Got a kid growing up with an aptitude for computing and technology? You can help nurture them by selecting suitable, age-appropriate programming languages for them to learn. While some of these kids coding languages are relatively more complicated than others, it is ultimately up to your child to decide which one comes to them the easiest.
The constant need for technology in our everyday lives has grown to become undeniable. It's there when we wake up and reach for our phones, it's there when we turn on the TV to watch the news, and it's there before we sleep when we read our favourite novel on our trusty tablet.
With that in mind, a career in programming - or the process of writing codes for electronic devices - is one of the best careers your child could be interested in. How can they get started with basic programming?
Learning programming used to be such a daunting task just a few years back. For instance, setting up a Windows 7 computer to learn the programming language Java back then would require that you modify several operating system settings you may be unfamiliar with. Such is not the case with coding today, as there are many free coding websites to help you get started on your way with just a click of a button.
Coding for kids doesn't just promote the acquisition of advanced knowledge in computing and technology at an early age. Programming courses can also lead to better logical and analytical reasoning skills.
Top 10 kids coding languages in 2019-2020
The craft of writing code for modern electronics was considered by most as a college-level undertaking. But with the abundance of easy to grasp topics for each different language that young beginners can start with, it has become a much more kid-friendly subject with a shorter learning curve, like math.
Below are the top 10 kids coding languages you can consider:
1. Scratch 3.0
Visual programming languages like Scratch are probably the most recommended for young beginners to start with. Since kids' attention spans are short, the appealing visuals on its user interface help these young developers remain focused and interested in the concepts they are learning. Such concepts include animations, game design, and building interactive stories.
Scratch 3.0 is primarily developed for children between the ages of 8 to 16. It is the most simple platform where children can develop personalized games in minutes. It is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab.
A script is a piece of code that contains specific instructions. Scripts enable developers to add more and more functionalities to web pages, games, and applications.
The simplicity of the syntax required to run a basic Python command is what makes it an ideal choice for a young programmer. It is a text-based coding language that is relatively easy to understand, even for young learners. Python is equipped with a wide variety of libraries to help a developer create complex games and applications compatible with many platforms.
The code utilized in writing commands in Python can be an excellent gateway to advancing to more difficult languages.
You can follow this link to an introduction to Python.
Blockly is another visuals-oriented programming language. The user interface shows a set of multi-colored blocks that kids can drag and drop, and on the side is a space to write basic code.
Blockly features a wide array of syntaxes for different programming languages such as Java, C, etc. The main goal is to familiarize learners with how to code in different languages.
Its mechanics are simple: Users are given a problem that they have to solve by arranging the blocks a certain way. When finished, the program checks the solution and the codes for any errors.
Java is best suited for kids aged 10-13. Java runs applications on most platforms such as Windows and Apple OS, which is why knowledge in Java is one of the most sought-after requirements in most IT companies who are hiring programmers.
Java takes a little bit more time to master than other languages, but it is far from being the hardest one, with its syntax being very similar to C++.
With kids, one of the main attractions of learning Java is it being the language that is used to develop the game Minecraft. Being able to play around the source code that makes Minecraft run allows the players to have more freedom with the game and make creative changes known as "mods" (short for modifications).
Below is a picture of a Java workshop held by Oracle Academy. It shows young learners studying how to code.
Lua is another scripting language. Like Python, it has a shorter learning curve than other languages, thanks to the elimination of any complicated syntax.
Aside from being relatively easier to pick up, Lua is also an attractive language for kids interested in game development. Popular games such as Angry Birds and World of Warcraft makes use of Lua to a certain degree.
Ruby is a programming language specifically developed to be easier than its predecessors. It is a good choice for beginners because the structure of its code is not overcomplicated, and it is easily understood. To give you an idea, below is a sample code to output the text "Hello, World!" using Ruby:
puts "Hello, World!"
"puts" is the part of the code that tells the compiler to display some text on the screen, which in this example, is "Hello, World"
8. Swift Playgrounds
This programming tool is actually an iPad application that also utilizes attractive and colourful visuals to hook young learners to programming. The controls are built for a touch screen and the mechanics are simple: drag and drop the elements of the game you are building and write the corresponding code for each one.
Apple's App Store describes Swift Playgrounds as
a revolutionary app for iPad that makes it fun to learn and experiment with code. You solve interactive puzzles in the guided “Learn to Code” lessons to master the basics of coding, while additional challenges let you explore code and create programs that are engaging and unique."
This is also one of the more advanced programming languages in this list. For this reason, it is recommended for the ages 13 and above, where kids start to become more serious in their programming career.
C++ tackles deeper concepts in advanced programming, and like Java, it is also a widely popular language in the industry. Most modern games and applications we download on our devices run on C++.
While it is one of the hardest programming languages, a deep understanding of C++ helps build a very impressive resume.
10. HTML & CSS
Hypertext Markup Language and Cascading Style Sheet always deserves to be mentioned in programming languages lists, though, strictly speaking, neither of them is a programming language. This is because these languages are simply used to markup and style webpages exclusively. It would be impractical to try to create functional web programs using just these two.
What makes them a great choice for beginners is how innately simple it is to learn them. HTML's syntax does not vary widely and it is arguably the easiest programming language. The foundations of CSS, on the other hand, are very easy to comprehend.
When it comes to kids, these languages are best taught with visuals.
Picking the appropriate kids coding languages for your child(ren) is a matter of deliberation. Are they interested? How old are they? What learning devices do you already have at home? Is there a programming workshop being held near you? Having a clear answer to these questions can be a good start to your kid's programming career.