Have You Taught Your Children to Code?

Title says it all really. Have you taught your kids to code/program? How did it go? How old were they? What language(s)? How did you approach it? Do you program/code professionally or for a hobby?
Interested to hear from those who have, and equally those who have not, about reasons and approaches.

I'm convinced that advanced digital literacy will be a very useful (crucial?) skill for future generations, so pondering how to get started.

Poll Options

  • 13
  • 53


  • +7

    My kids are two.
    One of the can arrange things into patterns
    They both like to play in the mud.
    The other one seems to be learning Korean, Russian and idk what the other one is when watching youtube for kids.

    Maybe i'll teach them to code in the future. It'll be tricky to teach them to code something that would interest and engage them.

  • +2

    Automation (coding) is designed to kill jobs. Children that know how to code will look after the bots instead of being replaced by bots.

    Start by learning how to code money, a game or both.

  • +4

    Makes me feel old. I remember trawling the library in high school for books and finding a really old Java book that got me started. These days it's so easy for kids to start learning with everything onlne.

  • +9

    I began learning to code when I was about 12. And although I have a decent job now, I feel like I could've picked that stuff up later, and that I wasted a lot of precious time.

    (I hope that doesn't sound like a pity party— I'm not actually sad, I just should've done more underage drinking and fun stuff)

  • +1

    Looked at it but it doesn’t interest them, fair enough.

  • +11

    Childhood is to enjoy and experience - coding can wait

    • +1

      Fair comment, but "Por que no los dos" as they say? I don't intend to press-gang anyone into it, but coding can be enjoyable.

      • +8

        so can cooking, money management and other life skills…they need to be better humans and generation first in a world which otherwise seems to have more hatred and easily offended…

        • +1

          No disagreement from me there!

    • +1

      I gotta disagree with this comment, coding can be engaging and fun and most importantly it teaches problem solving! the thing about teaching your kids coding at a young age is providing the right learning tools.. it is like picking the right toys over sh*tty ones.. coding is only one aspect of helping your kid grow, they will have experiences like any other child… think of it as teaching English and Math etc… it is about getting the brain to solve problems at a early age..

  • -1

    Better teach them to defend themselves next

  • +7

    I write code professionally. The school tried to teach my kids to code when they were 6 or 7. It just looked like play to me and not actual coding. I think it is futile to try to teach young kids to code unless the kids are really talented. My eldest is now 15. This year i think he did some actual coding at school. So dont stress out too much.

    Don't get me wrong, I totally agree coding skills will help in any future profession, very much like typing was 40 years ago and emailing 20 years ago.

    If you are stressed about your young kids learning how to code, maybe give them a solid foundation in maths. Coding will be so much easier to pick up when they are older if they are good at maths.

    • Thanks for your comment. They are way too young to learn yet (can't even read which is a fairly limiting factor), and I'm not stressed about it. Just more thinking about it in the sense of when they ask "Daddy, what do you do at work?" it might pique their interest. I am actually a mathematician/data scientist by training, so I've got the maths foundation covered!
      I expect a fair amount will be personality driven too, in terms of interest.

    • 100% agree.

      Would rather see an increased in maths and physics expenditure in schools than investment in code. These scratch programmes and the likes are edutainment distractions. The time would be better spent in furthering mathematics.

      • Agree.

        furthering mathematics

        This is an area which I am acutely interested in professionally, and have had many discussions with my colleagues, almost all of whom have at least bachelor level mathematics education. We are constantly dismayed at the lack of mathematical ability of the average undergrad student we come across.

  • +2

    Cyber Security or white hat hacking is the way.

  • +3

    By the age of 6, Reading eggs in Primary School I feel was a waste of time, it started out okay but in the end, it was just a game or access to a game in their eyes. It wasn't until I noticed they weren't actually thinking about working out the correct answer, rather selecting/guessing the answer by clicking any of the choices given till the correct one was chosen, that I put a stop to it entirely, and stopped subscribing.

    Hell they learned more Spanish watching Dora than anything else on their downtime.

    At 7 or 8yrs of age, Scratch and Tinker was put under their noses, they learn and have fun at the same time, before you know it they understand the concepts and have technical moves that will impress you. All because they understand the simple block coding, order and techniques.

    By 12 to 14 if they're still playing with it then they'd be very proficient with it. To which you could introduce Python. Master2 received a MicroBit and took to that very fast, creating a simple game and learning through mistakes in code, what needs to be done in sequence in order to fix it. What helps it other peoples code and looking at how they it's done and if he could use similar techniques. Simple space invaders and the like is what got him going. I then started to play with a Raspberry Pi.

