Getting Started in Coding for All Ages

You're never to old to... ride a bike? learn to paint? travel the world? fall in love? CODE!?

The truth is anyone can learn to code. I'm not claiming that everyone can become a professional computer programmer, but the idea of taking an idea you have and turning it into an app, website, or game, is probably easier to achieve than you think. I will provide some thoughts and tips for people in these categories to get started with coding.

Young Kids Can Code

When we talk about coding for young kids, we're not talking about anything algorithmic or high level. We're usually talking about putting things in order and learning logical fundamentals that will prepare kids for algorithmic thinking.

For very young kids, learning that a computer allows you to create has a similar function to learning that words have meaning. Many kids these days see computers only as tools for play, but don't understand that they can use them as tools for creation. As students get older, they may see computers as a tool, but it is up to teachers and parents to expose them to specific sites where they can learn computer programming. Even then, creating a sustainable habit of coding can be pretty challenging.

Get started young. There are so many devices, gadgets, apps, and games that teach kids the basics of coding. A child can start learning the fundamentals of logic and sequence by the time they are 3 or 4 years old. 

Teach the fundamentals. I have heard school teachers and administrators mock teaching the ability to type on a computer. Personally, I think typing and fluency with a mouse / touchpad are extremely important skills. Apart from the logic, spend some time with the hardware. Computer programming will require a keyboard for the foreseeable future.

Sign up for camps. If you are in Texas, check out our Coder Kids summer camps. If you are elsewhere, see if you can get your child into a local class or camp. There is so much to learn, but camps provide a good exposure to a variety of different topics.

Get a book. For kids who want to learn to program, but maybe don't have a parent with a ton of time, I'd recommend a book like Coding Games in Scratch or anything by the No Starch Press. They offer books on a variety of topics if your child is old enough to read.

Keep it fun. Don't take this too seriously. It's not the Saturday soccer game where you need to yell at the ref. This is like building things with LEGOs, it can be challenging at times, but it is a lot of fun.

Teenagers Can Code 

By the time that kids are teenagers, they are typically ready to move away from the more childish activities they worked on as kids and dive into actual computer programming. They might even start a formal computer programming class in their local school. Most high school classes teach Java, which is an important programming language, but it certainly isn't the only one. When I was in high school, I only knew C++, and I honestly had no idea that there were other programming languages. That is why exposure to lots of higher level topics is important in this age range.

Pick a path, or don't. Do you or your child have a specific passion? Do you want to build an app? Do you want to build a website? Do you want to focus on building games? Do you want to be a professional software developer? If you have a specific goal, pursue it until you have achieved that goal. You will likely become proficient in that skill. If you don't have a specific path in mind, play around with lots of different concepts. Try to build a website, build a simple app, and so on. Become a hobbyist.

Use online resources. I highly recommend Khan Academy, Code Academy, and YouTube as resources for kids in this age group. One of my favorite video series is one from YouTube all about coding in Game Maker Studio from Shaun Spaulding. The guy is great explaining the concepts and you don't need any teachers to do it.

Join the online / local community. Google hosts competitions for teens who want to learn to code. There are meet ups in every city across the country for programmers, and teenagers are always welcome to attend.

Working Professionals Can Code

It can be hard as a working professional or college graduate to take the first steps toward a career or hobby in computer programming. Everything gets in the way, and unfortunately coding is a time-intensive activity. But with some effort and some dedicated focus, you will be able to pick it up like thousands of others have.

Join a meet up group. Take a look at this map. There are literally thousands of coding meet ups throughout the world. Don't let your shyness get in the way of a great opportunity. People at meet ups are generally open to helping out newbies.

Start out online. Don't pay tons of money for a costly in-person program. One of my favorite pages for tips of learning program is the Reddit thread for Learn Programming. Check it out! People are constantly posting tips for learning programming no matter your age or background.

Take the plunge. Many aspiring programmers will get into a cycle where they are constantly learning syntax and never working on real-world projects. Take the time to work on projects and build a portfolio. It is much more time consuming but it pays to have a project base.

Retirees Can Code

I'll admit, I've never met an old person who decided they just wanted to learn to code and was successful at it. Is it possible? Absolutely. Will it be challenging? Probably! It depends on you I guess.

Define your goals. Do you want to have fun? Build a game you had an idea for years ago? Build a personal or family website? Build a second or third career? Take your time to research topics online and find the one that really interests you.

Seek community and online help. As a millennial, I find it easy to find the answers I'm looking for online. Don't be afraid to find a younger person to guide you through the process of learning to code. In time, I'm confident you will be able to pick up the skills you need to build whatever you want.

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