Coding for kids should really always be Python coding for kids.
Coding is a relatively new subject in the children's education sphere. The name itself, coding, can mean many different things for many different people.
For some, coding for kids means using platforms such as Scratch or other children-specific software. These programs are designed to introduce some of the basic concepts of coding to children. You can compare it to the apps young children use where they can drag letters across the screen to complete a word when they're learning how to read.
Scratch can get you started, but it's important to move on from it relatively quickly, before kids get the wrong impression of what coding really is, and before they get bored of it.
Others think of robotics when they think of coding. Robotics is indeed one of the many applications of coding. It is a topic that can engage some students, although some others may be put off by it. Either way, robotics is a good way of engaging students with technology, and also coding.
For a full, thorough and broad view of coding, however, we need to look beyond Scratch and robotics and Minecraft. Students need to learn coding using the right tools.
Python is the programming language universally considered as the best to start learning coding for beginners of all ages, especially children.
Unlike Scratch, Python is a real language used in the real world by real programmers. Students also don't grow out of Python as they do (very quickly) with Scratch.
Unlike coding within robotics, which is very specific to one narrow application of coding, Python coding is applicable to all branches of coding.
Another issue we must be aware of when using robotics is that a lot of the "coding" has already been done for us and for the kids by the manufacturers of the robots. This can sometimes hinder learning some of the fundamentals of coding.
Learning Python coding for kids goes beyond just learning how to write programs. Writing programs in Python requires students to think critically and to solve problems. Writing code is all about solving problems.
And when coding is not inhibited and restrained by the platform being used, students can be truly creative and use their imagination to translate their ideas into a computer program.
How about other real languages such as Java, C++, or maybe HTML? Let's start with HTML: this is not a programming language but a markup language - that's the ML in HTML. This makes it fine to present data, such as when creating websites, but cannot be used for manipulating data which is what programming does.
Languages such as Java and C++ are programming languages but they are also harder languages, with a lot more syntax to learn. They also break one of the main codetoday rules for teaching coding: always explain every single line of code we write when teaching. This is really important for students to be able to comprehend the fundamentals and so that they don't get the impression that coding is strange and hard. This rule can be obeyed when using Python to teach, but not with most other languages, and certainly not with Java or C++.
Are kids as young as 7 ready for Python? Yes, absolutely, as long as it introduced in a gentle way using engaging projects.
At codetoday, we have designed our Live Online courses so that each course is relatively short: each course is four sessions long, with each live session one hour long. There are several reasons why we chose this format but one of these is that it enables parents and students to try out learning coding in Python without any long-term commitments. If they find it too difficult, they can wait a bit longer before going ahead with further levels.
Do you have more questions about learning coding using Python? Leave a comment with a question below, or email us.