5 reasons to teach kids how to code

This post was originally posted a year ago, but the site hosting the infographic is no longer online, so I’m rewriting it. A colleague of a friend mentioned a few times to me in the past that the jobs in the future will be anything but what we can imagine now. Several years ago, blogging was viewed not as a an outlet one may earn an income through, but as an “online diary”. No one predicted we’d see more and more bloggers in commercials or acting as spokespersons.

I consider myself lucky to have grown up surrounded by this world of technology, because it’s what led me to teach myself to code. I knew it would be the future and that I would one day have a blog that brings in a nice sum of traffic, accompanied by a community of people who actively engage with my content. What I didn’t expect, however, was the influx of code-related careers that would spring up because, well, programming is the future.

The internet is expanding. It’s not going away anytime soon. It’s why IP addresses are starting to look super weird and include colons instead of periods—there are simply too many people in the world to hold the booming population of humans—and cats.

Why kids should learn to code

1. It’s a universal language.

Not all programming is English-based, but the lot of what I’ve seen is. HTML, CSS, PHP—English.

To disagree with Vox and Slate, human language is not “anything but” literal, emotionless, strict, and free of nuance or ambiguity. Human language can be any of those things, because human language is neurodiverse in a world full of neurodivergent people—not everyone communicates figuratively, in hopes of someone “catching their drift” when they “read between the lines”.

Moreover, HTML is the first language I learned before I started learning Spanish I in eighth grade. If anything, knowing how to code has brought me closer to the world, allowed me to understand the necessity of an open mind, and demonstrated that I am capable of doing things. Code empowered me to think beyond and gave me the confidence to express the creative, yet logical, side of myself.

There are many programming languages out there in the world, each with their own rules and semantics. There are similarities, like how forgetting even ONE closing bracket } in your CSS and/or PHP code can break everything, but they remain different from each other in the long run.

2. Children’s minds are more open to learning.

My maternal sister had an opportunity to take Spanish I in kindergarten (or was it first grade?)—so my mom signed her up. Younger children pick up on things quicker, because the world is still such a mystery. Public schooling hasn’t screwed up their imagination yet. Teaching children a new language younger creates the opportunity for them to retain the ability to distinguish the different sounds and become a native speaker of both languages.

Now, I’m not saying you should start teaching babies how to code, but kids? Dude, there are card games!

3. It proves why maths is necessary knowledge.

I think one of the reasons I excelled in math so much was because I coded. In coding—especially CSS (it’s what makes things different fonts, colors, etc. on websites)—you need to do math in order to figure out the positioning, padding, margins, and a multitude of other properties. You need maths to help you figure out @media queries (used for responsive design).

When coding video games and in JavaScript, math is a necessity during various times. I am not familiar with JavaScript, so I can’t give proper information in terms of using the appropriate terminology (heh). However, I have also run into times when I needed to use maths in PHP.

I run side projects a) for fun and b) to continue to practice my skills. Two side projects are part of the online trading card community (oTCG), in that I run two oTCGs. The responsibilities not only include making the graphics (e.g. cards, currency, general website graphics), but managing the games and fixing errors when they occur. In some games—and for coding the currency/points aspect of the games—I have to know how maths works. This occasionally includes algebra-level stuff I remember wondering when I’d ever need it.

When kids know why they need to learn something, they’re much more likely to learn it for real—not by way of “Oh, well, all I need is ____ grade to pass this class.”

As per unschooling philosophy, developing an interest in coding may perhaps lead to the understanding of the importance of learning maths. If I had known how important science is in cooking, I would’ve paid better attention in chemistry class—well, I tried there, actually, so better phrasing would be: I’d’ve had a better chance at understanding chemistry class if it were packaged in a way that made sense to not only the future I might wish to have, but to the way I best learned (i.e. lessons applied to real life).

