It wasn’t that long ago that coding seemed like a skill reserved for software engineers or, at the very least, for college students who were majoring in some form of computer science. But coding isn’t banished to the land of grown-ups anymore. Increasingly, there’s a push for even the youngest children to learn how to code as a way preparing themselves for a computer-focused future. Last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook famously said he thinks coding “should be required in every public school in the world.” As of 2015, over 7 million job openings require coding skills, in occupations varying from data analysts to artists and graphic designers. Coding, it seems, is the language of the future. And it isn’t just big names in tech who think so. Increasingly, families are looking for nannies who can introduce their children to coding skills and give them a competitive edge in learning this must-have skill.
Lindsay Heller, a nanny consultant and licensed psychologist who’s better known as The Nanny Doctor, tells Westside Nannies some of her biggest name clients are starting to look for nannies who code. One celebrity client even described coding as “the language of choice” that they wanted their child to learn. “They said they are futurists and they believe coding is the language of the future,” says Heller. “So they are having their child learn more about that than a second language.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean second languages are obsolete. Heller says there is still a demand for nannies who possess a variety of skills, including being able to speak and teach foreign languages. But it does mean that coding is on parents’ radars, partly because it’s become such an important skill, but also because many parents aren’t totally sure where to begin helping their children acquire this skill. “That was the first time I’ve heard somebody say it so clearly,” Heller said of her Futurist client, “but absolutely parents are feeling at a loss for being able to help their children with this skill. They’re seeking out support for that skill similar to like if they wanted their child to learn piano or violin, and they’re trying to find the right person to help them.”
For nannies looking to position themselves to appeal to bigger name clients or get job offers with higher earning potential, coding is one way to get a leg up on the competition. And luckily, it’s not hard to find a place to start learning and building your portfolio. There are a number of online resources that offer courses for beginning coders and opportunities to work on real projects, and many of them do it for free or at a very low cost. Here are three places to get started:
This is a free bootcamp that promises to take coders from beginner level to advanced. The lessons focus on website building , and visual learners will love the video lessons. At the end, you’ll have a number of completed projects to use in your portfolio.
Learn coding at your own pace as a member of this free community that offers thousands of coding lessons, tutorials, challenges, projects, and certificates. Eventually, as you progress, you’ll get the chance to do real coding projects for nonprofits that can be used in your resume or in a portfolio.
Once you know how to code, or at least understand the basics, there are dozens of ways to incorporate coding into your day to day activities. It can be taught to children through an app like Scratch Jr., which guides children through creating interactive stories using basic coding language, or by using any of the dozens of toys and robots on the market, like Kibo, which is a robot kit for children as young as 4.
But there are also screen- and tech-free ways to start implementing the basics. For example, playing a “computer and programmer” game where children sit back to back and one — the “programmer” — draws a simple picture and then must explain in detailed steps what the person designated as the “computer” should do to duplicate the drawing. Or there’s a simple sidewalk chalk game called robot and programmer, where you are the robot and the kids have to use simple commands to guide you through a chalk maze to a “spray zone” where they get to spray you with water. Studies have shown that playing these kinds of games improves children’s ability to sequence things, which in turn can have major benefits when it comes to learning math and science.
Learning to code isn’t just about helping the children you care for. It’s also about giving yourself a competitive edge and opening up the possibilities for the kind of quality care you can provide. Even for families who aren’t specifically looking for coding nannies, having these skills and knowing how to help children develop them is a worthwhile investment that could provide surprising and lasting benefits.