As more and more jobs continue to move into the digital world, programming has increasingly gained traction over the past few years. Programming, which is usually synonymous with coding, is becoming a basic competence in different industries aside from tech and IT.
With that, parents have started to look at programming and coding as a viable skill that their kids have to learn.
It is worth noting however that coding and programming are different.
To put it simply, coding is a subset of programming. Some coding languages do not have the functional purpose of programming.
So rather than looking at other coding languages like HTML and CSS, we would discuss languages used in programming and how you can choose which one is best suited for your kids.
What programming language should I choose first?
There are several text-based programming languages to choose from like
- Ruby; and
- so on.
These languages are mostly used by professional programmers and developers.
Apart from text-based languages, coding for kids has also become easier with block-based coding. Block-based coding is a form of programming language that allows kids to easily learn the fundamentals of programming just by manipulating simple blocks rather than typing a set of codes. Examples of block-based coding are
- Snap!; and
- so on
How should you choose a programming language for kids?
Given that there are several programming languages to choose from, you need to do a little background research to know which one is best suited for your kids.
On top of that, you need to reassess the following so that your kids can effectively learn a programming language.
Aligning the programming language with their learning capability is an essential step in choosing the right language.
Learning capability involves different learning practices and approaches. Since every kid learns and absorbs information differently, there are also several ways in how kids learn.
So before ultimately deciding on the perfect programming language for your kids, you need to assess whether it is a coding language that they can learn. Taking their learning preferences into consideration can help you design a more effective learning approach for your kids.
For instance, you cannot immediately teach your kids how to code in Java. It is a complicated programming language for beginners and they would have a hard time grasping the concepts and principles behind it because they do not know the fundamentals of programming.
Since their ability to learn Java greatly depends on their prior knowledge, you can instead suggest other programming languages like Scratch. Despite not having any background or experience in programming, your kids can easily grasp and understand the concept of programming using Scratch.
Rate of learning
Despite the fact that kids learn faster than adults, each of them is still unique. Other kids can easily understand complex information while some need time to process it in order to fully grasp it.
In the same way as learning a new programming language, some kids can easily jump to learning text-based codes like Java and Ruby; while some took a lot of time learning the basics and fundamentals of programming.
One of the ways that you can assess your kid’s rate of learning is by introducing them to the basics of programming through a series of tasks and projects. By doing this, you can have a better understanding of how fast your kids can process information and accomplish tasks.
So before you pick from the many programming languages available, you need to understand and reassess your kid’s rate of learning first. This way, you would be able to pick the best-suited programming language for them.
And with a bit of luck, they can easily transition from block-based coding (e.g. Scratch and Blockly) to text-based coding (e.g. Ruby and Java) in no time.
Sometimes, the best way to persuade your kids to learn new things is to pander to their interests. In fact, students perform well and process information effectively when they are interested in the subject.
When a child’s interests are incorporated in the learning process, it is much easier to sustain their attention and they are more likely to focus and absorb information better.
That being the case, you need to know and understand your kids’ interests. It would be especially helpful when deciding which programming language is best suited for them.
To put it into context, interest is like a carrot on a stick. Rather than persuading your kids to attend coding camps and learn a new skill, you can instead make them see how they can use their programming skills in other settings.
For example, if your kids like to play Minecraft, then Java may be the best programming language for them. Since you can use Java for Minecraft mods, you can use it as a carrot on a stick to make them learn about coding and Java.
Java may be a hard language to start with, but it can ultimately spark their interest in programming, making them curious and eager to learn more about the subject.
Another factor that you have to keep in mind when choosing the right programming language for your kids is the number of resources available.
Sure, there are several learning materials and resources available online. But if your kid has a different learning preference, then it might be best to look at the available resources for that specific programming language.
For instance, if your kid prefers to learn with a tutor, then it would be best to look for a coding tutor available in your area first. Since there are more than 200 programming languages out there, you cannot expect a tutor or even a professional coder to be well-versed with all the programming languages.
With that, you have to look at all the resources within your reach first before you can ultimately decide which programming language is best suited for your kids.
Compatibility and convenience
It is worth noting that not all programming languages are compatible across all operating systems. Since not all computers and operating systems are created the same, there are several programming languages that require few modifications and installations before it can fully run.
For instance, if most of the devices you have at home are Apple, then it would be best to start learning Swift instead. Swift is a programming language created by Apple for building Mac and iOS apps. Learning Swift would be much more convenient for your kid since most of the devices and laptops you have at home can run on Swift. Apart from that, you would be able to save a lot of time and effort since you do not have to make any drastic modifications with the laptops or devices you already have.
With that in mind, it is best to do your research first and know more about the programming language your kids want to learn. This way, your kids would be able to accomplish tasks and create projects without facing any problems with the operating system or device they use.
Level of difficulty
Different programming languages have different levels of difficulty.
That being the case, you need to assess whether your kids would be able to handle it. There are several coding languages that are difficult to learn especially for kids and beginners. Some even require prior knowledge and mastery of other languages in order to effectively learn it.
So to help your kids decide which programming language they should learn, it is best to present and suggest to them several programming languages that are easy to pick up.
One of which that you should include in your list is Python. It is one of the most popular programming languages and it is commonly used in many coding camps as a great introductory language for kids and beginners. Python is easy to learn and requires only a few lines of code for it to run, making it easier to spot and fix any errors along the way.
Letting kids learn and share from each other is one of the surefire ways to effectively teach programming to kids. Before deciding on the programming language that your kids should learn, you should check out the community and online support it has to offer.
For instance, block-based programming like Scratch has a rich community where kids can share their projects. This, in turn, would make your kids feel included in the community and they would also know that there are other kids who also share the same interest with them in coding as well.
Whether they just started to learn the language or they have been coding for a long time, there is definitely an online community out there where your kids can share and get support from others. Joining programming communities is a great way to keep your kids motivated and it can also be a gateway to connect with other (kids) coders.
Aside from the ones cited above, there are still several factors that you have to consider when choosing the right programming language for your kids. However, despite all of that, you still have to know and understand where your kids’ true passion and interest lie.
Because, in the end, they would be the ones learning the programming language and not you. You just need to help them make the right decision and provide them with the right resources so that they can effectively learn the language.
Larizza is a freelance writer who lives in the Philippines. She wrote byline articles for the Asian Journal newspaper as well as ghostwritten articles for websites like LexisNexis. Larizza has diverse writing experience from writing technical articles to SEO-friendly blog posts.