With computers becoming an increasingly more important part of both the workforce and everyday life, it's understandable that parents want to teach their children computer skills and computer coding early, to help set them up for success. But how early is too early, and how can the introduction of computers into the learning of critical skills negatively impact a child's chance for success?
Why Children Learn Computers Early
Computer skills are important both in school and in the workforce, so schools are placing a heavier emphasis on computer learning and coding skills in younger students than they have in the past. By raising children as digital natives, they're more likely to have an intuitive understanding of computer usage and are more likely to stay competitive in the job market once they've grown up. However, as schools use computers more regularly, the risk of computers actually hindering your child’s education increases.
The Dangers of Early Computer Exposure
As important as it is for children to learn how to use computers early, incorrectly applied computer usage can cause developmental delays and even cause children to miss out on important skills—especially in math. Math is a heavily logic-driven field of study that requires the development of problem-solving skills, reasoning, and critical thinking, and the introduction of computers into math classes before children have had a chance to develop those skills naturally can permanently stunt their ability to reason and problem solve in the future.
Traditional Learning as a Foundation For Code
How do parents find a balance between computer usage and traditional learning methods? Rather than using it as a way to streamline or replace other areas of study, computer coding and computer skills should be taught as an educational field of their own.
In fact, early math skills are essential for children learning how to code. Problem solving and logical reasoning are core skills learned in mathematics, without which coding would be impossible. So, what strategies are best for teaching children traditional mathematics?
The abacus may seem like an outdated modus of calculation in an age of computers and electronic calculators, but they actually have incredible value in giving children a head start in mathematic skill. Children are kinesthetic and tactile learners, so learning math with an abacus—which is both colorful and hands-on—comes naturally to children, even before they can do pen and paper math.
Pencil and Paper Learning
Children learn best by doing a task and physically working through it, which is what makes a simple pencil and paper such a valuable learning tool. By working through math problems with pencil and paper, children will better learn and retain mathematic skills and systems.
It can be a challenge to assess whether or not your child is ready to use computers and which contexts computer usage will most benefit them. By introducing your child to computer usage as a skill of its own, while simultaneously developing their problem-solving skills through hands-on mathematic exercises, you can ensure your child develops the necessary skills to succeed in learning code.