Basic computer science for kids has evolved from simple typing skills to coding. Schools all over the world are encouraging parents to teach their children programming as early as they can. That’s because it comes with numerous benefits, from early career-building to improved aptitude.
Apart from the job readiness that comes with the skill, programming helps improve critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It will influence other aspects of your kid’s learning positively.
According to a study on the effect of children’s inhibition and planning skills published on Science Direct, children learning how to code improved their response and planning inhibitions.
In this guide, we’ll be showing you the best programming languages your child should learn.
What Is Coding?
Coding involves conveying instructions to a computer using languages it understands. These instructions, written as codes, can be used to build different software applications and website implementations.
Start with HTML and CSS
Web development is an essential building block in programming. It’s a great way to introduce kids to the world of coding, and HTML is the best place to start.
Going straight to programming isn’t a bad idea. However, putting kids through a basic markup language like HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is an excellent springboard. It’s a language that tells a web browser how to display web content. HTML tags define web page data and their structures. Browsers then interpret the code and display the website as intended.
HTML is mainly used to tell structural arrangements apart, such as headers, paragraphs, forms, links, etc.
CSS (Cascading Style sheet) works hand in hand with HTML. It’s used to add design properties to HTML elements. For example, it tells the web browser the color, size, and position of a text. It can also be used to describe other things like the background color.
This website and most of its design properties are a product of HTML, CSS, and other languages.
While HTML and CSS are not considered full-blown programming languages, they contain elements that can introduce your kids to coding.
As far as programming languages go, Scratch is the best for kids, especially those aged 7 to 11. MIT Media Lab created the language in 2007 with children in mind. It uses a drag-and-drop interface and has colorful blocks. Kids – and even adults – can create interactive applications, animations, and games by connecting these blocks instead of writing out complicated codes.
These make it one of the most intuitive coding environments to get used to and develop a foundation in programming. There’s also a large interactive community that can make coding for kids easier.
Scratch doesn’t just exist as a programming language. Instead, it’s also an interactive web platform with resources for educators and even parents. This way, you can also help your kids learn the ropes.
ScratchJr was developed for younger children with a more easy-to-learn interface.
Once kids are well-versed in Scratch, they can easily transition to more complex languages like Python and Java.
It can also be used to implement things like scrolling videos, animated 2D/3D graphics, carousels, and interactive forms and images.
Python is named after the Monty Python comedy series and has grown to be one of the most adopted programming languages. It’s popular among scientists, and big companies like Google, Netflix, and Spotify use it.
According to the PYPL Popularity of Programming Index, Python is the most popular programming language in the world. This explains why it’s on the curricular of many schools and development boot camps.
Python is a high-level and data-oriented language with easy-to-learn semantics. High-level programming languages are further away from basic computer syntax (ones and zeros) and closer to human understanding, making them user-friendly.
Programmers can use Python to create anything from websites to video games to data analytics software programs.
Since Python’s language is among the closest to human speech, it’s an excellent place for your kids to start their coding journey. It also includes data structures and most of the tools that programmers need. That means, with proper guidance, kids should be able to grasp Python and start coding in no time.
It will help build their programming knowledge, preparing them for other advanced programming vocations.
Ruby is another object-oriented programming language that has been building popularity over recent years.
Like Python, it’s a high-level language with easy-to-understand syntax and is seen as arguably the best programming language for beginners. Developers can build programs with less code than other complex options. This means it’ll be another excellent choice for kids making their way into programming. In addition, the language does not require a lot of explaining as the code is quite readable and intuitive.
Ruby can be used to build data processing services, desktop applications, automation tools, and even websites. In fact, more than a million websites on the Internet were built with Ruby.
Also, Twitter was originally developed using Ruby’s popular application framework, Ruby on Rails.
PHP is another popular scripting language for web development. It’s a server-side language that can be embedded into HTML to develop interactive and dynamic websites and maintain scripts. Many popular platforms, including Facebook, implement a form of PHP.
It’s relatively easy to learn, and kids can use it as a career-prep in programming. Like any other programming language, PHP has abbreviations, rules, and a unique syntax. In addition, it has a very active online community, and there are lots of learning resources that can benefit your kids.
Many schools offer PHP as an introductory programming course alongside Scratch, Python, and Ruby.
Visual Basic (VB.net) is an event-driven environment and programming language created by Microsoft. It was derived from the language known as BASIC (Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code). This shows that it was designed with beginners in mind.
Visual Basic is only used to create and deploy applications within the Windows environment. That said, it’s a great way to take advantage of Visual Studio, Microsoft’s integrated environment. Other Microsoft programming languages such as Visual C# and C++ follow the same compilation process. Since Visual Basic is the easiest to learn, it gives your child an edge to learn C++ and C# in the future.
It’s almost impossible to make any list of programming languages without mentioning Java. While it’s now behind Python on the most popular language list, it’s still very relevant and widely used. For almost every programmer, coding in Java validates their development career.
The programming language has been used to build popular websites, games (like Minecraft), desktop apps, and even AI and machine learning software programs. It can be used to create any software application from the ground up.
Java is arguably more complex than Python and Ruby. Many consider its syntax to be less intuitive and readable. That said, starting with Java means learning other programming languages will be easier.
Also, Java has been around for years and has a massive community of developers. That means it’ll be easy to find resources such as toolkits and video tutorials to make learning easier.
Optimizing the Learning Process
Learning to code can be complex without the right strategy, especially for kids. So, it would be best if you created an enabling environment and developed a process. For example, you can use a time tracker to monitor how long your child spends coding. This way, you’re not only managing their time but also tracking their progress.
A study room would also be beneficial since it reduces distractions and improves focus.
There are many reasons why coding remains one of the best investments for your kid’s future. You’ll give them a better shot at developing the next revolutionary if you start teaching them right now. What’s more, summer at coding camp or extracurricular programming lessons will transform their creativity, computational thinking, and cognitive skills.