Benefits of Teaching Coding For Kids
Gone are visions of blissful childhoods spent jumping in fields and playing in pastures; for many kids nowadays, green grass has been replaced with digital screens.
The effect of screens on children
Researches have shown that children between ages 3 and 8 spend four hours and 36 minutes of daily “screen time.” And as much as technology advocates argue on the importance of technology in teaching children the necessary skills such as math, literacy, and coding, it doesn’t mean having them spend %33.3 of their time awake on screen. The WHO recommends limiting screen time to ages between 2 and 5 to a maximum of 1 hour per day. The National Institute of Health conducted a study that found that excessive exposure to screen leads to weakening the brain’s cortex. The cortex is the outer surface of the brain (grey matter); it is involved in complex brain functions in kids, such as language and information processing, as well as critical thinking and reasoning. Damage to it may cause initial cognitive, sensory, and emotional difficulties. According to Michelle Roberts, a health editor in BBC News online, a Canadian study that tracked around 2,500 2-year-olds found that a lot of screen-time may delay the children’s skills development of language and sociability.
In research done to study the effects of constant on-screen time on the social and emotional development for kids, Jenny Radesky, Clinical Instructor in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, published her team’s findings, urging parents to the importance of increasing direct human to human interaction with their offspring. She argued how empathy and problem-solving skills, as well as elements of social interaction, are always learned during unstructured playtime and communication with peers and surroundings, questioning whether the use of smartphones and tablets could interfere or hinder this development process.
The importance of hands-on play
Several hands-on, creative projects and games allow kids to learn while also interacting with their surroundings. The screen may constrain some aspects of the kids’ development by limiting their interests and sense of exploration and learning. Let’s ask ourselves this question, what’s better than learning the basic building blocks of coding, without being glued to a computer screen?
For children between the ages of three and four years old, learning through play is not something new. Hands-on (kinesthetic) learning is even better, and open-ended play should be part of it. At this age, children begin to learn cause and effect, so creating sequences that relate to things they know well can help them start thinking of logic and programming in a new way, one that is completely screen-free.
For instance, playing with building blocks may help a toddler more with early math skills than interactive electronic gadgets. “These devices may replace the hands-on activities and their importance in the development of sensorimotor and visual-motor skills, that are equally as important for the learning and application of math and science,” Radesky also mentioned.
Abstraction is difficult for very young children, but there are several aspects of coding that can be taught to children as young as three and four like algorithms, logic, tinkering, and debugging. In addition, by the time a child turns five or six, we can start to teach abstraction, prediction, sequencing, programming, and repetition. Young children also use many physical activities in their learning process, so hands-on exercises, toys, and other interactive experiences are the perfect conduit to teaching the basics of coding without using screens.
Benefits of learning coding and computational thinking for children
- Establishing the foundations of coding, the language of the future
- Ensuring sensory and motor development
- Nurturing creativity
- Teaching the art of problem-solving
- Improving algorithmic, sequential, and computational thinking skills
- Enhancing persistence and concentration
- Building social skills and interpersonal relationships
- Enhancing critical thinking skills
- Developing analytical skills and logical thinking without resorting to a screen
- Adding fun and entertainment
Tips on reducing screen-time
According to Michelle Roberts, the American Association of Pediatrics’ (AAP) guidelines suggest limiting the number of rooms providing media and screens in the house (such as removing them from bedrooms). It is also suggested to increase family time screen-free.
Experts also recommend avoiding using screens before sleeping. Not only does it harm the children’s eyes, but also it’s important to let their brains “wind down” before sleeping. This is applied to adults as well.
Michelle Roberts, Health editor, BBC News online, retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/health-47026834