Simply put, coding is a way to communicate with a machine, and there are multiple coding languages used to tell computers to perform desired tasks. Many people think of a desktop or laptop computer when they think of coding, but in reality, coding is used everywhere – in your car’s electrical system, on websites, on your mobile phone and even in the software controlling the traffic signal near your neighborhood.


In the past, coding was relegated to adults, and we all know the stereotype of the quirky, pale coder working alone in the dark. In reality, that person tends to be more of the exception than the rule. Coding is actually a very collaborative, creative process that extends many potential benefits to those who choose to code professionally, or even just for fun. Thanks to some wonderful, age-appropriate materials, camps, and programs, kids can now enjoy the benefits of coding as well.


Benefits of Coding

  • Second language benefits. Studies have shown that being able to understand more than one language can lead to better working memory, focus and attention, and even an increase in the gray and white matter of the brain, which is believed to potentially mitigate age-related memory decline.


Coding is a language in its own right. When kids learn one or more of the multitudes of coding languages available, they are able to harness the same positive neurological effects seen in bilingual or multilingual kids.


  • Improved problem-solving skills. Problem-solving involves taking a larger problem and breaking it down into smaller, more manageable parts. Coders are constantly challenged to examine a problem and to think of ways to approach a resolution. Repeated practice with problem-solving teaches your child to be more efficient and effective and can also spill over into how he or she approaches problems outside of coding.
  • Better perseverance and resilience. Coding is nothing if not an exercise in “try, try again.” Once written, most code will contain multiple errors, so kids learn to take “failure” with a grain of salt. Errors lose the heavy weight they might carry in the non-coding world and simply become problems to tackle and solve.


  • Increased self-confidence. True self-confidence comes from being able to trust in one’s abilities. As kids advance their coding and problem-solving skills, they experience a sense of pride in their accomplishments and build a solid foundation of confidence that comes from the knowledge that they can tackle future problems.


  • Fuels creativity. While coding may seem like a logic-driven endeavor, it actually requires a lot of creativity. Solving coding problems necessitates an experimental and flexible mindset and kids who are creating projects from scratch are involved in brainstorming and conceptualizing.


  • Strengthens soft skills. Coding relies heavily on so-called soft skills, such as communication, listening and collaboration. Contrary to many people’s perceptions, because of the problem-solving nature of coding, it is often team or community based. Coding is about working with others to solve problems.


  • Career/professional opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job openings for software developers are predicted to grow 21 percent between 2018 and 2028. In addition, not all companies require their developers to have a four-year degree. Even if your child isn’t interested in becoming a full-time software developer, having a working knowledge of coding is a valuable skill that might ultimately raise her resume above that of competitors.


When to Start?

According to Stack Overflow’s 2020 Developers Survey, over 54 percent of professional developers wrote their first line of code by the time they were 16 years old. Kids can actually start to learn even earlier, but you want to make sure that you are providing them with activities that are age appropriate. If you introduce something too difficult, kids might become frustrated and quit altogether. The following guidelines may be helpful:


Ages three to five: This is the perfect age to expose your child to coding fundamentals in an engaging way through books and games. Favorites include the board game Robot Turtles or the activity book “Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding.”


Ages five to seven: Kids in this age group can begin to explore activities that are more about coding than games. Scratch Jr. is a popular first foray into the coding world.


Ages seven to nine: During this period, depending on their previous exposure, kids are ready to learn to write real code. Tynker is a popular app that is often used in schools for kids of this age.


Ages 10 and older: Kids with prior experience can participate in more advanced, hands-on coding. MIT has developed a program called Scratch. It is downloadable software that lets kids drag and drop pieces of code to create games and other final products. Your child might also enjoy the Hopscotch app.

Whether you choose to enroll your child in coding classes or camps, or have her learn at home, you’ll want to keep the emphasis on fun to avoid burnout. Check in with your child and have her teach you what he is learning – she will be excited to share her knowledge and your attention will be motivating. If you decide to go the learn-to-code-at-home-route, recreate the collaborative nature of coding by connecting her to a coding club or by inviting a few of her friends over for a coding playdate. Whichever path you take, there are so many beneficial skills to develop through coding and so much fun to be had.


Alison Bogle is a writer living in Austin with her husband and three children. A former fourth grade teacher, she now enjoys writing about children and education. You can also catch her talking about articles from Austin Family magazine each Thursday morning on FOX 7 Austin.

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