Which Programming Language Should My Child Start With?

Boy working on a computer

There are over 500 programming languages in the world which may seem too cumbersome or intimidating for a child to begin with. Majorly, Programming languages are made up of two broad categories: block-based programming and text-based programming.

Block-based programming vs. Text-based programming

scratch programming script

Image: Block-based language

python script

Image: Text-based language

Block-based languages were designed to make programming more accessible and interesting to young children. In computer programming, a code block usually consist of one or more statement grouped together. Block-based languages employ simple drag and drop mechanism that enable kids quickly understand the programming concept without intimidating them with a whole lot of typing and syntax. With colourful blocks and cartoonish graphics and characters, block-based languages makes programming really exciting for kids or beginners, especially from ages 4 to 10. They are able to create games, interactive stories, animations, and quizzes very quickly.

On the other hand, text-based programming primarily consists of texts rather than blocks, graphics or sound. It requires typing discipline as a lot of typing is involved. Text-based programming also has rules or syntax that must be obeyed for code to run correctly. For instance, omitting a semicolon or using single quotes in place of double quotes in certain places can make the program not to work. Text-based languages require more concentration and as such could discourage young children with short attention span. Older children from 10 years and above will find text-based languages more tasking and challenging.

 

Recommended Block-based languages for beginners

Scratch

Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create interactive art, stories, simulations, and games. It was developed by MIT Media Lab. It can also be used for a range of educational and entertainment constructionist purposes from math and science projects, including simulations and visualizations of experiments, recording lectures with animated presentations, to social sciences, animated stories, and interactive art and music. The only downside to Scratch is that the projects created cannot run outside the Scratch environment.

App Inventor

Another block-based language that is used to create android mobile apps. It is similar to Scratch in that it uses the same drag and drop mechanism to create blocks of code. Apps created on App Inventor can be downloaded to Android smartphones for testing.

Recommended Text-based languages for Beginners

For beginners looking for something more than block-based languages, Javascript and Python are options to explore.

Javascript

JavaScript is a programming language that adds interactivity to your website (for example: games, responses when buttons are pressed or data entered in forms, dynamic styling, animation). JavaScript is easy to learn and incredibly versatile. You can start small, with carousels, image galleries, fluctuating layouts, and responses to button clicks. With more experience you’ll be able to create games, animated 2D and 3D graphics, comprehensive database-driven apps, and much more!

Python

Python is a general purpose programming language that is used for creating web apps, automating simple everyday tasks on the computer, building video games, testing microchips etc. It powers popular applications like Instagram, Google, Youtube, Dropbox etc. Python is highly readable as it very closely resembles the English language. This is a great advantage for young children and beginners.

In a nutshell, it is highly recommended for any kid/beginner to start up with block-based programming– no matter the age— then later progressively move into the text-based. This would help the child in understanding the fundamentals or basics of computer programming and to develop a programmer’s mindset.

5 Reasons Why Kids Should Learn To Code

kids learning to code in scratch

Could you be wondering why it’s necessary for your kids to learn coding?

In today’s technological evolving world, coding has become more necessary and valuable, especially for the younger generation. Just as Tynker states on their blog, Learning facts is less and less relevant in a world where Google can satisfy just about any question in a matter of milliseconds; it is skills that will enable children to succeed, and that set of skills must include programming.”

These are 5 reasons why your kids should learn to code starting from today:

1. Coding is in high demand in today’s technological evolving world

We obviously can see that times have changed, we are in a world where ‘almost’ everything is being controlled by technology. Technology is being programmed to meet man’s needs in various fields, for instance, in the industrial field and in most work environments. Considering this factor, kids have to be rightly positioned to fit into any technologically-based environment where they may find themselves later in the future. Coding therefore is mandatory for your kids to learn because it makes them creators of technology.

2. A means of developing other crucial 21st century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking

In coding, critical and logic-based thinking is applied, thereby being able to solve problems by following the right and most specific instructions in a step-by-step procedure. This helps them think about, know and understand the world around them in a real sense.

3. A unique platform that unleashes ingenuity and innovation

Coding helps to massively expand one’s creative and innovative abilities in such an inspiring way, thereby creating a world of limitless possibilities. Coding could be likened to any sphere of art or music as a means of expressing one’s creative and innovative abilities. This, in a huge way enhances their intuitiveness and broadens their imaginations of picturing things the way they ought to be.

4. Kids learn better and faster when they’re young

Children learning coding at a young age is very vital, because they are more accessible to lots of free time, like long holiday periods— kids love to use such time in consuming technology (like video games) which of course can be created by them. On the other hand, it would be of a huge asset to parents if their kids learn how to code and program these technologies they use during those holiday periods. Also, they would find it easier and faster to learn more skills than adults– their minds are open, inquisitive, flexible, and learning code is like learning a language, far easier when you are young.

5. There’s never a dull or boring moment in coding

It’s an amazing and exciting experience to get to code. By the time you learn coding, there’s a positive inner-feeling you get, like–“wow! I’m a genius, I can create things!!”; “Seriously? I can make things happen!” Such feelings build up more ability, agility and enthusiasm in the coding process. In acquiring good coding skills, you’d get to create video games, apps, websites and lots more.

Having known all of these, isn’t coding worth doing? Great then! It’s very achievable. Your child can learn coding beginning from today.

 

 

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My Journey Into The World of Coding

I haven’t always been a programmer. In fact I hated programming or should I rather say, was scared of it. My few attempts to learn a programming language during my undergraduate days ended in futility. I just couldn’t understand the concept at all.

When I proceeded to study for an MSc. in Computer Network Administration and Management at the University of Portsmouth, I had no idea that the “thing I feared most would come upon me”. In the first semester, we were given a project to design and code a “Web-based Library Management System”. Our lecturer assumed that we all had prerequisite knowledge of HTML so he ventured into teaching PHP, MySQL etc. I had no idea what HTML was much less PHP, MySQL. I thought I enrolled for a networking course, what business had networking got to do with programming, I was scared to death.

The project carried 100% of the assessment marks for the course and I was trapped with nowhere to escape. I prayed and literally cried to God for help. When I stopped crying I decided I wasn’t going to fail so I gathered myself, went to the library, and got as many books as I could on the various topics. I took baby steps, watched a lot of tutorials on YouTube and suddenly after a long while, a lightbulb came up in my head. I began to understand the concepts of programming like conditions, loops, variables etc

To cut the long story short, I was one of two that made an ‘A’ in that course and so began my love for programming. I went on to program micro-controllers in ‘C’ during my final project designing and implementing a WiFi Speaker System and also scored an ‘A’.

It’s been a long and scary journey for me but very rewarding. I learnt that the best way to conquer your fears is to confront them head-on. I believe any one can learn how to code and write computer programs. All it takes is a willingness to learn and also having a good teacher to break down the concepts.

I started 9jacodekids because I believe the best time to learn any language including programming languages is during childhood. We’ve helped kids as young as seven to understand the basic concepts of programming that I had to struggle to understand as a postgraduate student. We’ve achieved that by making programming fun and exciting for kids.

Have you had similar experiences? Leave a comment below and let me know what your thoughts are on programming and if you had any challenges learning to program. If you enjoyed reading this article, please share using the buttons below.

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