    Year8 at School he did an Adventure (turn based) eBook for Android where the reader can choose which way the story goes as it happens with pictures for each page kinda deal. Simple yet effective, and it was that which got him hooked.

    It didn't hurt that he joined a Robotics Club at High School and has done very well for himself and the School. That lead to drones and programming those. Then Programming traffic lights using algorithms for the best efficiency yet understanding traffic behaviour. That were done using cardboard roads with metallic sensors and smart traffic lights that needed programming. Involving not just the light sequence but scenarios with vehicles on any of the road intersections and the like. That was fun.

    For you for now, let them play and enjoy what they're interested in. Play phonics games, number games, you've got plenty of time for the above. They have massive sponges as brains give them everything they can handle but let them grow and play too.

    • Thanks for your thoughts. I've come across things like scratch recently, and wondered how effective they are.

  • Try Code Camp Its the perfect time considering they may have school holiday programs in your local area

  • +6

    I tried to teach my kids to code. I failed in the same way my year 9 teacher failed to engage me in shifting a cursor that was meant to be a turtle around a blank screen.

    Two of my kids have high level IT skills, and the others have high level level user skills in business apps like excel, PowerPoint etc.
    The kids that learnt IT skills did it by pirating games and software, cleaning up after themselves when they got a virus, piecing together hand me down hardware to make useable kit, making an old TI calculator talk to a modern machine so they could run games on it in class when they shouldn’t. Plus enough HTML/JS from editing the console to break paywalls or build a fake page to troll friends.

    Which is how I learned most of what I know about IT.
    So my motto is to fdisk an old laptop, leave it by the back door and say “oh, I was getting rid of that. If you want your own computer I guess you could have it if you can get it to work.”
    You can go second level by confiscating the computer later as a punishment, but leaving a raspberry pi unattended. Nothing motivates problem solving like no access to youtube except if they work out how to do it on an unfamiliar system.

    • Haha nice, I like it!

    • +3

      I should add, none of them want to be programmers, nor do I, but all of them are very comfortable with IT as a tool. I think that is a good goal. In my time it hasn’t been particularly useful to be a cobol or Fortran or pascal programmer, unless you were doing those narrow job roles. But learning a bit of pascal at school and being comfortable writing an excel macro or editing a webpage on a vi command line are all skills that had lots of opportunities to pay off.

      So even though I couldn’t grep a file right this minute without looking up the man page, I know what grep is, I know how to read a man page, and I know how the command line operators work. The underlying skill is there.
      Similarly, I can never remember VLOOKUP syntax in excel, but I guess having encountered pointers and arrays earlier didn’t hurt.

      And right now I have not the slightest clue how to write an algorithm that provides a proof of work test by generating computationally intensive encryption factors. But learning how to use PGP taught me enough that it isn’t some magic that will escape the law.

      With the way our society has changed over the last 30 years, it has been very useful. Mind you, my kids learn to cook and garden a bit, and woodwork and camp, and do a bit of DIY, and simple first aid. And art and expression and a bit of sport and travel (pre-pandemic). It’s good to have a well rounded childhood.

      • +1

        Thanks for your further thoughts. Proficient users of technology is probably a more accurate aim than necessarily programming.

        It’s good to have a well rounded childhood.

        This is absolutely the aim, and something I believe that I had and hope to give my children. I guess the question in my mind is something along the lines of "how much time/weight should all the different things get?". That's a rhetorical question obviously, but in some sense it's not possible to cover everything.

    • This is next level parenting. So much of this reminds me how I learned, but I very much doubt my parents did it intentionally haha

  • +2

    coding is not inherently hard. It is a syntaxial way of problem solving. When I tutored Java programming in Uni. I realised that some people are not able to engage their thought process that way. I have also seen very engaged students do 5 lines of instructions in 1.

    I feel that engaging children in mathematical puzzles a more interesting way to build up their problem solving skills. If they have the skill, hey can pickup coding in any language if they are so inclined.

