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The Ultimate Guide to the Best Kids' Coding Languages





As if coding isn't complicated enough, you begin your research to find the best way to start your kids coding properly, and then, you run into the first major hurdle: "What is the best programming language for my child?" Everyone has an opinion on what they think is the best coding language, but figuring out which is right for your child is essential to them being successful and enjoying learning to code.


Something to consider is not only the programming language you opt for but also the teaching credentials of who is delivering the learning. Do they know how to code properly? Are they at the forefront of their programming language? Are they engaging and fun with a curriculum that means your child will be able to actually write their own code, or is it an 'add on' subject? The best coding language for children should be a language that is inspiring but also sets them up for future success as a programmer.


There is an opportunity for every child to learn to program, and in this day and age, it's an essential skill to develop. So, let's look at some important areas before deciding on the best coding route for your child.


Contents

  1. What is coding?

  2. What is a coding language?

  3. What type of coding is my child ready for? Block coding vs programming toys vs text-based coding

  4. Which is the best type of programming language for your child's age?

  5. Which is the best coding language for children to learn?

  6. The top five coding languages for kids:

    • Python

    • Scratch

    • Julia

    • Swift

    • HTML/CSS

7. Are real programming languages too boring for kids?

8. Our choice: Best programming language for kids.


What is coding?


Coding is a means of communication between humans and computers. When we write code, we instruct computers to do tasks precisely how we want them to. Coding is used to write software, analyse data, and many more tasks. Most of our society relies on computer code today. Learn more in our post 'What is coding and what should I know as a parent: https://www.codetoday.co.uk/post/2017/05/31/coding-what-is-it-and-what-should-i-know-as-a-parent


What is a coding language?


Programming (also known as coding) is like writing a recipe for someone to follow, except we are writing it for the computer to complete instructions. For example, 'if someone clicks on button A, then show them page B'. When communicating with a computer, we need to use a language the computer understands.


Computers "think" in binary code. Binary is strings of 1s and 0s. Different coding languages let us write 'code' in a language we can understand. This acts as a way of turning our ideas into instructions for computers.


Some "languages" are designed specifically for young children. These are often referred to as "block coding", and they're easy to teach with little coding knowledge. This makes it well suited to being used in schools. Scratch is the most popular block coding platform.


However, proper coding that is useful in 'real world scenarios' is very different and can only be learned using a full text-based coding language. It is widely accepted that Python is the language preferred by most when teaching children (and adults). However, in this post, we dig a little deeper to see how different coding languages for children compare.




What type of coding is my child ready for?


Programming toys vs Block coding vs Text-based coding.

Firstly, you need to decide what benefits you want for your child and their age and developmental stage.


For example, writing lines of code in a proper coding language does require some skills to be already present, such as literacy. This is not to say they need to be top of the class at reading and writing to learn to code. Quite the opposite, as learning to code uses a different type of thinking. However, the ability to type and read basic commands is the first step.


Coding toys can be a fun introduction to witnessing first-hand what coding can do in an entertaining way. These toys can create a sense of wonder and engage children in the world of programming. They're often used in schools to engage students. However, unless you purchase the hardware, the child cannot continue practising their skills at home. These tools also hide some coding steps within their software, so children don't always get a complete picture of what's required in coding.


Block coding can be an easy way to understand some programming principles in a basic way. It's also a nice introduction to the world of coding for kids that gets them thinking logically and develop problem-solving skills. However, there's a limit on the coding topics that students can learn with these platforms, and children can often get bored once they've reached the limit of what block coding can achieve.


Text-based coding is what we call 'real' coding because it's what's used by professional programmers in the real world and not just for kids to learn the basics. These coding languages require the programmer (the child in this case) to tell the computer what to do by writing commands using the "words" and "grammar" of the coding language. There are many text-based languages used worldwide by professionals to create apps, games, analyse data, help in scientific work and a lot more.


Which is the best type of programming language for your child's age?


If your child is under 7, then opting for block coding or a coding toy is a good option but don't get stuck on this for too long. If they want to understand programming, it is important they learn a proper text-based language such as Python. Age 7 is generally a good age to start learning to write actual code in an age-appropriate way. However, every child is different. If they are not ready to learn a coding language yet, then that's just fine. It doesn't mean they won't be able to master it at a later date. Using programming robots and drag and drop like Scratch is still a great starting point.



Which is the best coding language for children to learn?


Let's look at five of the most popular coding languages you may hear about. There are others, and not everyone's "list of five" will look the same, except that they will all include Python!

