7 Easy Kid's Coding Languages
Learning to code is one of the skills that our children will need for a better future. Here are a few apps which can make your child future-ready by teaching her coding.
By Sarika Chuni
If you grew up studying in the 90s like I did, you would have studied computers as one of the subjects. Compared to the computers available today, those systems looked clunky with a black and white display. However, it was fascinating to see what a simple LOGO command could do or the list of files a DOS command would display on the screen.
Within a span of less than a decade, computer technology developed at breakneck speed. And, today, our children are reaping the benefits of the technology boom, popularly dubbed the fourth Industrial Revolution. The World-Wide Web and search engines such as Altavista (remember that?), Yahoo and Google ensure that knowledge is available to them at a mere click of a mouse.
But, is that all our children should do with computers? Should we be content to allow them to use the computer to browse the Internet, play games and so on?
Not really. In fact, we can use computers to teach our children many other skills needed in real life such as problem-solving, critical and creative thinking, and learning new ways of doing things. And, how can we do this? Well, by teaching coding to kids.
What is coding for kids?
To start with, computer coding for kids is all about teaching children how to tell a computer to do something. A coder is an individual trained in computer language to write instructions for the computer to accomplish a task using a specific logic.
Computer programming is the next step of coding where the instructions are run on the computer and the desired set of operations is performed to solve a particular problem or complete a certain task.
Why you should teach your child to code early on
1. To help understand the present: Learning to write code can help your child understand the world of computers better – that is, how games, software, apps and websites they love so much came about and how they work. Remember, an informed user is always a wise user.
2. To prepare for the future: A 2013 study on the 'Future of Employment' by Oxford University found that nearly 47% of current jobs may be lost to automation or computerisation in the future. Looking at it from an optimistic perspective, we can also ascertain that we will have 47% of our jobs made easier and simpler with the use of computers. But, for this to happen, there should be professionals trained in coding. Preparing your child for this world of the future is, therefore, undebatable.
3. To train better: A younger mind is more malleable and can be easily trained. So, the earlier you start the better. In fact, a lot of countries like Australia and Estonia have made coding skills a part of the pre-K curriculum!
Here's what learning coding teaches your child
Apart from the obvious benefit of preparing your child for the automated future, there are other benefits that learning to code can offer her. Some of these are:
1. Critical thinking: Steve Jobs once said, "I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think." Both coding and critical thinking share these five common processes: 1) identify a problem or task 2) analyse the problem/task 3) come up with solutions 4) test 5) iterate and refine.
2. Logical thinking: Each code is a logical answer or solution to a particular problem. So, when children learn to write codes, they also develop logical and reasoning skills.
3. Paying attention to detail: Even the smallest of syntactical errors in the code can cause it to malfunction. Coding teaches children the importance of doing things correctly by paying attention to detail. This also helps them focus on each tiny detail in the code.
3. Creative and efficient problem-solving: With the help of coding, multiple 'right' answers can be found for a problem, one of which may be the best option. This variability teaches children to stay open and flexible to new ideas and try different and creative ways to achieve the desired results.
4. Visualisation skills: The ability to look at a screen full of text and visualise the output is a skill a coder has to have. So, coding also teaches a child visualisation skills.
5. Self-directed learning: Coding empowers children and makes them feel that they can control and influence the world around them. This encourages self-directed learning.
6. Typing skills: Last, but not the least, it teaches them the very essential skill of typing.
How to start your child on his coding journey
1. Scratch: A wonderful programming language created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Scratch is designed for children aged 8 to 16 years. Scratch has been translated into more than 40 languages. It is equipped with tools that enable children to drag and drop code blocks to create animation and games, and build apps. This simple and easy-to-use app is a great way to get your child excited about coding if she has no prior experience and requires an understanding of the basic concepts of coding, such as syntax or logic.
3. Python: Python is considered one of the easiest programming languages to learn because of its easy syntax and fewer lines of code. Even tech giants like Google and Disney use Python and it is very popular in the scientific community. Python is best for children aged 10 years and above, who are new to coding and want to learn an easy language. A number of coding game-based apps like CodeCombat or Code Avengers are available for children who want to learn this language.
5. C++: This is a slightly more complicated language, but is great for teens who want a deeper understanding of coding fundamentals. There are a number of free tutorials available online such as this one on Udemy for free!
6. C#: Pronounced 'see sharp', it is one of the most popular coding languages for building third-party windows applications. Learning C# is a great step forward for children who have learnt a language like Java and need a deeper understanding of coding. Websites such as LearnCS.org offer free interactive C# tutorials.
7. Lua: This is a programming language, which is used widely in game programming. If your child is interested in gaming and wants to make a career in the field, introducing her to Lua is a great idea. Sites such as Lua for Kids offer free tutorials. CodeCombat is also a great app to learn the language while playing a game.
Today, there are several ways your child can learn the valuable skill of coding such as, coding games for kids, coding apps and coding classes for kids. With so many options available, all you need to do is to just pick the right one for your child and set him up for a successful future!
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