    • +3

      I reckon this is very true.
      I remember as a kid learning about arrays in BASIC and struggling with visualizing multi-dimensional place holders, but I had friends who immediately used them to store pixel colours for little home made games.
      Fast forward 30 years(+) and I’ve had much more practice at this kind of abstract thought, and arrays no longer are troublesome, but I struggled with inheritance in an object based programming language, but which now everything is objects seems easier (though still not easy. I struggle with event driven stuff like mobile apps).
      Some people just take to this like a duck to water. They make good programmers. Other people always need to translate it to an analogy in their head - maybe like me. I think it is more of a verbal way of thinking compared to a symbolic way of thinking (though I can do the symbolic way in some things I am very practiced in).
      It is a bit like learning a foreign language. To begin with you always translate back to your home language. But after enough time, water and aqua both mean the same thing to you, and you don’t need to explicitly translate it.
      But for some people, the symbolic underpinnings are their home language, and thinking ‘abstractly’ is easier, so they only translate to language when they actually parse it into a program or instruction.

      Apologies to all the logicians and philosophers I have just made cringe by my very amateur understanding of how this stuff works.

      And, of course, the value of non-abstract thought is equally high. Nobody who thinks best symbolically is writing the next novel that can make you cry from the feelings it generates from the words on a page.

      • +3

        used them to store pixel colours for little home made games.

        remember GORILLA.BAS ? :D

  • +4

    Coupon coding is, perhaps, the most important skill for a pupating OzBargainer. Give a person a code, and they get one deal. Teach them how to exploit retailers, and they become the dealers.

  • +3

    Can give my perspective as someone who was taught to code as a kid (my dad's a software engineer).

    Back when I was learning to code (in the 90's), learning to code was actually fun. There was some element of feeling like you were doing something really cool, but computers were also more primitive back then.

    I was 6 when I wrote my first program (in Visual Basic), and I've been an on-and-off programmer ever since. I didn't end up becoming a software engineer, but I do feel that my coding background was useful for various things (e.g. it made me have a better time when I became a statistician and spent most of my working hours in R).

    In general, I would say that coding can't really be a hobby anymore these days. It's not like back in the 80s and early 90s where you could reasonably learn some basics and start producing some genuinely fun stuff and cool games. These days, with the improvement in quality, larger budgets for software…etc., there isn't really anything conceivable that a hobbyist beginner programmer can make that is fun enough to be engaging.

    I've no doubt there are hobbyist programmers, and perhaps there are people who contribute to open source projects…etc. who may consider themselves to be hobbyists, but in the regular meaning of the word, I can't imagine that it's much of a viable hobby.

    I'm convinced that advanced digital literacy will be a very useful (crucial?) skill for future generations, so pondering how to get started.

    At the end of the day, the most important skills I learned from coding was not necessarily coding itself, but how to structure and break down a problem and how to be more resourceful with what you have and what you know.

    Digital literacy has very little to do with knowing how to code. Similar to knowing how to drive a car having very little to do with understanding mechanical engineering.

    Whilst there are likely evangelists who say that "learning to code" is crucial, I would say that it's more like everything else in school. E.g. the vast majority of people do not use calculus in their daily lives, but understanding the principles of change, rates…etc. is obviously extremely useful. It's the same thing with learning to code, it's not necessarily the coding skills that are useful (in the same sense that knowing how to differentiate / integrate certain functions is not what most take away from calculus), but rather, it's the broader skillset that's developed along the way.

    • +1 for this. I started programming in a kind of same way with Basic/Pascal when I was about 9 and then moved to Visual Basic later.

    • Oops, wrong button! 😅

      Thanks for your thoughts, and hi to a fellow statistician!

      What you say about digital literacy is very true - I was tutoring some Uni students a couple of years ago (in their early twenties) and they had no idea what a zip file was, which blew me away!

  • +1

    I don't have children, but I answered Yes for my future children

  • +3

    I don't think coding is that important to learn, I would say most jobs outside of it don't require coding knowledge. Computer literacy is more important. I have an above average skill around a computer making me the go to person for it problems, how I learnt was being the sole person who could read English from a young age. Reading comprehension, being able to follow instructions are the more important skills, half of the time when people are confused at what to do with a computer the instructions are literally staring them in the face. Definitely need to teach my kids problem solving skills, how to work around your problem or how to find an alternative way to solve your problem (most likely someone's written a program to do exactly what you need)

    • Thanks for your thoughts.

      half of the time when people are confused at what to do with a computer the instructions are literally staring them in the face.

      As someone who often ends up being "tech support" I completely agree with this!

  • +3

    I think the whole 'make your kids learn to code - so they become super duper intelligent' - is just marketing bs by the guys who sell 'how to teach your 2 month old to code' bs. The guys who made compilers probably never coded when they were little.

