Coding for kids

Code. It’s what makes our technological world go ‘round, and what schools and educators encourage our kids learn. But unless you’re a computer programmer yourself you likely won’t know too much about the world of coding.

At its simplest, coding is a list of instructions given to computers to make them do what we want, and it’s used to create software, games, apps, websites and more. Logan City Council, which runs free coding sessions for kids across Logan City Council libraries, describes coding to kids as writing a language that a piece of technology can understand. 

“When you learn any new language, it takes a while. You need to practice to get better, and be prepared to make some mistakes,” says Steven Swenson, councillor and chair of the City Lifestyle and Community Committee.

If your child has expressed an interest in learning to code, you might be curious about how to nurture their curiosity, and to learn about the benefits that coding can bring. We asked Cr. Swenson, who oversees Logan City Council Libraries’ coding programs, for a few words of advice.

At what age can kids begin coding? 

Cr. Swenson says there’s no hard and fast rule. Instead, keep in mind your child’s interest level, your own readiness to help them explore the appropriate tools, and your decision about what age they should be exposed to screens. 

“Think of coding like reading,” he says. “You don’t expect a young child to pick up a book and just start reading without a lot of prior experience exploring books, letters, words and songs by adults. Coding is the same,” he explains. 

“There are many pre-coding skills that children need before they can start coding comfortably and with confidence. These include directional language, problem solving skills and exposure to technology.” 

What are some of the benefits of coding?

“We live in a technologically rich world and to avoid becoming passive users of content, children need to be able to function and create in this digital world,” Cr. Swenson says.

Add to this the fact that coding skills are creeping into more and more professions outside of traditional roles. While the skill is handy in a long-term career context, it also teaches important life skills such as problem solving, resilience and “failing successfully”.

“Good coders will test, revise and learn from their mistakes,” Cr. Swenson says. “The ability to successfully create solutions is a skill in itself. Young people also often learn leadership skills as coding sessions encourage a coaching atmosphere where everybody helps one other to explore and learn.”

What does the process of coding actually look like?

We often imagine code as long indecipherable strings of numbers and letters but Swenson explains that coding can be text based, block based or graphical. “The type used is dependent on the age, experience and needs of children,” he says. “We [at the libraries] offer different tools and robots that you can code using a combination of all three types of coding.” Graphical coding (picture-based) and block-based coding (pre-formed blocks of instructions) are easier ways of introducing the skill before kids move into text-based coding languages.

How long before my kid becomes a coding genius?

We often hear stories of tiny coding geniuses like Anvitha Vijay, who began coding at age seven and attended Apple's Annual Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco at age nine. If your young child is passionate about coding and learning more, they’ll likely pick up the skill very quickly. “Young people are amazing with how fast they learn,” says Swenson. “Their brains are designed to learn new languages. Coding is just another language.”

Logan City Council Libraries offer a number of free digital literacy workshops. Coding is currently offered via the Coding Club, Tech for Kids and RoboCreations sessions for young adults. Dedicated coding classes are also available for primary-aged children. For more information, enquire at your local library or visit www.loganlibraries.org. 

And be sure to check out Hyperdome’s technology-themed events for kids, happening these school holidays Game On