Top Kids Coding Languages (& why you should code!)
It’s no surprise that coding has been increasing in popularity over the past few years, with both boys and girls showing an interest! However, there are a variety of coding languages out there, so how do you choose where to start? Which coding language is best for kids will vary depending on your kid’s interests and coding abilities. Ultimately you should choose the language they’re most interested in, as this will help with their motivation and consistency - and most importantly they’ll be having fun!
Many people of all ages want to learn how to code as it can open up an abundance of career opportunities for them. Of course, having these extra skills will definitely look good on your kid’s future CV (or your own!), however, there is so much more to be gained from coding on a personal level:
- Develops their logical thinking skills
- Helps them improve their maths skills
- Strengthens their verbal and written skills
- Helps them become more confident problem solvers
- Encourages creativity
- Can improve their overall academic performance
Block-based vs. text-based coding languages
One of the first things to consider when choosing a coding language for kids is whether to go with a visual block-based language or a text-based language. Generally speaking, block-based languages are good for younger children and those who are taking their first steps into the world of coding. It’s suitable for kids around the age of 5-8 years old, as it requires a low level of reading and also tends to be visually stimulating with bright colours, helping keep them engaged.
For kids who are more confident in their coding abilities and are about 9+ years of age, they may be ready to try basic text-based coding languages. As well as being able to read, text-based coding requires a higher level of focus due to its detail-oriented nature. Hence why it may be a bit difficult or boring for younger children, as it’s not as fun or animated compared to block-based languages. However, it is essential to learn text-based languages if your child wants to pursue coding, as these are what professionals use to build software and websites.
Kids Coding Languages
Below we have a list of five coding languages that are both fun and easy for kids to learn. Parents should keep in mind that kids will probably need some guidance for getting them started with a new programming language.
Scratch is considered one of the best programs for introducing kids to coding. It’s a block-based language and probably the most visually appealing from this list, making it appropriate even for younger children. Another great aspect of this program is that it gives users creative freedom. Your kids can create games, interactive stories, and animations - making them feel like a true game designer. The main drawback to this program of course is that it doesn’t teach line by line code, so isn’t a real language that is used in the working world. However, it is still excellent on a theoretical level, and encourages kids to engage in problem solving and if-then thinking.
Scratch has an online community where people can share their creations with others. This is great for helping beginners see and learn how more advanced users create more complex games. What’s more, the Scratch team offers starter projects that also help to inspire new users.
This program is free to download on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux, and it’s possible to use it without an internet connection. There is also a simplified version called ScratchJr which is specifically aimed at 5-7 year olds, so this might be another option to consider for your child.
Kodu is another block-based program, focused on exploring and designing games in a 3D world. Kids tend to really love this program as it allows them to create and play their very own video game! They can build the world's terrain from scratch, and then populate it with chosen characters and props. The interface is easy-to-use and engaging, making it appropriate for kids. There are plenty of resources available on the Kodu Game Lab website to help get you started.
Unfortunately, this program isn’t available on all devices. It runs on Xbox 360 and Windows, with the Windows version being free.
Blockly is a free project of Google and is available on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. To start off, kids can try out these fun Blockly games. For more Computer Science related resources you can check out Code with Google.
4. Swift (Swift Playgrounds)
Swift is the language that Apple uses to create iOS programs for iPhone and iPad.They specifically have a free app for the iPad called Swift Playgrounds, which is perfect for helping kids understand how to code with Swift. Its interface is user-friendly and it allows progress with a simple drag-and-drop code. Through guided lessons your kid can learn how to use code to solve interactive puzzles.
In addition, Apple has also provided lesson plans and teachers guides to help you facilitate your kid’s coding education. In their curriculum, Apple recommends the 'Learn to Code' playground for 10+ year olds. The main downfall of Swift Playgrounds is that the lessons are quite restrictive, so it doesn’t give children the creative freedom to make their own games like in other programs.
Python is a text-based coding language that kids as young as 10 years old can start learning. This code is both great in its own right, as it can be used for serious game, web, and app development, but is also a great starting point before moving on to more complex languages. The reason why it’s a good text-based language to start with is that its syntax is concise and easy to read, and it only requires a few lines of code to become functional. There is also plenty of online support and extensive Python libraries that users can refer to for help.
There are many gamified and self-taught courses online that help kids learn Python in a fun and engaging way. For example, CodaKid have game programming courses that use Python and are specifically aimed at kids. Udemy also offers a paid course that teaches both kids and adults how to create their own games and more.
One of the main pros of Python is that your kid won’t outgrow it, unlike some of the other programs on this list. However, with that said it is still usually advisable to start with one of the block-based programs.
Python can be used on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. However, it is not supported by iOS or Android.
Did your kids enjoy trying these coding languages? Then make sure to try our other rainy day activities, or if your kid needs some extra practice with maths they can try completing our (printable) worksheets.