  • +4

    Take the time you spend teaching them to code and instead work on social skills. Far more critical at a young age and will serve them better as adults.

  • +1

    No! I teaching them to journalism first then after that fails then to tell them to learn to code.

  • +1

    I didn’t need to teach my kids to code, they learnt it at uni. But I could still give them guidance should they ever want it, which is highly unlikely ha ha. I used to do it professionally, and now tinker in retirement

  • +3

    May be what a child needs is logical thinking not coding skills. Coding is just one way of making them thinking logically. If you can think of other ways with puzzles etc that would be better.

    Coding as in programming languages comes and dies and this can be learned easily at any point in life(if he or she knows how to think logically )

  • +2

    Scratch is great for primary school kids to learn to code and have fun. (and it's free)

    It's not much different to playing lego, except a lot more creativity and thinking in invovled.

    Your local library will have lots of books with projects for kids to work on during the holidays.

    This is one of the best books to begin with for younger kids.

    This is another good book, but do the one above first…

    My suggestion is to sit down and code some of the projects together, with your kids. Don't let them work it out on their own at first, as they will get disinterested quickly. Once they learn the basics, and it won't take long, then they'll be more than happy to explore projects on their own.

    • +1

      Thank you jv.
      Good suggestion to sit down and help them with it, thanks.

  • +2

    Teaching your kids multiplication is where its at. Everything stems from mathematics.

    • -1

      Learning to code teaches you maths….

  • +2

    Teach them how to think critically and solve problems efficiently instead, if they want to get into coding then don't stop them but don't push them down that path.

    The number of applicants I've had who can "code", with plenty of experience, but can't solve a problem worth a damn is a real concern. Graduates in particular fall into this category, they can talk the talk and understand the syntax of the languages they've worked with but if you throw an abstract problem their way they can't do anything with it.

    • +1

      Teach them how to think critically and solve problems efficiently instead

      Have you ever coded and tried to debug a program ???

      • +1

        Yes, frequently. A large part of past roles has been reverse engineering and debugging closed source applications, which is even more fun that trying to debug your own code.

        The problem I've found with utilising coding and debugging as incidental teaching method for critical thinking and problem solving is the majority of students will inevitably end up with the XY problem, because they lack the foundational skills necessary to solve the initial problem effectively.
        So rather than invest time and effort into coming up with a good solution, or in learning the language well, they waste a lot of time trying to solve problems of their own creation - which are often unsolvable without breaking the constraints of the initial problem.

        It takes a long time, they don't learn much of value and the end result is poor. I've seen far better results from people who have solid general problem solving skills given the same task. Build a skill well, one at a time, rather than trying to teach everything all at once.

        • +1

          because they lack the foundational skills necessary to solve the initial problem effectively.

          That is why they start with Scratch. It's easy to learn the code with the code blocks.
          When something doesn't work, they need to work out why.

          It takes a long time, they don't learn much of value and the end result is poor

          You have not used Scratch I can see….

      • BuyoTheCat's rule 1 of debugging.
        The origin of the problem is rarely where you see the symptom.

        • +1

          That's where you get to practice problem solving…

  • +2

    I worked as a computer programmer for many years but my sons both taught themselves to code and now work as IT professionals.

    • but my sons both taught themselves to code

      I find it more efficient to ask someone who already knows.

  • I had the idea that they might be attracted to writing their own simple mods for Minecraft.
    I wasn't really up to the job though, biggest issue is I seem to struggle setting up the development environment to the point they can even start actual coding.

    Then they seemed to pick up the text commands to automate building stuff in minecraft all on their own, so I figure they will do OK.

    I know there are lots of online type setups like scratch that avoid setting up the IDE, and they seemed to work well, I just liked the idea of them making something they can use.

  • My son is 10 and I've had a go at this over the years.

    Initially bought Lego Mindstorms, to do together, but it's so fiddly and takes so many hours on just to make the robots before you do any programming. It's probably more suitable for 15+ kid that doesn't have any hobbies or sports, since it looks like 300+ hours is needed to really get anywhere with it.

    Tried Lego Boost, which uses scratch-style block coding. My son was 8 at the time and enjoyed messing with the fart sounds and the little bit of coding to get them to work. Following the instructions to build the robots and then the code was an OK experience, but again to make your own robots is very difficult, as you need tonnes of time to figure out how to get something working with Lego pieces, which aren't really suitable for building robots - again probably more suited to a 13+ kid that has ample free time.

