Preschoolers coding? Most adults find that hard to believe as they’re still trying to figure out how their smartphones and tablets work (how do you actually power down?!) But coding classes for kids have entered the mainstream and can (and should) actually start with the preschool age group.
A little bit about coding. So what exactly is it? It’s the various computer languages that are used to make applications, websites and software. It is considered by many to be the global language of the next generation. By the time our preschoolers graduate college, the bulk of the professional careers will likely have some relation to coding and those who don’t understand it at all risk being left behind.
There’s a real push in the U.S. to incorporate coding courses in schools at younger ages. Like any language, the younger a child is when they are exposed, the easier it is for them to learn and become more fluent in that language. Yep, it’s the new Spanish. The organization code.org created the “Hour of Code” program that launched last year with the goal of getting school-age kids to spend some time with the basics of coding. Thousands of schools across the country participated with millions of kids having their first try at creating with code.
But back to preschoolers and coding. While we’ve talked in the past about the importance of limiting screen time, there are some cases when screen time is important. This is one of them. There are many programs available to help expose kids as young as preschool to coding exercises. This allows kids to not just interact with a computer or tablet, but to actually create something in the environment.
One of the better programs for kids this young is Scratch Jr. (www.scratchjr.org). This is an iPad and Android based program that allows kids to start coding immediately using the building block system. Kind of like Legos for computer programming. While it doesn’t require the kids to know the specific languages, it introduces the concepts of process and flow, action and reaction. By putting the blocks together, kids can make characters move, dance, sing, etc. It provides an immediate gratification for the kids and allows them to create the action. A program like Scratch Jr. is carefully designed to match a youngsters various areas of development so is a safe place to start.
The beauty of programs like this for parents is that they can spend time with their kids working through these fun building block games and while the kids are learning, the parents can get exposure too. You may not start a family app development company before Kindergarten, but it will put everyone on the right path to becoming code literate.