Coding Toys! What are they good for?
Coding toys. They are everywhere. Cozmo is super cute and described as a robot that is “ready to be your loyal sidekick,” LEGO has a whole line of coding toys, Fisher-Price has a Code-a-Pillar, and the list goes on and on and on.
So what is the point of all of the coding toys? What, exactly, do they teach? How will parents know what to do with them? Googling “why do I need coding toys” comes up with a long line of answers to questions like, “what are the best coding toys” and “what are coding toys.” Everyone has an opinion on what the best toys are to teach kids to code, but no one seems to have an answer as to *why* kids even need to learn to code. What does “coding” even mean?
We all know that technology is everywhere, and is now used in just about every occupation from driving trucks to performing surgery. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, technology related occupations are expected to grow 13% by the year 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Understanding technology will be a vital skill for our kids as they grow up, and coding toys play into our anxieties of wanting our kids to have all of the necessary tools to be productive, successful adults.
The largest influencers of whether girls will be interested in technology are encouragement from friends and family, regardless of their technical expertise, interest in puzzles, and solving problems, academic exposure in middle and high school, and the visibility of women in technical roles.
Programming is really a combination of several skills. It requires an understanding of logic and math, critical thinking, problem solving, and persistence. Many of the coding toys on the market tout that they teach many of these skills, fostering a deeper understanding of technology, however, a 2014 study conducted by Google, indicates that early exposure to technology is not an influential factor in whether a child, particularly girls, will be successful in the computer science field. The largest influencers of whether girls will be interested in technology are encouragement from friends and family, regardless of their technical expertise, interest in puzzles, and solving problems, academic exposure in middle and high school, and the visibility of women in technical roles.
I got into programming much later than my peers, after studying Criminal Justice and being a paralegal for several years. When I decided I wanted to go into programming, I was encouraged and supported by my mother and my uncle, both who are experts in their fields. I was also encouraged by my husband, who is the least technical person I know. I’ve had the privilege and honor to work and learn from some brilliant women. I never had a toy that taught coding. Are they fun? Absolutely! Are they necessary? Not one bit.
How do you feel about coding toys? Have you ever learned to write code? What has been your experience?
Thanks so much to Bryn Sarvis Rice for the suggestion for the topic of coding toys! Do you have something you’d like us to write about? Please leave a comment or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.