how early is too early to start programming?

Exposing kids to coding is a great idea. But it's important not to force them into programming as a career while they're still young.
coding kid

According to an MIT Tech Review blog, toddlers will soon be learning programming with a tutorials designed to emulate simple games. Who would possibly want to do that to a child and don’t they know that children will learn best from face to face interaction with others rather than a blinking computer screen? Luckily, as one of the readers pointed out, the project is actually targeting kids in preschool at the youngest, but there’s still a very serious question about whether it’s really appropriate to teach five year olds how to code. This isn’t to say that kids can’t learn how to program, but considering that the vast majority of them are still studying what we’d consider basic literacy, it would be quite a feat for them to start studying a fully fledged, practical language. My first lines of C++ were written at 13 and most programmers I know started learning how to code in their early teens or so. This is generally an age range in which you move past the basics and become so familiar with a computer that you start wondering how it works and if you can bend it to do your bidding with some code.

Of course a kid knowing how to write some basic code isn’t a bad thing by any means because the child has rudimentary skills that can later be expanded into a profession. But it won’t give him or her much if those new skills aren’t repeated and expanded day in, day out. Syntax is forgotten if not used on a constant basis. Once simple and straightforward IDEs evolve or fall into disuse to be replaced by new ones. Learning a little coding here and there, then not using it for several years has the same effect as not learning it at all. The kids would have to relearn it next time they try to write a program and if they don’t want to be programmers, you might well do the equivalent of dooming them to a high tech version of cello or violin lessons against their will if you push too hard or try to decide that they should go into IT because it’s a booming industry when they still don’t know who what they really want to pursue. Certainly you can give curious kids some exposure and see if they like it, but keep in mind that they may not want to go beyond their initial introduction, and you may never see any gain in their math scores or start a lifetime of passion with computers which will lead to gainful employment.

# tech // education / kids / programming


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