The Overlooked Benefits of Teaching Kids to Code

Most parents are aware of the potential career benefits of knowing how to code. Parents mistakenly believe that coding is something kids should begin doing in high school and college. Rarely is a parent or even educators aware of what coding is actually teaching. Most people only see a potential future career in the coding or tech sector. What are the overlooked benefits of teaching kids to code?

Explore how coding develops a child’s analytic and creative thinking, transforming them into a master problem solver.

I recommend starting your child’s coding education much earlier—as early as preschool—and I believe that every child should learn how to code. Coding literacy and education are about much more than just learning to code.

Coding teaches valuable problem-solving skills, which can help your child succeed in school and life.

The Art of Problem Solving: a blend of analytical and creative thinking is part of teaching kids to code.

Computer programming is, in essence, problem-solving. It requires two distinct types of mental skills: analytical and creative. Often people view analytical or logical thinking skills as convergent thinking. Sometimes there is a tendency to view creativity as a divergent type of thinking.

Analytical thinking requires someone to order a problem into logical steps. They analyze the problem by gathering data, observing the problem, and perform the action of fact-finding.

A coder’s thoughts and actions while analytically fact-finding involves:

  • Sketching out solutions.
  • Collaborating with others.
  • Looking at problems from all angles.
  • Narrowing the solutions down to a range of possibilities.
  • And finally — arriving at the most effective and plausible solution.

Creativity is the ability to perceive the world in new ways — this happens to the thought process during coding.

A coder’s thoughts and actions while creatively fact-finding involve:

  • Finding hidden patterns.
  • Making connections between things that are seemingly not related.
  • Generating solutions (which of these things is not like the others?).

Creativity is a crucial complement to analytical skills for problem-solving capabilities.

The creativity key allows us to produce a volume of ideas that are possible — before narrowing “potentials” down to one or two solutions. Many people believe that they are not creative because they aren’t artistic. This is a myth because everyone is born creative.

Creativity is a skill that can be developed over time and is developed in coding — especially with children. At the Stanford design school, there is a virtual crash course that teaches people to change their mindset through a series of workshops.

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Everyone can learn to be creative by:

  • Experimenting.
  • Questioning assumptions.
  • Learning to tolerate uncertainty.
  • Learning to tolerate ambiguity.

Both analytical and creative thinking can be learned, and coding is a great, fun way to do it. Even better, coding can teach kids how to develop solutions to real-world problems. Kids (and adults, by the way) can learn by engaging in meaningful and practical (not just theoretical) problem-solving.

Other overlooked benefits of problem-solving through learning to code.

As an example, let’s examine the steps you would follow if you wanted to build a social media app for blind people.

You start by gathering data and analyzing the challenges and limitations a blind person faces. What are their specific needs? Be factual, objective, and empathize with the user — (the person that suffers the problem). Why are the existing solutions not suitable? In what ways do the current social networks fail to solve their needs?

Believe it or not, a kid will come up with more thought provoking ideas than you will.

In coding you practice active listening and dig into the audience you’re trying to solve the problem for.

Next, you go to the drawing board and generate a list of possible solutions. Brainstorm and try to wear the hat of the person whose needs you are trying to meet. As a blind person — what is essential? As a blind person — what can potentially help you reach your friends or stay connected?

Now it is time to evaluate the best solution. This time is dedicated to including discussions, collaboration, and testing the solution with the users (in this case — the blind persons).

The best answer isn’t necessarily your favorite thought; instead, it’s the “possibilities” that generate the most positive feedback from your users. You also must accept that your user will know more than you do about a subject.

Moving to implement any plan? This step involves the actual coding of the solution.

  • Break down the problem again.
  • Think through each step of the application screens.
  • What does the user require at each input point?
  • Evaluate the application as you go.
  • Will this solve a problem?
  • Where? How?
  • Make sure it solves the problem.
  • You make sure by running a test.
  • Obtain customer feedback
  • Do your surveys asking what the user thinks.
  • Follow through with your users.
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This example shows how analytical and creative thinking skills are woven into coding.

  1. In the first step, you must gather and analyze data and do research.
  2. In the second, you must generate a list of potential solutions and put yourself in the shoes of a blind person, which is an act of creativity.
  3. In the third step, you are again analyzing, narrowing down your solution or solutions. And all this is before we even reach the actual coding step.

The act of coding in itself is both creative and analytical.

When you code, you must construct the code and fit the various pieces together according to specific rules of logic—analytic-thinking.

There are many different ways to do the actual thinking. You must draw on your creative thinking to come up with the most efficient ways to achieve what you want.

Don’t overlook the benefit of being a creative problem-solver.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) The Future of Jobs report, problem-solving, creativity, and critical thinking are some of the most important job skills to have both now and in the future.

Creative problem solvers are needed in nearly every industry. By teaching your child to code — you open up countless doors for them — in far more than just the tech industry.

For more advice on the benefits of coding education for kids, you can find First Time Coders on Amazon.

Michelle Sun

Michelle Sun

Michelle Sun is the founder and CEO of First Code Academy, a coding and STEM education institute for children aged 4 to 18. She is a certified Master Trainer for coding education by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she is also a visiting instructor at their Computer Science Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL). Born and raised in Hong Kong, Michelle graduated from the University of Chicago and the inaugural class of Hackbright Academy, a coding bootcamp in San Francisco. She was named as one of the Forbes 30 Under 30 and BBC 100 Influential Women.

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