Learning to code is often presented as an obvious opportunity kids should take. But why exactly should a child learn to code? Coding can help improve a child’s attention to detail, creativity, and academic performance, as well as provide a boost in confidence and the opportunity for a lucrative job as they enter the working world. Speaking of jobs, did you know that as of 2020, only 6% of working people in the US have STEM-related occupations but earn twice as much as their counterparts according to the latest STEM stats? And that’s not all. Read on to find out more!

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Discover reasons why kids should learn how to code

While it’s easy to give anecdotal evidence of the benefits of coding, it’s even better to see the research backing it up! Below are seven great reasons to learn to code, backed up by research and statistics.

1. Coding helps kids to build creativity

Coding is often seen as a logic-heavy discipline, but creativity plays a huge role in the process as well. In a study published in the Indian Journal of Science and Technology, researchers examined the effects of coding education as it related to elementary school students’ computational thinking and creativity. They found that, when compared to the control group, students in the experimental group showed significant increases in creativity and originality as measured by the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. Students who learned to code alongside their regular schoolwork were simply more creative in their problem solving!

2. Coding creates more job opportunities

It’s no secret that information technology jobs are some of the highest paying and most in-demand jobs available. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for this field was $97,430 in May 2021, which is more than twice the median annual wage ($45,760) overall. Not on that, but overall employment in this field is expected to grow 15% over the next 10 years, which is much faster than the national average. The highest-paying occupation in 2021 was that of computer and information research scientists, with a median annual salary of $131,490!

3. Coding also boosts your marketability in non-tech fields

Jobs outside of traditional information technology fields still benefit from a coding background. According to a report by Burning Glass, jobs which require coding experience tend to earn about $22,000 more per year than those which don’t, and more traditionally non-tech occupations are looking for applicants who can code. These professions include fields such as marketing, security, and even artists and designers. Roughly 7 million job openings in 2015 valued coding skills as part of the qualifications they were seeking. As with directly tech-related fields, these professions newly looking for coding skills are expected to grow up to 12% faster than the market average!

4. Learning to code has been shown to positively impact young learners' logic

In addition to the pragmatic benefits of coding, studies have shown that learning to code helps teach children how to think. In a study published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Educational Psychology, researchers tested the claim that learning to program computers improves cognitive skills. Their research showed that a positive transfer to situations which required critical thinking, mathematical skills, metacognition, spatial skills and reasoning existed. Overall, students who learned computer programming skills outperformed those who did not, suggesting that learning to code has certain cognitive benefits for other applications.

5. Learning to code directly benefits engagement in mathematics

To build on the point that coding benefits the cognitive development of children, studies have also shown a positive correlation between learning to code and performance in mathematics. In a study conducted at St. Catherine University, it was shown that incorporating coding in a middle school math classroom could have a positive impact on student experience and understanding. These findings were supported by both subjective and objective data; these data showed that students were generally more engaged, and the results were supported by a rubric assessing key learner outcomes, accuracy, application, coding efficiency, presentation, and creativity.

6. Making games builds both technical and social skills

One of the most popular types of coding among children, perhaps to nobody’s surprise, is programming games. It turns out that even making games provides substantial benefits! In an article published in Educational Psychologist, researchers looked at the effects of “constructionist gaming;” that is, creating games rather than just playing them. They argued that programming is a maker activity in which people construct an artifact, and that it doesn’t matter whether the artifact is digital, material, or some hybrid of the two. In the process of creating, the creator is engaging in a kind of personal, social, and cultural education. In other words, making games not only introduces children to a range of technical skills, but it also better connects them to each other.

7. Learning to code prepares kids for the future

Nobody knows what the jobs of the future will look like, but we can be fairly confident that technology will continue to be more involved as the world progresses. Artificial intelligence is at the forefront of technological development right now, and according to an article published in Basic Income Studies, AI has already taken the place of humans in areas which were previously thought to be jobs only humans can do. It goes on to state that the displacement of the human worker for traditional jobs can be expected to continue to be significant, which raises the question of what one can do to prepare oneself for that future. A part of the solution suggested by that article is adjusting school curricula to include the basics of programming and algorithms at an early age to ensure children are taught skills which will still be needed as more and more jobs become automated.

Now you know why it’s important kids learn how to code

Coding is clearly an increasingly important skill set for children to learn. If you’re looking for a way to get started, check out our blog post on how to create a game on Scratch. Better yet, you can check out the many free live online introductory coding classes offered by Create & Learn. Many students begin with popular drag-and-drop Scratch programming.

Written by Create & Learn instructor Josh Abbott Salazar. Josh is a teacher, coder, audio engineer, and musician. After graduating with a Master's in Music from Belmont University in Nashville, TN, Josh turned his attention to the technology side of things, and has been working in various aspects of coding and engineering ever since. He runs a small music studio in Nashville called Tango Sound Studios, and develops video games in his spare time.