Computer programming for kids is an excellent skill to pick up at an early age, given how important it is in today’s world and its inevitable significance in the future.
However, there is an incredible number of programming languages out there, more than 700 to be precise. As a result, it can be tough to decide on which coding language will be best for your kids.
Using the analogy of foreign languages, though, it becomes a much easier decision to make.
For language-learners, while any foreign language can be appealing, it’s those that have the most native speakers or a personal connection that will usually rise to the top of the pile.
The same can be said for programming languages. There are some which are more common than others, and are much more widely used. This is a solid basis to make a decision on, especially if your kid is unsure where to start.
It’s unlikely that they will have a personal connection to anyone coding language straight away, but there’s a good chance that there’s a game, app, or social platform they like, all of which can be traced back to a certain programming language.
Whatever criteria you use to figure out which programming language is best for your child, you should be sure to involve them in the decision, since this could somewhere down the road be a skill that sets them up for future success and career satisfaction.
We believe that there are four programming languages for kids that stand out from the rest, so we’ll cover each in detail in this guide to help you make an informed decision.
Why Should Kids Learn to Code?
There are many reasons kids should learn to code, not just because we live in an increasingly technology-focused world.
Coding is becoming a new core competency that allows us to understand what’s going on behind-the-scenes with computers, software, and more. Just like picking up a foreign language with a large base of native speakers allows you to understand and communicate with many more people, a new coding language allows you to understand and communicate with computers and understand and create games, apps, and software.
Here are some of the most compelling reasons that children should give coding a go:
It Develops Problem-solving Skills
One of the best aspects of learning to code is it forces you to work through problems and think of creative solutions. Just like the subject of maths, coding for kids often gets a bad reputation as being a tedious subject full of numbers and complex problems to solve. However, when you shift your perspective, you can see that both fields present problems that require logic and focus to overcome - which sharpens the learner’s cognitive tools.
We all face problems in life, and the more we are exposed to them, the better the chance we have of tackling them head-on and coming up with solutions. There’s no doubt about it, coding is hard, but that should be all the more reason for children to get familiar with it at a young age.
It Encourages Creativity
While you’d be forgiven for thinking coding is all jumbled up numbers and letters, there’s much more to it than that. Furthermore, not all programming languages are made that way. There are as many visual languages as there are text-based ones, so creativity is a skill kids can cultivate through coding.
The reality of life these days is that children respond better to technology than other forms of entertainment. A lot of kids will pick the iPad app over the racket and ball, the video game over the book, and so on. Instead of fighting this and worrying that your kid is wasting their time on games and apps, why not encourage them to engage their creative side and try to produce what they enjoy spending so much time on?
It’s an in-demand Skill
Coding is very much an in-demand skill in today’s world, and it will only grow in popularity as we see further innovations in technology. As a result, it’s a skill that can lead to lucrative careers and success in later life.
If you’re worried that your child isn’t as interested in the traditional academic subjects like science or maths, why not see if they take a liking to coding instead?
While we can sit here and list the benefits of kids learning to code until the cows come home, many children aren’t able to think too far ahead in the future. If something is boring, your kid will tell you, and once something has this reputation it can be hard to change their mind.
As such, maybe a good approach is to focus on the most enjoyable aspects of coding to your kid when you sit them down to discuss the subject. You might even want to invest in one of the many programming toys for kids to sweeten the deal.
With coding, they’ll get to spend time playing around with a computer or tablet, learning the basic building blocks of the internet. Just like a Lego set, one day they will be able to design and build epic creations, except instead of fair ground rides and spaceships, it’ll be video games, apps, and computer software.
Coding places digital building blocks in the learner’s hands and invites them to see what they are capable of, which can be an exciting thought!
Python is a scripting language that is hands-down one of the easiest to learn, so it’s an excellent option for those unfamiliar with coding. It works like English speech, so it will go hand-in-hand with your child’s studies at school without requiring them to learn a whole new language system.
This is the coding language behind some of the biggest social network platforms like YouTube, Instagram and many more.
This coding language is one of the more simplistic to learn, so it should be relatively straightforward to pick up in the beginning. This is important, since complex coding languages can be off-putting and daunting to children, discouraging them from before they even start learning.
This text-based programming language is recommended for children from the age of 8 onwards. It’s an excellent language to start with, since it can provide a foundational knowledge of coding that kids can take with them and apply to other programming languages going forward.
Scratch is another programming language that’s very popular among children, specifically for those who are between the ages of 8 and 16. There’s a lot to like with Scratch, not least of which is the easy-to-use interface that keeps things engaging and avoids some of the text-based code’s tedium. Plus, there are many programming games for kids, and Scratch is a good language to make them with.
This coding language is a great option for those who prefer strong visuals instead of walls of text. Children will have to get creative, by dragging and dropping colourful blocks into place in order to master Scratch. Due to its visual nature, Scratch is excellent for working on anything from animation to games, so it should be an entertaining language for children to play around with.
It’s so simple to create a basic game with Scratch that even young learners will be producing their own fun adventures in no time at all. This makes it a no-brainer for kids who love video games, cartoons, and visual stimuli.
This is the programming language behind everything from Gmail and Twitter, to several internet browsers, and one of the most popular games among kids worldwide: Minecraft. Yes, that’s right, Java is responsible for the game that has captured the attention of your kids for as long as you can remember, which should make it an easy sell.
The popularity of Java means that learning it can give young learners an edge when choosing a career later in life. A career working with java can be lucrative, and the possibilities of how to use it are almost endless. It’s often referred to as the ‘language of the web’, so it’s certainly a programming language worth mentioning to your kids - if they aren’t already aware of it!
Lua is a less-well-known coding language compared to the other three we’ve presented, but it’s an excellent beginner-friendly option with straightforward applications. It is more complicated compared to some of the other kids coding languages, but provided your child has a solid work ethic this shouldn’t prove to be an insurmountable obstacle to making progress.
This coding language is behind the gaming platform Roblox, and the hugely popular ‘Angry Birds’ game.