Many studies have shown that the earlier a parent exposes their child to the fundamentals of programming, the easier it will be for them to grasp interdisciplinary technical concepts later in life. According to a study by The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), almost 75% of people polled agreed that students should learn to code starting in elementary school. Many agree that learning a programming language is very similar to learning an actual language: the earlier, the better.
Some children as young as the age of 2 are able to engage with educational platforms such as Scratch or Blockly, though others need to be older to properly comprehend the concepts needed to complete given challenges. This is largely dependant on the child’s individual traits, particularly their current stage of cognitive development and innate problem solving abilities.
The next generation of workforce will undoubtedly need to be computer literate in order to be employable. It is generally thought that in the near future, not knowing how to code will be comparable to not knowing how to read. Parents should direct their child’s education with this in mind. Learning to program at a young age does not necessarily mean the child has to move into a career as a programmer – knowing how to program demonstrates a basic understanding of a language’s underlying computational logic, a skill which will benefit them in many areas later in their career.
There are a huge amount of both free and paid courses available online that aim to help familiarise children with the core concepts of programming. Many of these courses are ‘gamified’, and are designed to be both challenging and fun. The important thing is to associate learning with fun and allow the child to learn at their own pace. Moderate use of technological devices, balanced with other social activities is key to familiarise children with useful technical concepts in a healthy, meaningful way.