Computer programming for kids is a subject that is soaring in popularity, given the importance of technology in today’s world. The kids of today will be responsible for the biggest technological innovations of tomorrow, so why not get them started on the path of technological literacy as soon as possible? Even if your kids haven’t shown a direct interest in coding or computer programming, it’s rapidly becoming a highly sought-after skill, so you’d be setting them up for future success in whatever they end up doing. Since so many jobs incorporate some digital elements, knowing how to code will give your kids a huge advantage in the job market. Like reading and writing, coding can be seen as a core competency that can help a young learner interact with the world around them.
What Are the Best Programming Languages for a Child to Learn?
The field of computer programming comprises many different programming languages, with each one serving its own purpose. There are programming languages for computer procedures, functions, objects, and creating scripts. A simple way to think of programming languages is to think of all the foreign languages there are in the world. While you can choose to learn a foreign language with few native speakers like Macedonian or Hungarian, the logical options tend to be those with many native speakers such as English, Spanish, or Mandarin. The same goes for programming languages: there are those which are used by many, and those which serve a more niche audience. As such, if you want your kid to have the best chance of success, it’s worth giving them the choice of some of the more popular coding languages. The other useful comparison between foreign languages and coding languages is that children tend to pick them up much more quickly than adults, given their growing brains’ adaptability. Like sponges, they can soak up new information and regurgitate it at will. In our view, there are four kids coding languages that would be great for a child to start out with, and they are as follows: Python, Scratch, Java, and Lua.
Python is a scripting language, and many consider it to be one of the easiest to learn, which makes it one of the best options for kids to start out with. Python laid the groundwork for some of the most popular social networks around including Instagram and YouTube, and it’s also behind a lot of Google initiatives. Most kids love Python for another reason, though: it can be used to create video games! There are tons of resources online to help kids get to grips with the Python programming language, and it has a user-friendly interface.
Scratch is another great option for kids, especially since it’s a visual programming language. With Scratch, kids won’t need to write Matrix-like lines of code, but can instead get creative by dragging and dropping colorful blocks. Scratch is a great programming language for everything multimedia: creating sound effects, animated characters, and simple games.
If Java rings a bell for you, it’s probably because it’s one of the most popular programming languages out there. It can lead to exciting (and lucrative) careers, so it’s a good choice if your kid has shown an interest in coding. One of the main benefits of setting your kid up to learn Java is that you can be sure that it will serve them someday, given the language’s popularity. Java was behind Gmail, Twitter, and the game adored by kids around the world: Minecraft. That means it’s an easy sell for a lot of children.
Lua is perhaps the most complex of the kids coding languages, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the extra effort. In fact, if your kid has expressed interest in robotics or video games before (which is quite likely!), then they will get on with this programming language. Lua is behind the hugely successful ‘Angry Birds’ app and the Roblox gaming platform. If not a great coding language to start a kid out with, Lua is a good step up once they are ready for something more challenging.
Coding Programs for Kids
The last thing you want to do to encourage your kids to learn to code is throw them headfirst into the field with no guidance or structure. This is a sure-fire way to ensure they lost steam and motivation before they’ve even gotten started. Think about it: if you were to take up coding as a skill now, would you want to go in cold and try to figure it out yourself, or would you prefer to be guided through the process by someone who knows what they’re doing? In most cases, taking a course or program in coding is the best option for igniting kids’ interest in coding languages and keeping them motivated to continue. But what are the best coding programs for kids?
- Minecraft with Mods
Let’s be honest: if there’s one thing we can say with confidence it’s that many kids love the game Minecraft. The blocky game which lets the player construct forts, fight waves of enemies, and have fun with friends has proved a huge hit with young gamers since its release years ago. As such, a coding course that focuses on the game has to be a shoo-in for the best program for kids, right? Minecraft with Mods is just that: a course that uses the open-world game to spark interest in coding.
- Scratch Coding
Scratch Coding is a great course for getting to grips with the Scratch programming language. The course takes the user through the language’s visual interface and then asks the learners to get creative with everything from animation to games.
- Code Combat
Code Combat teaches children text-based code through the medium of RPGs (Role Playing Games). In this coding course, the user will be required to lead their character through a series of tasks and quests with interesting coding challenges. There are 39 levels in total, and the course covers everything from loops to variables.
- Coder Kids
Coder Kids is a top programming course that has coding camps that take place online and in-person, so your kid can choose the method of learning that they prefer. This is a comprehensive course that will get your kid up to speed on the Scratch programming language in no time at all. If you’re interested in how the course works, you can check out their free introductory video entitled ‘Introduction to Scratch Coding.’
Coding for Kids: Online Resources and Websites
As well as enrolling in a coding course, it’s useful to have a host of online resources and websites on hand to keep your kid interested in programming. There are even programming toys for kids, believe it or not. There are a wealth of resources available on the internet to help keep coding fun and to provide guidance when the going gets tough. Here are some of the most popular online resources and websites that we think a young coder might like to try:
Lightbot is an excellent game/platform that young coders can tinker around with to hone their programming skills. The game brings in several key elements of coding such as overloading, sequencing, and recursive loops. Within the game, there are several code-teaching apps and compatibility with various devices such as Windows, Mac, Kindle, and Apple devices.
Cargo-bot is another fun, simple game that’s really easy to get to grips with and covers the basics of coding well. To play the game, you’ll need to program a bot, solve puzzles, and deliver cargo using the Codea programming language.
Swift Playgrounds is a free coding resource platform that teaches the fundamentals of the Swift programming language. There is a visually-impressive 3D environment that your kid can explore with a character they’ve created and coded themselves. You can work on everything from basic commands to complex functions with this platform, and even more advanced things like creating games and apps.
CodeSpark Academy is an app for iOS and AndroId that’s full of simple, fun activities to play around with. It’s best for kids between the ages of 5-9 who want to get to grips with the basics of programming in a fun way.
Tynker is one of the most complex online coding resources, that also has a comprehensive programming course for kids. With Tynker, young coders can create games and apps, play around with Minecraft mods, and have fun with the many programming games for kids suited to their level of coding experience. There’s also an option for a paid subscription to Tynker, which grants the user access to a variety of extra resources, such as a private server on Minecraft they can try their mods out on. With no specific curriculum, kids are free to drop in and drop out of Tynker at will, which makes it a great supplementary resource for another coding course.
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