What is coding?
Coding is using a language that a computer understands, to give the computer instructions so it can perform various functions. With coding skills, you can create things such as computer software, websites, video games and apps.
Why do I encourage my children to explore coding at an early age?
When it came to screen time for my children, especially after preschool age, I had to consider educational as well as entertaining materials on the internet, rather than simply exposing them to time-passing content. Then I found out about coding programs.
Having read about what these programs can provide for children and actually tested them out with my own child, I can see the numerous benefits they offer. Now my 6-year-old creates her own games to play, using her own drawings and even recording the sound effects herself. It is definitely helping her to explore her creative and imaginative side, while engaging in logical and mathematical thinking.
We have tried many coding games, apps and programs to explore the difference between each, including how smoothly they deliver the learning experience in a fun way while making it challenging enough to keep children progressing without giving up.
I’d like to share some of the coding programs and apps we’ve tried and the benefits my child has gained from learning to code.
Why is coding beneficial to children?
5 reasons why coding programs are great for children
It teaches children logical thinking.
Logical thinking involves observing the problem, organizing information, and making rational conclusions by reasoning and looking at the situation objectively. Working with facts, children can adjust their strategies and decisions while working towards a solution.
It promotes a creative mindset.
Although coding teaches mathematical and logical thinking, the solutions can vary, and the stories children can create are limitless. Creating their own games by animating their own drawings and adding sound effects to tell their own stories can help children to exercise their creativity and imagination.
It teaches problem-solving skills.
With coding, children are challenged by endless problems that they have to solve to reach the goals they want. Even though they might focus on something as simple as how to move a figure from point A to point B, by doing so they are constantly exposed to problems that they have to figure out along the way, to reach the next point. In the process, they learn to break down the problem into smaller parts and work step by step towards the goal, which teaches them to think about a problem from many different angles.
It helps children grow patience.
Coding requires a hands-on approach to figure out problems through trial and error. Children may have to try many times using different approaches to solve the problem and get to the next step. When they face each problem, they need to build their own hypothetical solution, and if that does not work, they have to keep adjusting their idea until it works.
Children can closely relate to and grow an interest in math.
Children can get closer to math through coding by using mathematical skills to solve relatable problems.
This helps children to grasp abstract concepts by programming how to move around virtual objects and figures visually, as well as providing many chances to work with geometric shapes. By working with coding problems, children are exposed to the characteristics or properties of shapes and objects and learn how to find unknown numerical values in an equation. Coding helps them to think about the series of steps for performing calculations, as well as mathematical relationships and conditional logic.
Here are 7 Coding Programs that are user-friendly and rich in content.
1. ScratchJr – ages 5-7 (Free up to a certain level)
Children can learn basic coding concepts while programming their own interactive stories and games. As children work in ScratchJr, they learn to solve problems, design projects, and express their ideas creatively.
2. Tynker Junior – ages 4-7 (Free up to a certain level)
This program is perfect for younger children, since it uses word-free picture blocks, a tap-based interface with no dragging, friendly voiceovers, and the gradual progression provides ample chance to master each step.
3. Kidloland Coding Games For Kids – ages 4+ (Limited free access up to a certain level)
This app teaches basic programming concepts such as sequences, functions, commands, loops, and even debugging, with fun, colourful games. Children can play and learn at their own pace without disturbing loud sound effects.
4. Hopster Coding Safari for Kids – ages 4+(Free up to a certain level)
Children guide various baby animals to their homes or to their parents by using coding logic. This game is suitable for younger children since it has pretty simple problems in the beginning, while the progress is gentle enough for younger kids to follow. This will help preschoolers learn pre-coding logic by solving puzzles, earning achievement stickers and advancing to command-line mode.
5. Dinosaur Coding games for kids – ages 3-7 (Free access up to a certain level)
This is straightforward, very basic coding featuring dino robots and drag-and-drop coding concepts that are clear and easy to understand. Even though it is simple and free access only covers very basic levels, this app covers many pre-coding concepts that set a foundation for further learning.
6. Tynker (Free access up to a certain level)
This game offers a generous amount of free access and teaches kids how to create their own games. Once your little one has mastered basic coding concepts, this game will definitely excite them to go on and learn more complex concepts.
7. Code Spark (Subscription only)
I like Code Spark’s coding programs. It keeps my child entertained while improving her coding skill noticeably. The only downside for me, personally, is the game section that tends to pull children’s interest more than the coding part of the program. Nevertheless, the coding modules are exciting and engaging enough to hold my child’s interest without ever boring her, and the levels are challenging enough to keep her learning new coding skills.
If you are only looking for free coding programs, you will, unfortunately, face a certain level of frustration with limited access to many of the programs out there. But some of the examples that I mentioned above provide generous access to free content that will help your child learn pre-coding and basic coding concepts. If you want your child to explore and learn basic coding without fully committing to a paid version, these coding programs will help with that.
Once my child got interested enough in coding to tackle many of the free coding modules available, it was easy for me to know which type of coding program would be the best match for my daughter, and decide on one that I was confident she would benefit from.
Coding is no doubt beneficial for children to learn, and it satisfies their interest in games, stories and electronic gadgets. It can definitely fill that screen time while helping kids learn skills that can serve them in future.
By learning coding through games, children can improve their critical and logical thinking, problem-solving skills, and develop patience and creativity, making this a win-win solution for parents who want their children’s screen time to be educational and fun.
Please share your thoughts as to whether your child is already learning to code, or you are considering introducing it. And please let me know your favourite coding programs for your child!