A few days ago we celebrated the International Children’s Day in many countries around the globe – including Poland. We wanted to honor this occasion with a special article on our blog. The idea was simple – let's tell our readers how to teach kids to code! Soon enough we realized that it’s not as simple as it sounds.
We did a quick survey among our teammates – some of them having children, some not. It became clear that we all agree on the necessity to support children and help them discover the world. But we also agreed there’s no point in forcing kids to take up any type of activity they’re not interested in.
At that moment, we realized that what we really want to say is not how to teach children to code – but how to teach them to be curious. We’ll try to share some brief reflections on the topic in this article – and maybe start a discussion!
Kids nowadays are exposed to technology very early – definitely earlier than we did. Even when parents limit their child’s time with smartphone, tablet or computer, the exposure is considerable. However, the time spent using various devices doesn’t equal proficiency with technology nor an interest in STEM disciplines. No matter how much we wish we raised future engineers, we really can’t force children to get interested in tech. Of course, we have the best of intentions – we want them to be successful in the future, to choose the right career path and get a good job... But if we want to teach our kids to code in order to make sure they’ll get well-paid jobs in the future, then we’re not getting the point at all!
We can’t make our children choose a certain career – and we shouldn’t force them to fulfill our dreams. They have their own dreams and our role is to help them see all the possibilities and discover their strengths. Through this, we can raise people who are able to use their full potential and get a fulfilling job – not only in IT.
The future is unknown. It really is! Given the current pace, the tech world will be advancing very quickly, and even though there are some trends and tendencies, we can’t be 100% sure what the upcoming decades will bring. Therefore, coding shouldn’t be the goal by itself – it should be just one of the means we can use to help our children develop some essential life skills. The future-proof ones, that will help them achieve what they dream of, no matter what kind of career they choose. Kids are born explorers, always touching and breaking things, asking why and how. These qualities – if developed, not forgotten – are the best investment in the child’s future.
That’s also why we should treat “teaching to code” more as applying a certain way of thinking to the child's everyday life. Why does the screen of the smartphone shine? How it’s constructed? Why the characters in the game move? How do they know what to play next on my Youtube playlist? Kids love asking questions. Let’s boost their curiosity and show them it’s fun!
Almost everything can be turned into a code-puzzle. Let’s take domestic chores. Does the room need cleaning? Let’s set the goal: a clean room. What are the steps we need to take to achieve it? Make a detailed list. Now, what happens if we change the order of some of the steps? What if we get rid of one of them? What if we add something more?
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it, developers? Such an approach to any kind of everyday task can help your kid to develop essential problem-solving and logical thinking skills and encourage him/her to ask questions and try to do things differently. It all leads to learning by doing – which is clearly the most effective way of learning!
Allowing your kid to experiment can boost their self-reliance, confidence and creativity. Combining logic with intuition, they’ll learn that they can build things, break and fix them. They’ll learn how to divide a big problem into small steps and turn small achievements into a big successful project. They’ll be able to develop critical thinking – look for shortcuts and improvements, test different solutions, ask themselves why a certain thing is done like that and how can it be done better.
All these skills are a big plus when you want to be a software engineer, but they’re equally useful in any type of career – or any life role! And we dare to say they’re much more valuable than a comprehensive knowledge about a specific programming language syntax.