Programming for children - where to start the journey?

admin

Jun 01, 2018

a child starting to program

One of the best paying jobs currently is software development, and there don’t seem to be any signs of this trend to decline anywhere soon. For that reason it might be a good idea to try and encourage your young, loved ones to get into coding for kids. Today we will help you find the best way of doing just that!


Below is a compilation of resources, coding games if you will, that you should check out if your children are interested in starting their programming journey very early on. Each item on this list has its own unique advantages that may become just the right feature for you and your kid to decide upon. It’s worth noting, however, that most of the resources we will present here are very versatile, and can help not only kids, but also beginner programmers as well! Let’s get right into it, shall we?


Scratch

Scratch is arguably one of the best resource for teaching kids to code, or at least the very basics of programming, as it lets the users to create interactive stories, games, animations, and share those with others, either to enjoy, or to look into the “source code” and learn that way. With this tool your child will gain skills on problem-solving, systemic thinking, and, hopefully, a passion for full-fledged programming. Building the projects works by selecting blocks of instructions and joining them together, kind of like Lego, but on a screen. While on the surface it may not seem like a programming language, if you take a closer look you will notice how much it actually resembles one. A “proper” way of coding requires you to manually write all of the instructions that will later be compiled. But if we’re being honest with each other, actually writing new strings of code is being avoided like fire. It is always easier to copy existing parts and relocate them to serve a new purpose than it is to write from the ground up every time. This too is a sophisticated way of playing with Lego on your screen. Scratch was created by Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab and is provided free of charge. This, in conjunction with the refinement and ease of use, is the reason why Scratch is our number one recommendation in coding websites for kids.


Blockly

Blockly is Google’s take on Scratch, with more focus on learning programming as we know it, while still retaining the accessible, approachable side. It’s based on the same principle of block-stacking to achieve the final result, but the differentiating factor here is that, aside from the visually appealing form of blocks, you can also see actual strings of code being output in JavaScript, PHP, Python, Lua, and Dart. This means the tool is not only aimed at children to learn coding, but can also help as a visual editor for any piece of code. It might be limited in some ways, but you won’t really use it to build a commissioned website for a client either. Once your kid masters Scratch you can suggest that they try Blockly to get a feel of code in professionally used programming languages. As with almost every service offered by Google, Blockly is available to use free of charge.


Code

This is yet another approachable program for educating children in computer science. What’s fascinating about this initiative is that the courses offered are aimed at many age groups, starting from a mind-blowing 4 to 7 years old group! Now that’s really starting early, as some of the children in this group will not even have the reading skills yet. This is the third suggested resource teaching programming for children in which lessons are designed to use visual structures to create a program. This means dragging and dropping, combining, moving various shapes that contain instructions or variables. The differentiating factor of Code are the carefully designed courses for so many age groups. This allows for a smooth, gradual process of learning with no sudden, major changes in levels of difficulty. Just like the previous tools, Code also offers programming education for free.


Lego Mindstorms EV3

We mentioned Lego previously as a metaphor, but now we will suggest it as yet another resource to learn coding for kids. Does your child have a passion for tinkering? Well, look no further, this one is definitely for them. The software provided by Lego is meant to program the robots build with Lego bricks and controlled by the Mindstorms platform. The sky’s the limit here, as Lego lets you build virtually anything, be it humanoid robots or RC cars. This is definitely a more advanced tool meant for slightly older children, but at the same time it offers vastly more sophisticated projects to be created. It’s one thing to create software that displays amazing animations on the screen of your laptop, and it’s another to build a robot that behaves in the precise manner you programmed it to. Both are equally as exciting, but in their own, very unique ways. To get into learning programming with Lego a Mindstorms education set needs to be purchased, but it’s well worth the price considering the fun factor combined with nearly endless possibilities in creating projects.


Hackathons for children

Once your beloved child is more comfortable with building software solutions, in whichever form that might be, you could consider signing them up for a hackathon organized specifically for kids. If you don’t know what a hackathon is you can read up on that in one of our previous articles. Hackathons organized with children in mind aren’t as common as the regular ones, but if you look closely you are bound to find one! And once your child grows a bit older to be eligible for all of the hackathons and challenges you can hint them at visiting our website to find just the right event for them!


ChallengeRocket.com CEO, Tomasz Florczak, could not miss the opportunity to share his thoughts on today’s topic.


“I was always the ambitious one, ever since I remember I pushed to do different things, in different ways than others. Of course this doesn’t mean I was sacrificing my childhood for sophisticated ways of self-development, of course not! I was always outdoors with friends, but in addition to that, I wanted to do more. I tried to build a car with planks and spare wheels. It didn’t really work out as I planned but I was determined to at least give it a try. Every child has that spark in them, it’s just apparent in some areas more than it is in others. We should always enable our children to work on things they are passionate about. If your little Jack wants to be an engineer, teach them to use a hammer! If your little Mary wants to become a software developer, sign her up for a course so she can learn just that!”


Whatever you choose to suggest to your child, never force anything. As a German proverb says, “you can do anything with children if you only play with them.” So this is exactly what we suggest, take things slowly, make everything as fun as possible, and, hopefully, watch your child’s passion grow by the day. We would like to take this opportunity to wish all the children around the world for their dreams, both big and little, to come true. May their time to play never end, and chocolate supply never run out! Have fun kids, we hope to see your names on our platform in the future!