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Parents Guide: Coding for Kids 101



We’ve all been there: a blank slate can be a very scary and overwhelming roadblock and can lead to many questions. “Is coding good for my child? How will my child understand such a complex skill? My child is too young to code!

Doubts like these are understandable because you need the assurance that what your child is learning will pay off in the end. So, let's start with the basics.


What is coding for kids?


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Coding for kids refers to the opportunities available for children to get involved in coding. These opportunities aim to be fun and gamified to keep kids' young minds engaged. You might also hear coding referred to as "programming" or "computer programming."

And while it is difficult to imagine a child learning something so complex, if taught right, coding can be really beneficial for kids thanks to the many coding tutors, after-school programs, and toys.

Coding is not always the typical "computer science" that you or your children might instinctively avoid.

Coding is simply how we communicate with computers, and what we use to build and run websites, apps, games, and more.

This communication is carried out via many different languages, including:

  • Scratch: A visual, drag-and-drop coding experience

  • Python: Easy-to-read code that is great for beginners

  • Java: The language tested with the AP Computer Science exam

  • C++: Which is used to create software, code games, and more



Why is coding important for kids? Is Coding good for kids?

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Time has passed since the idea of coding for kids has really started to gain traction, yet we are still seeing STEM education stats like by 2025, 3.5 million STEM jobs will go unfilled. And others like 71% of all new jobs in STEM are in computing, but only 8% of STEM graduates are in Computer Science. People are still wondering if coding is hard to learn.

In other words, there are computer science jobs, lots of them—and jobs that pay very well. What’s even better is that it’s not just tech industry jobs that rely on coding.

It’s not just the jobs. But also the creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, communication, and other skills ripe for improvement as byproducts of kids learning to code.

So, kids should learn to code because:

  • Coders are in high demand

  • Coding provides a competitive advantage

  • Coding knowledge allows students better understand the world

  • Coding is fun and satisfying

  • Coding improves creativity

  • Coding improves problem-solving

  • Coding improves persistence

  • Coding improves collaboration

  • Coding improves communication



What are some definitions that will help you understand coding?


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Learning a new language is difficult because, without meaning, words are just random combinations of letters.

Thus, it’s not enough to just be able to pronounce something—you need to be able to understand what each word means in order to form a logical statement.

So, let’s dive into a few of the major terms your kids and teens are likely to encounter as they first embark upon their coding journey.


“Programming”


Does your child have a pet? Has your family tried to train that pet?

The goal being, of course, is that you reach a point where you give a command and the pet responds appropriately based on your instruction. “Sit.” “Stay.” “Rollover.”

When it comes time for your child to write a program or program, they are doing much of the same. They, as the “owner,” are communicating a set of commands to a computer, with the expectation that the computer will respond accordingly.

Of course, the difference here is that, instead of sternly vocalizing those instructions with a liver-flavored treat hidden in their hand, your child will be writing instructions in a programming language that kind of resembles familiar English, but has a few additional parameters and rules.

Yes, training a pet is difficult, but take comfort in the fact that if your child’s programming command is given correctly, the computer will always listen. Success with a pet could hinder upon the presence or absence of a nearby, pesky squirrel.

Programming is the foundation of robotics, video games, apps, computer graphics, and much more. And, every one of these programs is a set of instructions; a sequence of short commands, one after another, with programming used as the tool to write and disseminate those individual instructions.


“Programming language”


Based on the above, the crux of programming is the associated language. To converse with a computer, you need to speak in terms it understands.

First, think about the English language. We have words, but we also have punctuation. There are also different rules and guidelines around when you should use a particular form of a word, and when you should opt for another.

A programming language then is made up of its own vocabulary and set of rules—the difference is, each language is based on its own unique syntax (grammatical structure) and semantics (meaning).

And yes, “each” language—as in there are multiple programming languages; each with their own rules and use cases.


“Scratch programming”


We started by defining programming and then talking about what a programming language is.

While there are many, many other coding terms to define, it’s useful to take a look at a term like Scratch programming, which represents a big piece of what your child might encounter as they’re first getting started.

Scratch is an MIT-developed graphical programming language, based on drag-and-drop programming basics so kids can easily create interactive stories, comics, and more.

Scratch programming is popular for kids because instead of using lines of code, youth users learn through colorful command coding blocks and cartoon sprites. This means that without typing a single line of code, kids can get their feet wet with programming statements and computational ideas, and begin to test their limits of creative thinking in order to problem-solve.


How do you start teaching kids to code?


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With each of the above examples, success follows a clear process. Sure, some of us are going to be more naturally gifted in certain areas than others, but either way, we all must start at step one.

So, what is that step one when teaching kids to code, or, to introduce kids to coding?

The foundational tip through all of this is to try as much as you can to connect the dots between already-established areas of familiarity and coding so that kids can readily see how different pieces of the world around us fit together and are brought to life through coding.


Getting your child to code can take one of many paths.

So, let’s start by focusing on moving in one direction—forward. It doesn’t have to be a giant leap, and you don't have to be the one tasked with teaching coding. In fact, per the above, it should really only be a small step for now.


At Chapter X Academy the important thing is that with each move, your child experiences progress.

If you are still unsure about your child learning how to code and would like to know more, book a call with our founder at this link. Chapter X Academy offers a Level zero course that helps you determine what language is best suited for your child to learn.

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