Move over, monkey bars: There’s a new electronic playground for kids to perform amazing feats in their own backyards.

Thousand Oaks’ Code Ninjas hosted its grand opening on Wednesday, March 6, at 1772 Avenida De Los Arboles, with former St. Louis Rams Super Bowl champion Roland Williams in attendance. Code Ninjas, aimed at kids aged 7 to 14, is designed to teach them how to design and build computer games while developing real-world computer programming skills.

Dubbed “the new literacy of the 21st century” by Scott Matalon, owner of the Thousand Oaks franchise, kids enrolled in the program will work with their friends to develop logical thinking processes, build leadership skills and more. Matalon says that he would have loved to have a place like Code Ninjas when he was growing up.

“I want to give youngsters in the community a jump-start in the job market of the future,” said Matalon. “Think about this: Gen Z’s (kids born from 1996 on) have never known life without the Internet, social media or smartphones. Their entire world involves some form of technology. Code Ninjas gives these kids an avenue to explore their world, their passions.”

Code Ninjas adheres to the style inherent in the name. Instructors are dubbed “senseis” and the students are referred to as “ninjas.” Ninjas advance rank through the program in the same way a student of martial arts would, with the eventual goal of publishing a playable game on the App Store.

Parents are given access to a so-called “parent portal” to keep track of their offsprings’ progress.

Matalon, who has 18 years’ experience as an educator, says he was attracted to Code Ninjas because it offers something that the public school system is lacking. Father of three girls, Matalon says his 10-year old is enrolled in the program and that he expects the others will eventually enroll as well.

“It’s vitally important that they’ll have the skills they need to go out and look for a job. Without coding they’ll be so far behind in the field,” said Matalon. “The idea of coding and programming and computer science lends itself to really every career aspect there is, from agriculture, medicine, computer science; almost every aspect has some sort of computer programming in it.”

A report from the World Economic Forum released in 2016 notes that “65 percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.” Matalon says that Code Ninjas preps kids for the future, providing a head start that they otherwise would not receive from public education.

“It’s kind of the future, where we’re going as a society, and I’m happy to contribute to getting the kids that knowledge they need because they’re not getting it anywhere else,” said Matalon.

A Code Ninjas membership acts somewhat like a gym membership with tiered monthly subscriptions based on what the family needs. A one-month trial with eight one-hour sessions is $150.

Matalon says that Code Ninjas is a good fit for kids who have a strong desire to learn.

“I have parents say my son or daughter never really got into football, they haven’t found what they like until we came in here,” said Matalon. “Seeing the reaction on their face when they come from a session and actually came across something that’s them and they can take ownership of and love to do, that’s what’s important, kids finding themselves through coding.”

Code Ninjas is a national franchise chain with over 100 open locations, soon expanding to over 340 in 39 states and Canada. For more information on the Thousand Oaks location, visit www.codeninjas.com/locations/ca-thousand-oaks.