We all know the importance of getting our child to be passionate about something. How many of us are hopeful that they learn to play a musical instrument, or learn to paint? While doing well in school is great, there is value in learning things beyond what is provided in the school curriculum. This is because hobbies can boost self-confidence and open doors to future careers, while giving children the chance to make new life-long friends.
In recent years, parents have been encouraging their kids to take up hobbies beyond the usual. Learning coding has become the rage, as evidenced by the proliferation of private coding classes all over the country. The interest for coding has been fuelled by the growth of companies like Facebook, Google and WhatsApp. But what is coding, and what benefits does it bring?
According to Code Conquest, a free online guide to coding, coding makes it possible for people to create apps, software, and websites.
The ubiquity of products created though coding has led to an increase of tech related jobs. In the US alone, the need for professionals who can code will balloon by 22 per cent in 2020, according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics. With this in mind, many parents are pushing their kids to learn it -— some even as early as four!
The “Hour of Code” campaign run by Code.Org in the US was endorsed by Ashton Kutcher, Barack Obama, Shakira, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and many more celebrities, and encouraged kids to learn how to code. It resulted more than 25 million students writing more than 1 billion lines of code in less than a week.
Here in Singapore, coding is becoming popular. It was reported in an article earlier this year that the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) plans to introduce software programming classes into public schools, giving students an opportunity to write code in class.States to bring coding to kids in schools, spearheaded the Asia campaign for
Just last week, Microsoft, inspired by the efforts of code.org in the US, brought the same movement to Asia. The aim? To make code the official second language of Asia-Pacific, with the online catchphrase #WeSpeakCode. An Asia celebrity video featuring Singapore celebrities Stefanie Sun and Dr Jia Jia was launched, and Microsoft opened its offices for a day to let members of the public try out an hour of code.
We spoke with two parents who have encouraged their kids to study coding. These parents say that there are numerous benefits from learning coding: that it’s a fun activity —- and that it can also be quite addictive!
Develops Problem-Solving Skills
Nancy Lim is the mother of four kids. She homeschools her two older sons who are eight and six years old. She has seen first-hand how interesting coding can be. As a student at the National University of Singapore (NUS), she studied C++ and object-oriented programming. She has also seen the multi-faceted nature of coding: how it brings together math, design and music to create something new. When the opportunity arose to train her sons for a coding competition called ::codeXtremeApps::, she knew that it would be fun and a great learning opportunity for her sons.
Says Nancy, “Coding is a discipline that hones problem-solving skills. It also teaches the children mathematics in a very fun and hands-on way. They get immediate feedback when their logic is wrong. At the same time, they learn how to be patient. Coding allows them to make something, to create a product that can be useful or fun for others and for themselves.”
Coding also harnesses an eye for design. “When they have to draw the scene or character, it allows them to develop an aesthetic eye for colour and proportion,” says Nancy. “It also gives them a chance to imagine a story and see it come to ‘life’ on a computer screen.”
Bonding With Other Kids
As the head of the finance team of a noted company, Henry Chan has worked with programmers. This has led him to believe that coding is something that his daughters, Charlene, eight, and Celine, four, can enjoy doing and will learn quickly.
He was right—the girls learned how to code in half a day. Henry saw how his passionate his daughters are about technology and thought they would enjoy being part of ::codeXtremeApps::
Henry signed the girls up for the competition. This was initially met with resistance by his wife, who thought they were too young to compete. But Henry thought the girls were more than capable. “My children love to learn about new technology; age was not a barrier for them.”
So far, his daughters have been consistently joining competitions and are using their knowledge to create things they love. “They have used their knowledge to create games, greeting cards and storybooks. My children are proud of all their projects and I love their greeting cards,” says Henry proudly. The girls have also used their knowledge to help their friends. “My elder daughter has taught her classmates how to create blogs.”
Other than “hard skills”, learning coding and participating in competitions have contributed to the development of his daughters’ character. “Both of my children are more creative and confident. They have matured emotionally. They can think through and find a way to solve and hurdle challenges,” he said.
Having Fun Together
Both parents have witnessed how much fun their kids are having when coding. They encourage other parents to expose their children to the benefits of coding and let them enjoy the process.
“My advice is to let your children have fun and learn,” says Henry. “Let them create and support them. Be a guiding beacon. Listen to them when they share their achievements and frustrations.”
While guiding them, parents should also give them the opportunity to learn things on their own, according to Nancy. The right combination of being supportive and letting kids think and solve programming challenges on their own will lead them to enjoy programming —- and reap its benefits.
To know more about ::codeXtremeApps:: and to join, please check http://www.codextremeapps.org/. Contestants with little or no background on coding can join training sessions.