Steve Jobs once said, “Everyone in this country should learn how to program because it teaches you how to think.” Furthermore, 74% of parents in a recent survey said that they believe Computer Science is a subject that children should learn all year round.

Today, coding can be a great skill for kids to learn no matter what age group they are in, from K-12. Programs such as ScratchJr designed by MIT are a great place to begin for kindergarteners and 1st graders, while older students will enjoy challenging programming such as Python.

Regardless of where they begin, coding exposes kids to numerous life long skills such as creativity, problem solving, project management, and more, that can help them get ahead in all their future endeavors.

In this post, we'll reveal why so many people believe coding for kids and teens is critical. We'll start by explaining what is coding for kids, and how to talk to a child about it, before we move on to discuss the best ways to get kids started. We've even included some free coding classes for kids to make your adventure easy.

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What is coding for kids and how does it work?

Coding for kids is the set of instructions we create to communicate with computers. Through coding we're able to make computers perform tasks.

Computer coding empowers kids to not only consume digital media and technology, but also to create it. Instead of simply playing a video game or using an app, they can make their own video game, or even their own website.

Just like how we can use different languages to communicate with one another - English, Spanish, Japanese - computers also have many languages they understand. For example, HTML, CSS, Javascript, Python, C++ and more. All of these are syntax-based languages, where coders manually type the script text.

For kids who are just getting started, drag-and-drop visual programming is a great way to learn the fundamental concepts of coding. Visual programming, such as Scratch, allows kids to connect blocks together to make programs. This empowers children to focus on understanding the underlying logic needed to make a program, without worrying about typos from writing code syntax.

What is coding used for?

Coding is used to create all sorts of technology, to make jobs easier, to save lives, and to improve lives. People use coding to give computers and other machines instructions on what actions to perform. Further, we use it to program the websites, apps, and other technologies we interact with every day and in a variety of job settings. From artificial intelligence predicting future cancer to making new desserts, to controlling your home thermostat, here are a few ways coding impacts the world around us.

Coding is used in many professions including these entry level computer science jobs, as well as:

  • Computer programmer
  • Computer systems engineer
  • Web developer
  • Software application developer
  • Healthcare
  • Aviation
  • Music/Art
  • Industrial Manufacturing

Coding is used throughout the real-world in:

Is coding good for kids?

Yes, coding for kids is good. There are various reasons why. Already 2 million students have demonstrated "basic coding proficiency" on Code.org.

Tim Cook once said, "We think coding should be required in every school because it's as important as any kind of second language...It’s the language that everyone needs, and not just for the computer scientists. It’s for all of us."

“Creativity is the goal. Coding is just to allow that. Creativity is in the front seat; technology is in the backseat. It is sort of the blend with both of these that you can do such powerful things now.”

Coding for kids gives them valuable skills in life. According to the College Board, studying computer science is good preparation for 48 different college majors, including majors as diverse as Business Administration, Geology, Linguistics, and more. Beyond that, programming is a skill many adults are already seeking today.

According to CNBC, in August 2021, Monster polled workers throughout the United States to determine which skills workers felt they needed the most to bolster their resume. Training in technology skills such as coding, AI and machine learning topped the list.

“People are gravitating to these skills because these fields carry less risk, and are generally very popular and stable to build a long-term career off of, which people want after all the risk and ambiguity that’s happened in this pandemic job market,” said Joshua Daniel, a career coach and senior consultant at Korn Ferry. “Tech and computer skills are also a very easy differentiator on a resume.”

In fact, according to FunTech, the job market for software developers and computing programmers is set to grow 21 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Beyond preparing them for their future STEM careers, as kids learn to code they're exposed to a variety of logical thinking and reasoning skills, as well as pattern recognition, self-discovery, problem solving, intrinsic motivation, project management, and much more.

As children learn to code, they also get a lot of practice with communicating and developing their communication skills, as they present and explain their work to other students and teachers. And being able to communicate effectively is one of the most important life skills every kid needs to develop.

How do you explain coding to a child?

It's best to explain coding to a child through terms and examples they already know. For example, you can refer to a video game (the way they're able to tell their character what to do through their button pushing is similar to how they can command a computer with code); a recipe (the way they follow a recipe to make something is similar to how a computer follows instructions to create apps, websites, and more); or giving someone instructions on how to do something (in a similar way to how they'd help a lost child find their way back to their classroom is the way they can instruct a computer to complete a task).

