Before starting your kids in computer programming, you must find the right language to start them out in.
Programming can be challenging and overwhelming, but there are a few kid-friendly options that will lead to less frustration and more fun. The very first coding language your child learns will stick with them forever, be their first introduction to this concept, and it will be the building block to everything they learn from here on out.
Studies also show that learning computer programming at a young age helps with developmental skills such as math, reading, and spelling. It can help them become better problem solvers and critical thinkers.
We want to help you know what to look for in choosing the first programming language, as well as going over six of the most popular beginner languages.
How to Choose Your Child’s First Programming Language
Choosing the first language your child learns may not seem that important, but we want to explain to you why it is.
There are many different kinds of programming languages, and some are certainly more complicated than others. Your child’s first programming language will stick with them for life because it will teach them the fundamentals of coding. They will learn terms like variables, loops, functions, and conditional logic that they will use from here on out.
Everything they are introduced to now is a new idea and concept, and that is why it is so important to choose one they will pick up on easily. Mistakes will be made, but they will learn how to debug problems, break tasks down, and reuse codes.
The two qualities a first programming language should have is accessibility and practicality.
Accessibility: Many languages are a combination of scary-looking numbers and symbols that might overwhelm a first-timer, so stick to languages that are more straightforward. Some languages are known for being difficult to use with complicated models or tricky deployment steps, which we also want to avoid.
Practicality: Giving your child a project they find fun and exciting will help them learn quickly! Unfortunately, some beginner programs are limiting because of their simplicity for early learners, but that is not always the case. Programming has come a long way, and this is helping to get kids excited about creating projects they love and are excited to share!
The Six Most Popular Beginner Coding Languages
Let’s review six of the most popular beginner programs for kids, and you can see which one might be a perfect fit!
This free educational program is designed for ages 8 to 16. Although it is not a professional tool, it can be a great way for young children who cannot type yet to learn the basics of coding. It was developed by Mitch Resnick and patented by Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Its block design allows students to drag the block onto the canvas to create fun games, characters, and interactive stories. There is a vast community of 15 million users that creates a community to share your creations and ideas with. One downside of Scratch is that your creations have to stay within the program, and older kids may feel limited to what they can create since you do not actually write any codes, and have to use the ones they prepare for you.
Unlike the other above, Python is a major computer programming language that is a perfect starter language but is used by big-time programmers. Learning Python will give your child a strong foundation and teach them the basics to learn more complex languages. They will learn data structures like lists, tuples, and maps, and master variables and loops. Its straightforward language is uncomplicated and uses English instead of confusing symbols and brackets. Python will give your child the freedom they crave in the world of programming, and will be able to create just about anything they can think of. One downside is some of its concepts are used only in Python and could be confusing as they learn other codes.
This language might be a great starting point if your child is a little older. In fact, even if you have an older child between 15 to 17, uCode offers a native Java class for teens without prior coding experience.
This language is somewhat similar to Java, and it has a lot of freedom but also built-in safety for beginner coders. This language allows programmers a wide range of creative space to be able to build simple or complex projects. One downside is that whatever you create will only be available in Windows.
We hope this brief overview was educational and will help you and your child find the best beginner programming language for them. Consider their age, familiarity with programming, and what they want to create as you talk through these options.
Check out UCode’s programming courses for kids to help you get started.
Remember to ask questions, keep practicing, and above all else, have fun with it. The world of computer programming is vast and can be confusing at times, but thankfully there are many, many resources available to you and your child to get you through it!