Gone are visions of blissful childhoods spent jumping in fields and playing in pastures; for many kids nowadays, green grass has been replaced with digital screens.
Researches have shown that children between ages 3 and 8 spend four hours and 36 minutes of daily “screen time.” And as much as technology advocates argue on the importance of technology in teaching children the necessary skills such as math, literacy, and coding, it doesn’t mean having them spend %33.3 of their time awake on screen. There are several hands-on, creative projects and games that allow kids to learn while also interacting with their surroundings. Let’s ask ourselves this question, what's better than learning the basic building blocks of coding, without being glued to a computer screen?
In a research done to study the effects of constant on-screen time on the social and emotional development for kids, Jenny Radesky, Clinical Instructor in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, published her team’s findings, urging parents to the importance of increasing direct human to human interaction with their offsprings. She argued how empathy and problem-solving skills as well as elements of social interaction are always learned during unstructured play time and communication with peers and surroundings, questioning whether the use of smartphones and tablets could interfere or hinder this development process.
For children between the ages of three and four years old, learning through play isn’t something new. Hands-on (kinesthetic) learning is even better, and open-ended play should be part of it. At this age, children begin to learn cause and effect, so creating sequences that relate to things they know well can help them start thinking of logic and programming in a new way, one that is completely screen-free.
For instance, playing with building blocks may help a toddler more with early math skills than interactive electronic gadgets. “These devices may replace the hands-on activities and their importance in the development of sensorimotor and visual-motor skills, that are equally as important for the learning and application of math and science,” Radesky also mentioned.
Abstraction is difficult for very young children, but there are several aspects of coding that can be taught to children as young as three and four like algorithms, logic, tinkering, and debugging. And by the time a child turns five or six, we can start to teach abstraction, prediction, sequencing, programming, and repetition. Young children also use a lot of physical activities in their learning process, so hands-on exercises, toys, and other interactive experiences are the perfect conduit to teaching the basics of coding without using screens.
Learning coding and computational thinking has several benefits for children including:
- Establishing the foundations of coding, the language of the future
- Ensuring sensory and Motor development
- Nurturing creative expression
- Teaching the art problem solving
- Improving algorithmic, sequential and computational thinking skills
- Enhancing persistence
- Learning by doing
- Developing analytical skills and logical thinking without resorting to a screen
- Adding fun and entertainment