4. Coding encourages problem-solving.

My dad used to tell my lil’ bro, “Figure it out!” all the time when he’d get frustrated at the square block for not fitting properly into the circle hole. Coding is a lot like this, in that you have to work at it again and again. Sure, there are tips online accessible with ease through a simple search—but to resolve a coding issue/error requires troubleshooting, which requires thinking time and going down a mental (or tangible) checklist of things to do when it’s not working right. Did I close a bracket? Did I add an extra open bracket? Did I use the proper absolute path?

The more and more I code, the more and more I realize the difference between getting help and learning why I needed help and how I can learn from this thing. Getting help is exhausting and time-consuming; it makes me stop what I’m doing and step away—and much of the time, I’m in the zone when I’m coding! I can’t be bothered to stop lest I wish to walk away until I feel like going back. Coding made me realize the importance of understanding the help I receive instead of just copying the answer—it helps me remember to check my work, be patient with myself, and troubleshoot my issues before I go around searching for the answer elsewhere. I always learn new things when I code—it’s progressive like that.

5. Coding is forgiving.

To continue from #4, coding is forgiving. If you mess up, it’s okay! Sure, there are royal security errors made by even the most advanced coders—but I imagine kids don’t have to deal with that yet. ;)

I think the walkaway lesson here is: It’s important to forgive yourself for your mistakes. Most of the time, it’s because you forgot to close a stupid bracket (ugh).

6. It encourages creativity.

I like Gaito’s reference to Minecraft low-key developing the minds of architects/designers/carpenters/etc. I gave my eldest (but still younger, ha) bro flack about playing Minecraft a lot some years ago, but it was all in good fun—have you ever tried to play that game? Let’s just say I stuck to my Sims 3 and let him teach me how to play Runescape instead. Of course, I also failed that, but that’s because I most enjoyed the ability to build houses in The Sims and…uh…bring my exes to life in Sims form and turn them into ghosts.

Code creates endless possibilities! You can crop photos in CSS, add Instagram filters to photos via CSS. With code, the imagination is the limit, and children? Theirs is limitless.

7. Programming is associated with jobs beyond developing websites.

From developing apps and software, to creating computers and building robots—other skills are necessary, but some form of programming is required for these career paths.

You see…

8. Technology isn’t going away.

I wouldn’t be surprised if, within another decade, coding became a standardized part of public school curriculum. There’s a new iProduct out every year, many former Windows customers are desperate for a replacement, Google is a big player in innovative technology, a Samsung phone exploded—there’s a mix of good and bad, but it’s still here. (I don’t know what the latest Kik or Snapchat or What’s App equivalent is, so please excuse my refraining from referencing them in a better form of context than this one.)

AOL Instant Messenger is going away, though (if you hadn’t heard). RIP, and shout-out to the murderous AOL for killing its dial-up baby; I officially feel old.

But technology, for the most part, is progressing, and you may be able to drag-and-drop to create websites (ugh, I don’t want to hear about it), but someone had to code it. Technology can’t program itself.

How to learn to code

These websites are not necessarily for children, but rather for anyone wanting to learn to code. Having looked over the code games, I think that may be the best way to teach younger kids to code since the focus will be more on indirect learning than direct learning.

*Denotes there are lessons for children.

TechCrunch has a list of gadgets that encourage kids to learn to code.

How do you feel about kids learning to code? Do you know how to code?

Comments on this post

My son’s elementary school has a day of code every year, where the whole school gets to learn about coding for an hour. Then, they can go on that website throughout the year and practice coding. It’s a neat concept.

this is very helpful as I’ve done my best to advise not only kids but my friends about the tremendous value behind this skill.

thanks for choosing this topic and raising awareness for it!

<3 daniel @ ilovebad organics

P.S. awesome to see that you guys are still blogging onward with awesome topics!

Yes—I consider myself, a self-taught coder, lucky to have attended two middle schools that allowed an awesome program for young girls (girlstart.org), in which code was taught. I’m amazed at how many resources there are to teach young children about coding, because it’s truly an underrated skill schools should include more of, methinks.

Haha, we’re not going anywhere anytime soon!

Things have just been slow around here lately because 1) Charlise is moving, and 2) I am rebranding my own blog to be more organized and, well, professional.