For most adults, learning to code is an intimidating concept. Although we know it can be done, it feels a bit like learning a new language from scratch or starting over in a new specialty. For kids, however, it’s a whole different story. Not only is learning to code easier for kids (we’ll get more into this later), but they also approach the subject without any preconceived notions about how “difficult” it is — and this makes all the difference.
How Kids Perceive Coding
When asked what she thinks about coding, seven-year-old Ellen responds “Coding is my favorite subject. I get to tell all the animals what to do.” (Ellen has been learning to code through an app featuring animal characters). For Ellen, there’s nothing complicated about coding. She does it as easily as you or I might write down a series of directions for a tourist. This is largely in part because no one ever told her that coding is supposed to be difficult. She started coding through games, and all she has ever associated it with is fun. Attitudes like Ellen’s are a big victory for groups like Girls Who Code, who have been pushing for years to help reduce the gender gap in STEM subjects through changing perceptions. Coding is also becoming more prevalent in school curriculums and afterschool programs, giving kids everywhere a chance to learn fundamentals that may well open a world of possibilities for them later on.
Why Coding Is Easier for Kids
According to oncology nurse Suzanne Robin, learning language is part of every child’s brain chemistry. They are literally built to absorb information, and they do so almost completely effortlessly. So what does this have to do with coding? Well, everything. It may be an oversimplification to call coding the language of computers, but kids process and retain coding lessons in the same way they do lessons in French or Spanish. And once learned, they retain the associated skills naturally.
Teaching Kids Early Coding Skills
The easiest way to teach kids to code is to make the lessons fun and rewarding. This can be done through toys like the CogniToys STEMosaur, A top Indiegogo pick, the STEMosaur is a dinosaur-shaped smart toy that features an interactive coding panel. Through the coding panel, kids can code new content into their own toy. As well as getting to see the results of their efforts in a fun way as their STEMosaur learns new things, users gain skills that can be useful in other areas as well. For example, sequential thinking is core to coding lessons, but also very important in learning early math fundamentals.
Whether your kids are future IT whizzes or musicians, an early start in speaking the “language” of computers will prepare them to keep pace in our changing world — a world in which writing a new app may soon be as normal as jotting down a story in a composition book.