    Had a quick look at Minecraft, but gave up as the coding aspect has a lot of moving parts and seems to be held together with sticky tape and string. Just too difficult for a young kid to manage.

    We tried Roblox, which uses Lua scripts and 3D modelling tool to make multiplayer games you can publish online. The programming is very difficult - it's not block coding, and the game engine is very complicated, so just about impossible for younger kids. My son has done many of the scripting tutorials, which are very good, but it's more of a join-the-dots exercise. More suited to 13+ kids. However my son enjoys making worlds in the 3D app, and using other people's scripts to get things working. He invites his school friends into his games and gets a lot of satisfaction from it.

    The best thing so far has been Scratch, which is a web-based block coding platform with 2D graphics. My 10 year old has been able to figure out lots of stuff himself and by reading other people's code. He can make simple interactive games with parallax scrolling etc. The games are entertaining for about 10 minutes (compared to hours for his Roblox games). The good thing is that it's widely used in schools, so he gets lots of opportunities to impress his teachers and classmates.

  • this is also a very useful code to learn

    There is no emotion, there is peace.
    There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
    There is no passion, there is serenity.
    There is no chaos, there is harmony.
    There is no death, there is the Force.

  • Didn't bother, complete waste of time. Still knows how to design a website etc. That's just basic employment skills for the current marketplace.

    Justification - I'd rather my child be the organ grinder, not the monkey.

    There's plenty in tech who feel the same. Coding will become more and more redundant as AI programmes.

    For all the investment in STEM, it'll be humanities that drive bigger incomes.

    • FAANG coders can get north of $500k, are they monkeys?

      • The question was 'Is it worth teaching children to code' not 'do coders now earn good money?'

        It's about whether or not the investment in coding as an educational subject or tool is a worthwhile investment that should override other subjects. The answer to that is a resounding no.

        There is simply no evidence that a failure to engage in 'coding' (and I use that term loosely - scratch, sphero, coding.org et al) results in a students inability to:

        a) code later on in life (if that were the case, older coders wouldn't exist)
        b) pick up coding in later years (which coders have done and continue to do successfully at University level)

        The reasons for this are simple:

        • Maths is the key foundation to coding. Investment in 'computational thinking' is best made in maths and other foundational subjects that can be applied across a myriad of careers
        • The majority of 'coding' taught in schools is wasteful and redundant. The senior secondary curriculum in most states is still firmly set in the 90's-00's. The primary school 'curriculum' (there is nothing set by ACARA) is an adhoc of edupreneurs grasping for education dollars.
        • There is a complete disconnect between 'coding' in school and the realities of the workplace. So what if a child can complete a drag and drop scenario that autochecks? Where are the classes teaching current web design code? Or lining students up for CNC? They simply are not there.

        In answer to the question, no, I would not invest in my child to code in the current environment. Parents need to think 20/30 years ahead, not what is the current fad. If a parent wants to future proof their child's education, get them a maths tutor.

        Edit - I would actually go further and add the following:

        • Learning a language and/or understanding the complexities of higher order thinking for humanities subjects would go just as far in potential coding as coding itself.
        • Coding is an excuse to cover up for the complete abject failure of the retention and hiring of maths teachers and the numbers in specialised mathematics over the last 20 years. How on earth can someone claim to be a coder but be incapable of taking the old Maths1/2 (Specialised Maths)?

        Coding is a complex ability to see numbers, formulas, equations in a language in 2D in 3D in your head. The ability for that kind of spatial awareness is something that would be well supported in taking CAD, tech drawing, art or other similar courses at a secondary level.

  • +1

    My kids are 3 and 1 so they’re a bit young to try coding. I have been coding professionally for almost 20 years. I started teaching myself to program when I was about 12, I had fun. It was one of many things I did as a kid - sport, surfing, reading, hanging out with my mates. Later it was one of the things I studied at uni. I liked it so I decided to do it as a job.

    It’s going to depend a lot on their interests as they grow up. I’d like to expose them to a bunch of different things so they can see what interests them. I’m not fussed at all if that’s not coding but I’d like them to give it a crack and see if they like it at some point.

    One thing I think I would like to give them though is inquisitiveness about the world, people in it or the things they’ve built.

    That and doing everything I can to make sure they’re happy and healthy.

    • Thanks. Similar situation to me. My kids are too young yet too, but I had a huge range of experiences as a child and want to expose my kids to as many things as possible too. Very true though that it will depend a lot on their individual interests.

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