Coding classes for kids a buggy idea


It is worrying that parents are sending their children for coding and programming classes (above) to create their own games and applications ("More enrol young kids in coding classes"; last Sunday).

Doing so may backfire because premature teaching of programming skills to children at such a young age may have a cumulative and delayed effect. It may interfere with a child's holistic development, and surface in the future as an addiction to gaming and a sedentary lifestyle.

For pre-schoolers, there is a critical period of development in the early years, when skills and knowledge, such as gross and fine motor skills, socio-emotional skills in self-regulation and the ability to work, play and interact with others, are best acquired.

Young children derive much creative intellectual pursuit through drawing and playing, and learning to use expressive language to communicate their needs.

I cannot imagine any child rushing home to sit in front of a computer to "program" instead of interacting, playing and/or enjoying a book or creating artworks with other human beings.

The best intellectual stimulation for children is engaging in activities involving a peer or an adult. They learn social skills in turn-taking, coding and decoding symbols through drawings, and making meanings through expressive language by framing their thoughts, intentions and ideas with words.

Parents should let their children learn motor skills and cooperative living skills, for example, through nature camping and outdoor pursuits.

Technology and programming can wait, but a child's physical, intellectual, social and emotion development are most sensitive in the early years.

Rebecca Chan (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 21, 2015, with the headline 'Coding classes for kids a buggy idea'. Subscribe