Teaching Children to code

Today young children are growing up in a technology-driven world with mobile phones, laptop, YouTube, WeChat, and Facebook. Many toys are now small computers, some are programmable, such as Legos and Robots. It is easy to play with these technologies but to understand the logic behind them, children need to learn to code. By knowing how to code, children will understand the science and technology behind these toys better.

Today all students must be able to understand and use technology so they can actively participate in this digital world. Just like in the past, students must know how to read and write, now they need to know how to code. Since many parents want their children to learn how to code, some sending them to coding school at an early age. It may work and it may not because some children may like it when others do not. There is a better solution since coding should not be forced upon young children, I suggest that parents make coding a family ‘s fun activity between them and their children to develop this useful skills.

There are many ways to make computer programming a fun activity but I recommend that parents use Microsoft’s MakeCode as activities that they can teach their children from their home computer: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/makecode?rtc=1

These activities are available for different skill levels and come with in-depth tutorials so your children can advance from the basic to the more difficult activities at their own pace.

Another option is Scratch, a creative-learning activity created by the MIT Media Lab: https://scratch.mit.edu/

Scratch has fun activities such as programming your own interactive stories, games, and animations where children will have the chance to share their creations with others and ask questions if they get stuck anywhere. Online communities give children opportunities to share their work with other children all over the world.

Some parents ask me when would be the best age for children to learn to code? I believe that young children around four or five can learn how to code but it should be an activity where both parents and children enjoy together. By “outsource” the learning to a computer without parents’ supervision could be a disaster because young children do not know how to distinguish a good software and a bad one such as malware, virus or even a stranger who could contact and manipulate children.

Learning how to code at an early age should be a family activity where children learn and demonstrate their skills to the parents. Learning how to code is like learning a new language in that the skill must be practiced and tested out. Just as languages open up the ability to communicate with other people, coding also allows children the ability to create things that they can enjoy such as drawing, making music, building things and designing things. Basically, coding gives children the confidence that they can be successful in the future as software engineers, architects, and scientists etc.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University