In today's technology-driven world, coding has become a much sought-after skill. Learning to code can open up multiple career opportunities, but it also enhances children’s problem-solving abilities, analytical skills and creativity, and gives them a deeper understanding of the digital world. In this blog, we explore the benefits of coding for kids, as well as some pointers for expanding their knowledge.
What is coding?
Computer programmes, games, websites, social media, apps and smart technology such as Alexa all depend on coding. Put simply, coding is a step-by-step set of instructions (known as code) that is used to tell computer hardware what to do. Coding bridges the gap between the way humans think, and the way that computers operate.
What are the benefits of coding for kids?
Coding and software development are part of a full STEM education. STEM subjects have become increasingly important in both education and innovation around the world. The job market is constantly evolving, with an increasing demand for professionals with STEM skills. Introducing kids to STEM subjects such as coding can give them a competitive edge in their future careers. However, the benefits of learning to code extend beyond their career prospects.
Learning to code enhances problem-solving skills
As we’ve already explored, coding is all about giving instructions to a computer. Translating the way humans think into steps that can be followed by a computer is not easy! Children must break down complex problems into smaller, manageable steps – a skill that is incredibly useful in many areas of life.
Coding can boost creativity
There’s no doubt that, as a STEM subject, coding is a science. But, to be successful, programmers need to be able to think beyond the code, and design solutions to real-world problems. Whether it's developing a game or a website, creativity is an important part of any coder’s skill set.
Coding helps children get to grips with technology
By learning to code early, and getting to grips with technology, kids can understand and adapt to the changing digital landscape more easily. During the recent pandemic, digital adoption grew at lightning speed and, with more people and businesses using digital technologies than ever before, the evolution of digital technology looks unlikely to slow.
Logical and critical thinking skills
Coding is all about logic. It teaches children how to think critically, make decisions, and troubleshoot issues systematically - a really useful life skill!
Resilience – coding is all about trial and error
Coding often involves trial and error which, in turn, teaches children resilience. Kids learn to embrace coding failures as learning opportunities, trial new solutions, and keep trying until they succeed.
Where can children learn to code?
Coding actually became part of the national curriculum in England in 2014, so children will learn the basics of coding in school. However, with a lot of other topics in the STEM curriculum, they will only learn so much. Here’s a quick summary, taken directly from the National Curriculum, courtesy of The School Run:
Children in Key Stage 2 will go one step further by designing and writing programs to achieve specific goals as well as understanding computer networks and using logic to find and put right mistakes in algorithms.”
This may sound like a lot to the uninitiated, but, with the benefits of coding clear, and a growing need for people with STEM skills, where else can children turn to expand their coding skills? And, how can we, as parents, encourage something that few of us fully understand ourselves?
Encouraging an interest in STEM through coding
As with any interest or hobby, supporting kids in their passions is important. While many parents worry about the amount of time their children are spending on screens, coding has proven educational value, and it builds some fantastic life skills. It can also help children to develop a deeper interest in STEM subjects, which are increasingly important in today’s world.
Explore child-friendly coding platforms
There are lots of child-friendly coding platforms available, including Scratch, Tynker, and Code.org. These platforms use visual blocks to help children build games, giving them the chance to understand the concept of coding in a fun way, without needing to learn complex code.
Interactive games and apps
Many educational games and apps teach coding concepts in a fun and engaging way. If you are happy to spend money on interactive toys, there are plenty of options. Often used in primary schools, Bee-Bots are cute little bugs that offer a simple first foray into coding for younger kids, teaching sequencing, estimation, and problem-solving in a fun way. Lego Boost and Lego Mindstorms are a great start to coding for kids, allowing them to build robots that they can bring to life with simple coding commands.
If you’re looking for something that doesn’t require you to splash the cash, have a look at sites like Lightbot, Code Kingdoms (based on Minecraft and Roblox) as well as code.org, which has loads of games. The London Science Museum website also has a great selection of games, which allow players to code additional levels. Looking for more? The Teach Your Kids Code website has a great rundown of apps (both free and paid) which are specifically designed to encourage kids to code.
Encourage kids to play with games and digital tools that are a precursor to coding. Start with simple tasks like creating a digital drawing or making a basic animation. Gradually, they can progress to more complex projects, such as building a personal website.
Online coding courses for kids
If your kids want to take coding to the next level, there are plenty of online coding courses tailored specifically to children. You can find educational classes on Pebble – just put in your postcode to get started!