Coding for kids is on the rise. In the last few years coding camps, after-school programs, and classes for kids of a wide range of ages have become increasingly popular. While learning to code may seem like a daunting task, especially for younger grade-schoolers, in reality, it’s not so different from learning another subject in school. Plus, coding can be lots of fun to learn in the right setting.
STEAM classes and coding camps teach kids valuable technical skills while providing opportunities for teamwork relevant in and out of the classroom. Coding also gives kids a chance to learn more about a field they otherwise wouldn’t have available to them until an older age. Whether it’s an afterschool program or takes place during the summer, coding camps for kids offer a great opportunity for your child to learn skills they can use their entire lives.
What is Coding for Kids?
Coding for kids teaches children how to tell a computer to perform a certain task. Coding, or computer programming, involves a variety of different coding languages, each designed to communicate particular functions on a webpage, app, or another computer program. These languages are like the building blocks that make computers operate. When geared toward children, coding classes often involve creative games or puzzles, and a focus on a particular coding language, to make the experience more engaging and straightforward.
While this may sound complicated, in the same way that children are naturally able to pick up foreign languages due to increased neuroplasticity, so too can they learn to code readily.
In fact, coding has many parallels to a foreign language — both types of language involve basic rules, semantics (meaning), and pragmatics (context) in order to function. This logic-based nature of coding means, too, that kids can approach learning to code like learning a new video game. Coding classes for kids and coding camps are a great, introductory way to introduce children to a rapidly growing field of study that comes with many job opportunities and applications across disciplines.
What Age is Appropriate for My Child to Learn Coding?
Coding can be taught to children as young as five. This is because the basic concepts of coding are easily conveyed through games or activities that even young children can understand, like visual block interfaces. For slightly older kids, Minecraft coding classes or Roblox classes introduce concepts related to video games, such as 3D spatial manipulation and basic game creation.
While kids can learn to code at home on their own, coding camps online or in-person offer children a chance to work directly with a teacher in a small group setting where questions are more easily answered and teamwork is part of the curriculum. Coding camps also have a smaller student-to-teacher ratio, making it easier for teachers to explain concepts to their students.
What Does Coding Look Like?
Basic coding involves several main ideas. At its core, coding is related to cause and effect and communicating what functions the computer should carry out. Specific functions will vary depending on the programming language, as each language serves a different purpose, though there are some general overlaps that can help you more comprehensively understand what coding looks like.
Two fundamental concepts in coding are called Conditionals and While Loops. Conditionals are statements that tell the computer whether a certain condition is true or false. For example, a Conditional could dictate the situational action of a video game character, such as squatting when pressing a particular button or running slower in the rain. On the other hand, While Loops involve a repeated set of instructions under a specific set of conditions. They will perform this command until the condition becomes false and the instructions indicate otherwise. To use another video game example, plants would grow every time it was day, and then not during the night (i.e., the condition is true for growth during the daytime, and false during the night).
What are the Best Coding Languages for Kids?
The best coding language for your child depends on their age and if they’ve had any prior experience working with code. Below are a few sections breaking down some basic differences in programming skill levels that can help you determine the best fit for your child.
Basic Programming Skills
This level is for younger children who have little to no experience with programming. Classes at this stage will cover a programming language called Scratch. These classes are perfect for children as young as five to as old as seven or eight. Expect to learn through fun and engaging games that work visually, telling a story while teaching your child the coding language.
Moderate Programming Skills
Advanced Programming Skills
What are the Best Coding Camps for Kids?
There are several things parents should consider when trying to find the best coding camp for their children. For both in-person and online coding camps for kids, you’ll want to look out for smaller class sizes, experienced teachers, encouraging reviews, and good customer service. See below for a more complete breakdown of some reasons to consider an online or in-person coding camp for kids.
Online Coding Camps for Kids vs. In-Person
You might be wondering whether you should enroll your child in an online or an in-person coding camp. Partly, this depends on your child’s preferences and learning style. This also depends on your schedule, any time restraints, location, time of year, and so on.
Online Coding Camps for Kids
There are several benefits to child programmers learning to code at an online camp. Online private coding classes for kids are easily accessible, pose minimal to no time restraints, and can have flexible year-round availability. They keep your child engaged, involve personalized instruction, and come without geographic restrictions. Plus, parents won’t have to worry about coordinating pick-ups and drop-offs during rush hour. If there’s a really great coding camp for kids but it’s halfway across the country, for example, your child can still enroll and benefit from this new learning experience.
In-Person Coding Camps for Kids
As with online coding camps for kids, there are several benefits to opting for in-person coding courses for your kids. Summer coding camps for kids have become increasingly common, though coding camps may also be offered after school for a few weeks during the quarter or semester. Students benefit from in-person learning in that it’s easier for the instructor to help students and to answer questions, kids can work hands-on with robots or other tools not available over the computer, children can easily engage with their teachers and peers, and kids get to visit a new place and even make new friends.
Why Learn to Code?
Learning to code takes time, but brings with it many positive aspects for kids of all ages. Plus, STEM or STEAM graduates often have high-paying jobs out of college which are in increasingly high demand. The average salary for people working in technology and engineering fields is around $72,000, with an average starting salary out of college just over $60,000 in the United States.
Coding also helps kids improve their problem-solving, discipline, communication, organization, persistence, and collaboration skills within a technical and creative environment. Skills kids learn when coding can translate directly into their fields down the road, or serve as a fundamental knowledge base in other classes and areas of life. Even in more basic coding camps for kids, kids gain exposure to topics that often aren’t touched upon until high school or college. Whether your child wants to be an artist or an engineer, there are many opportunities for them to learn and grow in a positive direction by learning to code.
How to Get Your Child to Code
For starters, there’s a chance your child already has some knowledge of what coding entails and they may have an interest in learning more. If not, it helps to make coding relevant and fun. It can be hard to convince kids to explore unfamiliar subjects, though there are a variety of games and engaging projects that can be used to get your child off on the right foot. Entertaining game-based learning, involving Minecraft or other games your child already knows, keeps learning light and prevents it from becoming a mundane academic exercise. Besides the career and skill-based benefits, coding empowers children and instills a sense of creative freedom.