Whoever said candy was bad for you? Well, setting conversations on sugar-intake aside, a wide range of businesses is now investing in the next boom in children’s education: computer programming. From publishers and toy manufacturers to, yes, even candy companies, it seems everyone is busy developing creative ways to encourage children to learn how to code.

Make no mistake, we are witnessing an educational revolution in our time. Perhaps it all started when schools began replacing cursive with computers in the early nineties. Line after line of handwriting practice was replaced by endless repetition of classic typing drills like “A sad lad has a salad.” Society has since witnessed the benefits computer skills can produce and governments, educators, businesses and parents are keen to make sure their children are not left behind.

Coding through storytelling

Author, illustrator, programmer and educator Linda Liukas

Author, illustrator, programmer and educator Linda Liukas

Finnish author, illustrator, programmer and educator Linda Liukas is a prime example. Liukas is the author of Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding, a children’s book published in 2015 after an immensely successful Kickstarter campaign. The first part is about a girl named Ruby and her adventures with characters inspired by operating systems such as Snow Leopard and the Android robot. The second part involves exercises that can help young readers understand computers.

Liukas, who earlier this year spoke with Rakuten.Today, said she believes that teaching coding through storytelling makes perfect sense. “Coding is highly creative,” she said. “It’s problem-solving. The programmer constructs a little universe from words where he or she defines all the rules and choices. To me, that is storytelling in the purest of ways.”

Coding playgrounds

Apple is making a big push into coding education with this fall’s release of the Swift Playgrounds coding game alongside iOS 10. Their tagline for the initiative is “everyone can code,” and Swift Playgrounds is designed as a fun, easy introduction to coding, which Apple deems “the language of technology.” Of course, Swift is Apple’s proprietary coding language, so this effort may also help to raise the next generation of Apple-specific coders and build their fan base.

Coding with candy

Japanese sweets maker Ezaki Glico is sure to win a few young customers with a new and unusual approach to teaching coding. Glico manufactures Pocky, a biscuit stick dipped in chocolate that is just about ubiquitous in Japan, and they’ve come up with a simple app dubbed Glicode. The aim of the game is to use sweets, such as Pocky, Almond Peak and Biscuit Cream Sands, to represent various functions, which you chain together to represent a rudimentary line of code. You then take a photo of the “code,” which the game translates into a command, such as “jump,” “turn,” “walk” and so on. Glicode also has the added bonus of motivating kids to finish the game before their “code” melts.

Coding education with Glicode

Coding education with Glico

Learning can be fun

With these and many other tools and gadgets appearing on the market, the options available for teaching children about computer programming are becoming more diverse by the day. It may be a comforting thought for parents that there are still some simple and inexpensive options out there.