  1. Python: a programming language used by millions of professionals. It's easier to learn and write code than many other languages while still being very powerful. This makes it ideal to teach beginners, including children.

  2. Scratch is a visual coding platform designed specifically for young children using drag-and-drop functionality. It's a good starting point for young children.

  3. Julia: an up-and-coming language primarily used by data scientists. One to consider for the future

  4. Swift: a language developed by Apple and used primarily for building apps for iOS, Mac, Apple TV and Apple Watch

  5. HTML/CSS: a language used to make websites. It's not the same type of programming language as the others in this list, but it's often a useful additional skill to learn.




Top programming languages for kids


1. Python


What is Python? - https://www.python.org/

Python is a real-world language that is very powerful and useful and yet also suitable for beginners. It is one of the most popular coding languages today. What makes Python ideal for beginners is its relative ease of use compared to other languages, which enables students to focus on the key coding concepts when learning.


Python is regularly used in many professional settings, including science, data analysis, developing websites, marketing, task automation, and many more. Python is one of the main languages used by programmers whose job is not to develop software, for example, scientists. The usability of Python makes it useful in a wide range of careers and creates a good understanding of how programming works in general.


What makes Python unique among programming languages is that it has fewer barriers for beginners, but it's also a very powerful language with many applications. Other languages can have more niche applications and can be harder to learn.


What are the Pros of Python for children?

It's a language that lets children and adults be super creative and descriptive. It lets coders write some really cool stuff once they understand the fundamentals.

By learning Python, children are placed in an excellent position for future career paths. This language is used not only by game and website developers but for science experiments, space travel and financial analysis.

Python is a joy to code in compared to most other text-based languages. It's also used by millions of professionals worldwide and has a strong community if you run into problems. When taught correctly, it is a language that can set children up for a future in programming. It's also a language designed with modern coding best practices in mind, making it easier for beginners to learn to do things the "right" way.

Unlike other programming languages, Python isn't over-engineered. As a result, it's straightforward and enjoyable to learn (compared to most other text-based coding languages). This language gives children a foundation that will allow them to tackle more complex programming tasks both with Python and other languages as they develop.


What are the Cons of Python for children?

It is a text-based language. This means that, like all text-based languages, a certain level of literacy is required to write code, unlike in block coding, where kids just drag and drop coloured blocks. It also doesn't have the immediate 'curb appeal' of programmes that run games like Minecraft and Roblox, so an inspirational, knowledgeable teacher is key to ensuring children can unlock the pure joy of truly creating something that is theirs.


Conclusion:

Python is our language of choice for kids at codetoday https://www.codetoday.co.uk/. It is one of the most effective coding languages and gives children an accurate understanding of how code works. It unlocks a new level of creativity, helps build problem-solving and resilience skills and can be used in various careers.


Book A FREE live lesson in Python for kids TODAY





2. Scratch


What is Scratch? - https://scratch.mit.edu/

Scratch is the largest coding community for kids and a coding platform with a simple interface. It allows children to create games, digital stories and animations. Scratch is designed, developed, and moderated by the Scratch Foundation, a nonprofit organisation.


Scratch is always free and is available in more than 70 languages and is mainly used in schools as it does not require a teacher that is an expert in coding. As a visual interface, it uses a drag-and-drop functionality, making it easy for young children to use.


What are the Pros of Scratch for children?

An easy place to start for young children. Its drag-and-drop features make this the quickest way for young children to master some coding basics. It doesn't use any complicated syntax or development tools. With it being a purely visual programme, children can snap together lines of code and see their creations come to life. It is a good option for kids on the road to picking up programming before they are ready to move on to a text-based language. Children can get results reasonably quickly, encouraging an interest in coding.


What are the Cons of Scratch for children?

Reliance upon this platform may stop children from developing essential programming skills. The coding topics children can learn with Scratch are limited. Some children also get the wrong impression of what coding is through Scratch, in part because it can seem like a gaming platform to kids, and they have to relearn some of the basics when they move on to a text-based programming language. Scratch is ideally for young children, but they should move on to proper coding languages as soon as they're able to. Kids who spend too long on Scratch often get bored, and because they think that coding is Scratch, they think they're getting bored of coding.


Conclusion

A good language for younger children but does have limitations. It is purely for children and not used in industry, so if you are looking for the basics to help build logic and problem-solving skills, it's a great choice. However, look at text-based languages to develop subject matter skills for long-term progression. Many students start learning on children's platforms such as Scratch, but they outgrow these platforms very quickly.



