Times are a changing and this is increasingly more so with the advent of digitalisation and how commonplace technology is in our everyday lives. Instead of the usual art classes and music lessons, coding classes have become more prevalent. However, that’s not to say that that is the only way to teach coding to your little ones. Mummy-of-two Thanh Tuyen shares her journey towards embracing coding and teaching it to her little ones on codewithmom.com, and she tells Mummyfique why kids can pick up coding from a young age.
Mummyfique: How did you start your coding journey?
Thanh Tuyen: Before anyone thinks that I’m a techie or a developer, let me first say that I’m not. I didn’t take computer science classes when I was young, and the closest I came to the world of programming was when I tried to make some changes to a website.
It was only later on in life as a lawyer in France who was working mainly with start-ups that I became interested and amazed by what you can do when you know how to use technology. If you know how to code, whatever you can imagine, you’ll be able to build.
What spurred you to introduce it to your children?
Like most people, I thought that coding was a grown-up thing, but I came to realise kids can learn how to code through games and it can enhance their creativity.
I was initially resistant as I had not wanted my daughters to be glued to computer screens, having read a lot about the negative effects it can have on a child’s development. However, after watching a video that explained how coding can help our kids to be an active learner and not an only passive consumer of technology, my opinion starting changing. I realised that coding is a way for them to take advantage of the technology and make them creators instead of consumers of technology.
How did you start introducing coding to your daughters?
We started to learn code during our family time when my girls were four and six years old. What I tried to ensure was that my daughters didn’t have unsupervised screen time as I didn’t want them to try to figure out how to learn to code by themselves, even if it was a game.
They were quite excited to learn to code as I chose an app that aims to introduce coding to young children through storytelling by making characters move, jump, dance and sing, just by dragging and dropping programming blocks. Though it sometimes seemed like they were playing a game rather than learning to code, they were doing so by logic.
My daughters enjoy coding as they love having the power to create animated stories and program objects like robots. In their words, ‘it is great to see what they have in mind becoming real.’
Understanding how programming and computer work can also help them to understand our world better. Kids always ask why and how this or that thing works, and with coding, they seem to better understand how everything is now connected to one another.
Learning to code has also improved my elder daughter’s confidence as she feels empowered to show what she knows to others and teach her friends what she knows.
What were some of the challenges in teaching your kids to code?
Today, there are plenty of resources available regarding coding for kids, and they are quite intuitive. However, the challenge is to pick the right one that will help you to progress along your journey. It’s easy to get lost in all these games, apps, and websites which want to introduce coding to kids. Hence I started my website to share my experiences with others and hopefully steer them along an easier path. Even with the available resources, preparing suitable resources can be time-consuming, but I think it’s well worth the effort.
I’m also learning to balance managing their screen time and wanting them to learn how to code. With screen time, it can be tricky as it is addictive and I have to watch even myself at times.
What are some essentials of introducing young children to coding?
When introducing coding to kids, you should make it a creative and fun activity, especially for young children. Start by introducing them to visual programming via a game where they can express their creativity and see the results of their programming.
Unplugged games, such as board games, are also another one of my favourite ways to teach coding to kids. It shows them the logic behind programming, and you don’t need to use electronics to teach them.
Why should parents introduce coding to their kids?
As Steve Jobs said, you “need to learn how to program because it teaches you how to think”.
Today’s children are born in a world where technology is everywhere, and having knowledge of coding will do them good. Not every kid will need to know coding to be a developer, but they will need to know how it works.
Learning how to code is like learning a new language. The younger you start, the easier for you to learn.
Coding also teaches problem-solving, helps kids to visualise abstract concepts and teaches kids to become an active creator with technology instead of just being a passive consumer.
Thanh Tuyen is a mum to two girls and she is passionate about introducing them to the world of coding at a young age. She shares her findings and coding journey at codewithmom.com.