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Learning coding at an early age is becoming a priority for parents and educators alike. With research suggesting learning coding at young ages can improve mathematical conceptualization, problem-solving and social skills, the benefits of teaching children coding is clear. And because of that, coding has become a critical part of efforts to prepare students for future college and career readiness.

At What Age Can Children Begin Learning to Code?

Parents and educators are often surprised by how early children can begin learning coding skills. While many resources suggest coding skills can’t begin until ages 6 or 7, the reality is that early coding skills can begin as early as 3 or 4 years old.

While a toddler isn’t necessarily ready to learn HTML or JavaScript, they can practice many of the important tools and thought processes that they’ll later use for coding. When a student is older, around 5 or 6 years old, they can begin building upon these introductory skills, eventually mastering actual coding languages as young as 7 to 9 years old.

Coding Activities for Toddlers

For toddlers, learning coding skills is more about building early skills that will support coding processes down the road. In almost all cases, they can be performed “unplugged,” or without a computer, and don’t require a massive amount of effort–or expert knowledge–by the parent or caregiver.

These activities can be an important learning opportunity for toddlers not only because they help support future coding skills, but also because they help to develop problem-solving skills and neural networks in general.

Here are some coding fundamentals a toddler can learn:

  • Pattern Recognition. Pattern recognition is an important part of computational thinking, algorithmic thinking, and coding as a whole. The ability to identify patterns will empower a child with increased problem-solving skills now and in the future. For toddlers, this can be as easy as identifying patterns of blocks or other toys (red square, blue triangle, red square, blue triangle), practicing patterns in toddler workbooks, or even around town with parents or caregivers.
  • Steps in Order. A preliminary skill to algorithmic thinking, learning how to perform steps in order (and, eventually, how to determine and communicate steps in order) is a gateway skill to learning algorithmic thinking, which is an important coding fundamental. This can be introduced with a daily schedule, story sequencing or following an age-appropriate Lego set.
  • Building Cause & Effect. Building a marble track (with parental supervision, of course), obstacle course or a toy car race track can be a great way to teach cause and effect, as well as the process of building this cause and effect. Toddlers will learn what happens when certain pieces go together, can practice “debugging” if a result is different than they hoped for, and adjust their building to test different routes and outcomes.

Teaching Coding in Preschool

By preschool, students have a little more cognitive awareness, problem-solving and listening skills to be able to try a little more challenging programming skills. One of the keys to this introduction to coding in preschoolers is to keep the activities fun, light and engaging. There are several coding toys on the market that preschoolers can enjoy, as well as simple activities preschoolers can do at home or in a preschool setting.

Teaching Coding in Kindergarten and Up

By kindergarten, it’s a good idea to engage in an early-learning coding education program to provide age-appropriate progression-based coding learning. This will typically start with fun and engaging block-based coding exercises and develop in complexity from there.

Final Thoughts

While actual coding practice may not happen until ages 6 or 7, early coding skills can be learned as early as ages 3 or 4, and can give students an important head-start in developing not only future coding skills, but also skills in problem-solving, cognitive development, communication and self-confidence that lay the foundation for decades of future success. Staff Writers Team

Staff Writers

Founded in 1999, provides educators with solutions to prepare their students with critical digital skills. Our web-based curriculum for grades K-12 engages students as they learn keyboarding, online safety, applied productivity tools, computational thinking, coding and more.

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