How Coding Helps Foster Creativity in Children
Coding is solving puzzles. It’s finding answers to technological riddles. It’s building something out of nothing—the essence of the creative spirit.
No wonder they say that coding is part science and part art.
If your child is interested in the magical world of coding, they can develop their skills and foster their sense of creativity at the same time. How does coding help with your child’s creativity? When children learn to code, they also:
- Find joy in experimentation
- Tackle obstacles from a different perspective
- Gain confidence in pursuing creative projects
- Learn a skill set that builds upon itself
- Develop proficiency in a new language
Let’s look at each facet independently to see how coding, kids and creativity go hand-in-hand.
Find Joy in Experimentation
When it comes to coding, nobody can avoid the spelling error, the misplaced word, or the outright wrong solution. And that’s okay!
Coding garners an experimenter’s mentality—a mindset that embraces incorrect solutions and seeks to correct them. In the world of programming, there’s a name for this creative process: debugging.
Debugging is a natural part of the programmer’s experience. Some like to point out that half the job of a coder is to build a program, while the other half of the job is to fix what you built.
In this way, little learners are often tasked to put together simple programs, and if the program doesn’t work, they then set off on a new adventure: discovering the mystery behind why it doesn’t work. In an educational setting, this is where kids coding class curriculum separates itself from traditional STEM subjects like math and science. In STEM classes, the role of the young student is primarily memorization. If the child answers incorrectly in science, it’s typically because they’ve forgotten the right information.
In coding, there’s a certain joy in being wrong and experimenting with different tools until the correct answer is found.
This inclination to be wrong isn’t just good for fostering creativity; it’s part of natural, healthy child development. Janet Metcalfe from the Department of Psychology at Columbia University wrote in a paper about making errors in the classroom as a child:
The behavioral and neurological data indicate that making errors can greatly facilitate new learning. Errors enhance later memory for and generation of the correct responses, facilitate active learning, stimulate the learner to direct attention appropriately, and inform the teacher of where to focus teaching.
Finding joy in experimenting is essential in any creative project. You have to be okay with being wrong if you want to grow, and children who learn to code can embrace this experimenter’s mentality.
Tackle Obstacles from Different Perspective
Whether it’s social qualms, math puzzles, or personal development issues, tackling a problem from a unique angle is the fruit of creativity. When it comes to kids and coding, children gain insight into a brand new perspective—a new lens through which they can look at the world.
This new perspective is called computational thinking.
In short, computational thinking is a method of problem-solving in which the solution is something that could be executed by a computer.
What does this mean, exactly?
Computers rely on two inputs to make all their “decisions”: 0s and 1s. You’re probably familiar with this binary language but maybe less familiar with the positive effects of working with it. Because everything has to run through a yes/no, 1/0, on/off program, coding takes a very literal form.
For example, imagine if you wanted to code a program that told a robot how to make a bed. You can’t just tell the program to fluff the pillows, tidy the blankets, and remove any creases—this wouldn’t be literal enough. Instead, you’d have to create step-by-step instructions, such as:
- Grab the upper left corner of the blanket and bring it to the upper left corner of the bed.
- Repeat step 1 with the upper right corner, the lower left corner, and the lower right corner, and bring them to their respective corners.
- Grab a pillow and squish a few times.
- Return the pillow to the top of the bed.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 for each pillow.
- Run hand along the bed from left to right to remove a crease.
- Repeat step 6 for each crease that you find.
See how “program thinking” is a little different than our usual way of thinking?
How Does Computational Thinking Help Develop a Child’s Creativity?
Computational thinking is not just a way to write code to solve a problem. It’s a different way of creative thinking that breaks down problems into their component pieces. Once the problem has been deconstructed, a solution can be built by creating “micro-solutions” to the various components.
With this simplified (but comprehensive) view, children will naturally develop an intuition that allows them to take apart a problem and build the micro-solutions necessary to solve it.
The key is, that problem could be how to solve a coding puzzle, or it could be how to de-escalate an argument with a friend. In either case, there are micro-steps children can take to reach a satisfying conclusion.
