Learning to code is a challenge regardless of your age, but it can be especially difficult for children. Not only are general programming concepts difficult to understand, but all the required rules and syntax can be difficult to master.
Fortunately, many languages ââare naturally easier to learn. There are also some great online resources that make the code much easier for kids to understand. This list will give you some options to start your child on their programming journey.
Scratch is the best way to learn coding logic and fundamentals without any complicated syntax or development tools. It is a purely visual, block-based programming language where the user can assemble code from a toolbox of instruction blocks. It run in the browser, and there is a ScratchJr iOS and Android app intended for the youngest.
Everything you find in written coding languages, including logical instructions, loops, and functions, is expressed in an easy-to-understand visual style. This learning style is a great step for younger people on the road to learning programming, because when the time comes to switch to a written language, they will have a solid understanding of how a program works and how it works. way to structure the code.
Scratch is also perfect for the Raspberry Pi, as it comes preinstalled and can be used to control LEDs and buttons.
MakeCode is Microsoft’s online block-coding platform, focusing on hobby microcontroller boards such as Micro: Bit and Adafruit Circuit Playground Express. While it is functionally similar to Scratch in many ways, it is perfect for learning the basics of physical computing.
Even if you don’t own one of the hobby microcontroller boards, there is an emulator built into the program, along with interactive and easy-to-follow tutorials for creating small-scale electronics projects.
SmallBasic takes its name from the Basic programming language popular in hobby computing. It is designed to bridge the gap between block coding languages ââlike Scratch and typed programming languages ââlike Python.
There is a full web editor with a built-in reference manual, as well as links to tutorials and documentation. There are also perfect beginner tutorials for kids for the language. It’s mostly a playground but it’s a good ground for learning programming concepts and getting used to the idea of ââsyntax, although SmallBasic is very forgiving when you get it slightly wrong!
Python is frequently chosen as the first simple “real” programming language because of its simple syntax and easy to read nature. There are many ways to learn Python for free, but most of them are too difficult for the younger ones. There is a fantastic alternative, however.
CodeCombat is a browser-based dungeon crawler with a difference. Everything you do to move, fight, and survive in the dungeon is done via real Python code, with plenty of tips and tricks to help keep you moving when you get stuck.
As you progress through the dungeon, you’ll learn more and more real Python code as well as key programming concepts, collecting loot and trophies along the way!
Tynker is not a programming language, but it is among the best online resources for kids to learn code, so it deserves a place on this list. It includes coding games, simple Minecraft modding, hour of code events, and code jams for kids on various solo and community projects and events.
In fact, Tynker himself does most of what all of the other entries on this list do, and is a great place to start even if you, as a parent, aren’t familiar with the code. In addition to the browser-based platform, there are three separate Tynker smartphone / tablet apps. Getting started is free, but to get the most out of it you’ll want to try out one of the three membership tiers for additional content.
A library called p5.js is a great place to start. It is designed for creating visual art and music and has a fully integrated browser editor, making it easy to get started right away.
What makes p5.js especially fun to learn is The Coding Train YouTube Channel. Led by speaker Daniel Shiffman, it contains a comprehensive course for learning programming concepts that remains fun, creative, and light throughout.
Lua is a scripting language with simplicity in mind. It’s so compact and easy to learn that other games and programs use it as a base to allow completely new mods and even projects to be built from pre-existing games. The most famous of these is a children’s classic: Roblox.
The video tutorial above shows how easy it is to create a custom Roblox game. You will learn basic Lua concepts as well as important Roblox programming processes that can be applied to other custom game modes.
For a more comprehensive Lua course using Roblox as a focus, Codakid offers a full course for creating Roblox using Lua.
GameMaker is a powerful yet simple engine for creating games. Where other game editors like Unity and Unreal are complex business tools, GameMaker is designed to be as beginner-friendly as possible. Don’t be fooled, however; hits like Undertale were made using the engine.
GameMaker Language is the encoding language for the engine. It’s designed to be easy to read, much like Python, and every piece of code exists in GameMaker’s flowchart editor, making it easy to see what each piece of code is doing.
While a little more difficult than some of the other options in this article, making a real game is a great motivator for learning. A parent or teacher with a little coding experience might help a child express their creativity or even complete their first game.
Programming for children: many online resources available
Basically, coding is about breaking a problem down into steps and making small solutions to each problem. Learning the logic and syntax of programming is a skill that goes far beyond computer science and will help you in almost every aspect of education.
While some of these options are more accessible than others, starting with Scratch and going through the list will give your child a broad and fundamental understanding of programming concepts that are much more difficult to learn as an adult.
You can’t learn to code for free. Unless you use these proven resources, of course.
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