Second, keep it as simple as possible. The definition for coding, and coding terms and buzzwords, can be hard to digest, so as kids continue learning, use words they are familiar with to explain the keywords. For example, a loop is "a sequence of instructions that is continually repeated until a certain condition is reached" is complex language. Explaining a loop is "something that happens until a certain status is reached", and then painting a visual picture for them: a loop is like when you repeatedly take a Pez candy from out of the candy dispensers mouth until all the candy is gone, can be helpful.

Lastly, make it fun and entertaining to keep them engaged! As they continue to learn more about coding, let them know all the ways coding impacts life around them. And, provide challenges, and help them build all sorts of games.

Ways to get started with coding for kids

There are many fun ways to get started with coding for kids, including variety of online classes, apps, and games  - there are even free coding classes for kids! We have rounded up a few of our favorite ways to begin here.

What is a coding class?

A coding class teaches children to code with instruction from a teacher. Typically the teacher introduces a concept to the students, and then has them put the concept into practice through a fun project. Some coding classes are in-person, while others are online. Certain online classes are on-demand meaning they're recorded like a video and you can watch them anytime. Others are live, meaning the instructor and children can speak to each other via Zoom, and learn as they go together.

Create & Learn's award-winning coding classes are interactive, instructor-led sessions that offer a live video experience to set every child up for success. Teachers use an inquiry-based method of learning, ensuring children not only can repeat the concepts but truly understand them, and can put them into practice.

Discover the best coding for kids

1. Begin with Scratch

Developed by MIT, Scratch is an excellent platform to get started with coding. It allows students to program their own interactive stories, games, and animations. It is used by tens of millions of learners around the world. For example, here are some fun Scratch projects for kids your child can try, or ScratchJr project ideas (if they're younger than grade 2).

2. Try a class

One of the most popular classes to begin with is Scratch coding for kids (there's even a free introduction session!). But there are many options, so no matter your child's interests they'll find something they love, from robotics to Artificial Intelligence, game development, digital design, and beyond. Check out the best coding classes for kids to get started.

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3. Explore challenges on coding websites

Code.org is a great free online coding site for children. Their event, Hour of Code, is an annual worldwide event with hundreds of millions of students participating, and is a great opportunity to give coding a go. The site offers fun tutorials to get started with just one hour of coding. Here are a few of the other best coding websites for kids to check out.

Coding apps for kids

You can also begin with a few handy coding apps for kids:

1. Kodable: Kodable lets your kids play and create their own games, and features content suitable for all age levels.

2. Hopscotch: Learn to code and make your own games with Hopscotch.

3. LightBot: LightBot is a puzzle-game based on coding; it secretly teaches you programming logic as you play.

4. Thunkable: Thunkable is the platform where anyone can build their own mobile apps.

Interested in making your own apps? Get started with our fun coding mobile apps class, or a simple step-by-step free tutorial for making your first mobile game.

Free online coding resources

To help students practice and master the learning of coding after you get started, there are plenty of free online coding resources to turn to including:

1. CS First: CS First is an excellent Scratch curriculum created by Google.

2. Khan Academy: They offer computer science lessons in the form of instructional videos and exercises. Their coding materials mostly cover HTML and Javascript which is not for beginners. However, the materials on general computing such as algorithms, Internet, and cybersecurity are well designed and offers rich learning.

3. W3Schools: This is an excellent site for advanced learners. The site started with step-by-step content for learning web focused technologies such as HTML and JS, and has expanded to include almost all popular languages such as Python and Java.

Now you know all about coding for kids

So, now that you have learned more about what coding for kids is all about, why wait? Get started today! Turn screen time into productive time, while your child learns lifelong skills and creates something they're proud of today — and forever. Give Create & Learn's free Scratch Ninja class a go - there's no risk in trying.

Up next, jump right into the learning fun and find out how to make a ball bounce in Scratch.

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Written by Amanda Hendrix, a Create & Learn instructor with 10 years of teaching experience. She also holds a Masters in Educational Leadership, and a BS in Elementary Education.