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his 2016 State of the Union address, former U.S. President Barack Obama emphasized the need for hands-on computer science and math classes to prepare children for jobs of the future. STEM education refers to emphasis on the topics of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. A grow- ing number of industries — including healthcare, finance and education — rely on individuals with computer proficiency. Our kids are exposed to computer science every time they engage in social media and computer gaming. Computer classes and games can promote learning in fun ways. There are excellent family-friendly educational games that teach reading, math and problem-solving skills. Amazing advancements in robotics — including space exploration, self-driving cars and robot-assisted surgery — are all products of innovative computer programming. Learning computer programming (coding) is a lot like learning a second lan- guage. Exposing children early to coding


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fundamentals will build a solid foundation for creative computer use throughout their lifetime. Solid programming skills can also support learning in other areas such as science, math and reading. Computer coding can be taught in creative ways to allow your kids to learn this new “lan- guage” while having fun. Many children are fascinated with video games where they construct 3-D worlds out of textured cubes, and they can be taught coding skills based on concepts from these and other games. Programming classes and camps can teach kids how to create characters, animations, sounds and special effects. Local learning centers and community colleges may offer coding classes and pro- gramming camps to help children develop these skills. You also may find free online classes by searching “coding for kids” in your search engine. Computer use, including learning cod- ing skills and engaging in video gaming, requires thoughtful parental monitoring. The American Academy of Pediatrics


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