3. Julia


What is Julia? https://julialang.org/


Julia is a relatively new programming language. It sits in a similar space to Python in terms of having low barriers to entry for beginners. It's used mostly in fields such as science and numerical analysis. It is often favoured by scientists for its speed and ease of use. However, Julia is still a general-purpose language and can also be used for web and game development.

In 2009, Jeff Bezanson, Stefan Karpinski, Viral B. Shah, and Alan Edelman began creating this free language that was both high-level and fast. It's named Julia because the creators thought it was a pretty name.


What are the Pros of Julia for children:

This language was designed for machine learning and scientific computations. Professionals consider it one of the top programming languages. Julia is faster than other text-based languages. Older teens could give it a try if they're interested in careers in data analysis, science, machine learning, visualisation, or mathematics.


What are the Cons of Julia for children:

Julia is a relatively new language. This means it is constantly being updated significantly and can change rapidly. The number of people using Julia is still relatively small compared to other languages such as Python; therefore, there's less help and fewer resources available. It also means that finding great teachers who are proficient in Julia is not easy.


Conclusion:

As a new and upcoming language, it does not benefit from having a large online community to help when encountering problems. So, although it may be as easy to learn as Python, it is likely when you run into issues, you will get stuck. One to watch for the future.


4. Swift



Swift is a robust and intuitive programming language created by Apple to build iOS, Mac, Apple TV and Apple Watch apps. Swift code, as was the case with Python and Julia, is closer to natural English than some other coding languages. Swift is designed as a language that is powerful yet fun.


What are the Pros of Scratch for children?

This is a relatively easy language for beginners to learn. It's a bit stricter than Python and Julia in terms of the style of programming you need to use. It is a fast language that provides safeguards against errors. It's an expressive language that is reasonably easy to read and write. Swift projects are easy to scale. It's also backed by Apple, its creator!


What are the Cons of Scratch for children?

It is a relatively young language that has grown rapidly because it was developed by a large company, Apple. Swift is primarily designed for and used for the development of Apple software which means it's less suited for other applications.


Conclusion:


If you want to get into app development, it's a good option. It's fast and reasonably easy to use. It's also a language that's at the mercy of one company, albeit a very large one! Still, one to consider learning once a solid understanding of programming has been obtained.


5. HTML/CSS


What is HTML/CSS? https://html.com/

HTML is, strictly speaking not a programming language. The ML in its name refers to "markup language", which means it's useful for displaying content. For this reason, its main use is to create website layouts. Every website you come across is using it. Markup languages work by using tags known as elements, such as header tags, image tags, paragraph texts etc. These elements are used to affect the visual styling of the page.


CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets. This language controls how the elements appear on the page. The style sheets dictate the look of a website, such as colour and font. CSS is independent of HTML.


What are the Pros of HTML/CSS for children?

Both are highly sought-after skills in web development. Great for making websites, as this is the foundation of webpages. If children want to create websites from scratch, then these skills will come in useful.


What are the Cons of HTML/CSS for children?

As it's not a programming language but a markup language, it doesn't teach many of the problem-solving skills and critical thinking that learning to code does. It can't be used for any other application, so it's a bit limited. This is a great additional skill for children to learn, but it's not a replacement for learning to code using a programming language such as Python.


Conclusion:

If the goal is to be a web designer, start here. But if you want your kids to learn programming, then you need to consider other languages.


Are real programming languages too boring for kids?


We all know this varies from task to task and subject to subject, as well as individual personalities. The key here is making sure you find a great teacher and that they understand how to engage children and make it fun for them to learn. Let's be honest, even people with great attention spans struggle when things get boring. We have all been in those hour-long slideshow presentations pondering what to make for dinner rather than whatever is presented. Ensure that a teaching style and curriculum suit your child and their level. Small class sizes are also crucial to successful learning.




Our choice: Best programming language for kids


Undoubtedly our top pick is Python. That is why we only teach coding using Python. It sets up children for a great foundation in coding as well as being creative enough to be fun and engaging (as long as you have the right teacher).

We teach children live online to develop coding skills that not only help them understand programming but also how to problem solve, how to be resilient when looking for errors and empower themselves with the skill to write code themselves.


We are always confident that children love to code with us, so we are happy to offer a FREE live lesson in Python for kids https://www.codetoday.co.uk/book-a-free-coding-class-for-kids why not sign up and see if you agree?

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