why kids should learn to code!
There’s no doubt that problem-solving is an essential skill in almost every aspect of our lives. Never in our lives will we come to a point where we become ‘Master’ problem solvers. With each new challenge comes a sub-set of new problems that we must solve to overcome. To nurture our kids to be self-sufficient we need to expose them to new challenges from the outset. Problem-solving, much like a muscle, gets stronger by practicing and pushing our limits.
The very core of coding is taking something from concept to reality. Along the way, we will encounter many (and I mean MANY) problems and hurdles. It’s frustrating without a doubt, but it motivates us to think about a problem from many perspectives. It gets us into the habit of breaking down a problem into smaller, more manageable ones.
A major benefit of coding is that you can test your solutions immediately. This helps kids stay motivated. Think of a solution -> apply the solution -> test -> doesn’t work? -> think of another solution, rinse and repeat! All done without any external dependencies.
Very rarely do we encounter problems that have never been seen or solved before. So why re-invent the wheel. Let kids use the power of the world wide web and search away! The exact answer to their exact problem is not always out there. However, by looking around for similar solutions our kids learn to research and apply them to their specific problems. A good researcher makes a great problem-solver.
Don’t take my word for it though, here’s a real-life case study on how programming reinforced problem-solving skills in kindergartners:
As adults, we often think creativity is a natural talent that only a few are gifted with. How wrong we are! Yes, there are some who have high levels of natural creativity. The rest of us, however, can work to improve this crucial life skill. Instead, we get into the mindset of “we either have it or we don’t”. And as we age, we start to look at the world as it is rather than how it could be or how we can change it. Kids are naturally creative. Give them any object and they can come up with multiple uses for it. Whereas we automatically resort to saying “No dear, that’s a spoon - you can’t use it that way”. With all this creativity brimming inside our kids, why not let them put it to good use and keep it going well into their adulthood.
Writing code allows kids to bring their wild imaginations to life. With coding in their arsenal of skills, the world is truly their oyster. By lining up 0s and 1s according to one’s idea, something truly unique can be created. All this while allowing our little ones to practice another important skill that is experimentation. Kids get permission to try new things. What can they create? Anything that sits behind a screen - apps, websites, video games, animations, etc - or even something more mechanical in nature like simple toys.
Another great benefit here is it fosters whole-brain thinking. Left-brain thinking is associated with analytical thinking and right-brain thinking with creativity. Coding requires both of these modes of thinking to solve the most complex problems. Practicing these simultaneously will come in handy as kids get into more advanced subject matters.
If you’ve read about any successful person you would have noticed it wasn’t good luck or natural talent that helped them reach their goals. No, it was hard work, resiliency, perseverance, persistence, and good old-fashioned grit. These traits helped them keep going during the most difficult times. Their mind was made and it was a matter of when, not if, at that point.
As a professional Software Engineer myself, I can tell you first-hand that coding can be the most frustrating thing at times. When something doesn’t work the way it should, especially after trying numerous solutions you NEVER want to see a line of code again. But, there’s that slight yet lingering curiosity inside you. Why? Because in the world of code, you’ve sniffed the potential. You’ve seen everything so far come to fruition. You don’t want to quit now, not after everything you’ve already been through. Not when you’re this close. This is the essence of resiliency, persistence, and perseverance that is found in all successful people. Kids learn to see things to the very end, to see failure as a stepping stone, to acknowledge that no skill is immediately acquired. Only those with high levels of persistence are ultimately rewarded.
Coding not only nurtures us to not give up, but it also helps us to intelligently analyze a problem then attack it in a calculated manner. It’s easy yet extremely time-consuming to try anything and everything until something sticks. There are dime a dozen folks doing that. It takes someone resilient to take a step back and breathe. Then acknowledge the problem, and analyze and document the most viable solutions. Then resolve it in a handful of tries.
Learning does not have to be boring, mindless repetition of theories and principles. With distractions being flung at us from every direction, we need to make learning material engaging and yes, sometimes even fun. This helps our kids stay motivated and attentive.
Coding is fun and engaging right out of the box. No need to come up with fancy techniques to capture your kid’s attention. Learning programming fundamentals should not be limited to reading theoretical principles. Yes, learning the fundamentals is important. What’s more important is putting the newly acquired knowledge to practice. This is where coding shines. Kids see immediate results of their hard work. This keeps them motivated and engaged as they see their efforts come to fruition.
It even makes the oft-dreaded mathematics a fun time. Coding eliminates the mindset of “Yeah, I’m never going to use THAT in real life!”. With coding, you can visualize abstract concepts. You need to be able to analyze data, think logically, and break down problems - skills required when dealing with Math!
You likely don’t need convincing of this statement if you’re reading this. Everything from the browser you’re using to view this article, the countless apps on your phone to the voice assistants to video games are all made up of hundreds of thousands of lines of code. Regardless of the type of programming language used, in the end, they are all broken down into nothing but 0s and 1s. I’m not saying we should all be coding, but don’t you think our kids should at least be aware of how the technology (they use on a daily basis) works?
I had second thoughts about including this in the article because I think coding goes beyond just collecting a paycheck and calling it a day. But, this article would be incomplete without acknowledging the growth rate at which our world is becoming digital.
For one, the growth rate of the IT industry is 4x that of any other career. The job market is begging for more coders. Due to this, the salary can be quite lucrative compared to other more traditional careers.
Secondly, and more importantly (at least for me), when your kid learns to code they become producers, they become problem solvers. No longer do we need to rely on software companies to resolve glaring problems. We can solve them right from the comfort of our homes. Code does not discriminate. Today, the gap between professional and personal tools available has diminished. The only difference is talent, and as we’ve covered above that can be built on with plenty of practice.
If you see the benefits of introducing your kids to coding, there are plenty of learning programs out there to get your feet wet. Some notable ones include:
- Scratch (a programming language built specifically for kids learning to code).
So pick something, get them started, and it may just open up a whole new world for them!