When faced with a problem that has no straightforward answer, creative thinking skills can make all the difference—and it helps when the problems can be broken up into bite-sized chunks. Coding helps develop this computational thinking.
Gain Confidence in Pursuing Creative Projects
Traditional forms of creative expression—like painting, writing, designing, music, and more—have many similarities with coding. For instance:
- Much of the hard work is done within one’s own mind. When playing music or when coding, you’re relying on all the things that you’ve been taught, as well as your natural intuition to create something out of nothing using your imagination. This complex mixture of information and decision-making is happening within your mind. Although rote practices can help you improve, there’s nothing “rote” about creating a piece of music or a string of code.
- Creating something from nothing is the heart of creativity. To some people, a canvas, paint set, and brush are just things. However, when Picasso used a canvas, paint set, and brush, he turned those things into a work of art worth millions. Similarly, the code behind social media platforms are just 1s and 0s, but those 1s and 0s are worth billions.
- Creative pursuits require you to believe in yourself. No artist or programmer started out great. Yes, even Picasso had to draw a stick figure and a bright yellow sun before he could pioneer and master Cubism. To become proficient in any creative project, you need time, energy, and dedication. By seeing your improvements along the way, you naturally gain confidence in pursuing more advanced creative projects.
When looking at the similarities between programming and music, or programming and writing, it’s no wonder that practicing coding fosters creativity in children.
Develop Proficiency in a New Language
Did you know that about 1-in-5 children grow up bilingual in the U.S.? This rise of bilingualism is both incredible and an important factor in why teaching programming to kids is so beneficial. As Tracy Trautner at Michigan State University writes:
“Bilingual children are more adept at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles. A 2004 study by psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee found that bilingual youth were more successful at dividing objects by shape and color versus their monolingual peers who struggled when the second characteristic (sorting by shape) was added.”
So while bilingualism has been shown to be dramatically positive for little learners’ brains, is learning to code really like learning another language?
It turns out, in many capacities, yes.
According to an article in Massive Science, when looking at studies that reviewed whether learning to code was a math-oriented endeavor or a language-oriented endeavor, they found that language skills were a better predictor of coding ability:
Language aptitude explained almost 20% of the difference in how quickly people learned [the coding language]. In contrast, performance on the math pre-test only explained 2% of the variability in how quickly students learned, and it didn’t correlate at all with how well they learned. Learning to code depended much more on language skills than it did on numerical skills.
This suggests that children who learn to code are utilizing and strengthening the language centers in their brain. Continuing to learn more coding languages may offer them the same benefits as bilingual students.
So while coding languages may not help with asking for directions in another country, there are plenty of other benefits. As Trautner writes:
The bilingual experience improves the brain’s command center, giving it the ability to plan, solve problems, and perform other mentally demanding tasks.
Sounds a lot like all the vital skills inherent in creativity.
Disney Codeillusion: Sparking Creativity in Children and Adults
Coding skills aren’t just a good thing to have on a resume. Coding offers a new way of looking at problems and the world. Coding expands the mind and sparks creativity in children. And what better way to inspire creativity than to sprinkle in a healthy dose of magic?
That’s exactly what Disney Codeillusion does for children and adults alike.
With these skills, Disney Codeillusion-ers learn how to build websites, develop games, and design media art—all through those magical 1s and 0s.
To foster creativity and enjoy the learning process alongside favorite Disney characters, you can try Disney Codeillusion with our free trial today.
Annual Review of Psychology. Learning from Errors.
Computer Hope. Binary. https://www.computerhope.com/jargon/b/binary.htm
Telegraph. Picasso Portrait Sells for Record 49.8 Million.
Kids Count Data Center. The Number of Bilingual Kids in America Continues to Rise. https://datacenter.kidscount.org/updates/show/184-the-number-of-bilingual-kids-in-america-continues-to-rise
MSU. Advantages of a bilingual brain. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/advantages_of_a_bilingual_brain
Massive Science. Your language brain matters more for learning programming than your math brain. https://massivesci.com/articles/programming-math-language-python-women-in-science/