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A Rundown of Kids Coding Languages (Not sure what to choose?)

A Rundown of Kids Coding Languages (Not sure what to choose?)

The first computer language I learned was ‘Basic’ on a BBC computer that didn’t even have a mouse. My final project at secondary school was to computerise a Karate Club to create online memberships and by then we used Macs. I was lucky that I went to a school where Computers was an actual subject. I then went on to learn ‘Modular-2’.

BBC Computer

BBC Making The Most Of The Micro

Just like desktops and laptops change, so do programming languages. This year, Dart and Flutter are two coding languages starting to gain traction.

Never heard of any of those languages? Nope, few have. You see where I’m going with this.

It doesn’t matter what computer programming language you learn, as they’ll probably change over time. This goes for adults as well as kids.

Once you understand the basic concepts of coding, variables, loops, functions, commands etc, the rest is a transferable skill. The difference between coding languages is mainly the syntax and terminology used. So once you grasp the concept, you can code in many languages.

Blockly
Blockly

That being said, you still have to pick a language to start with, either for your kids, your teens or yourself. Here is a quick rundown of kids coding languages, what they’re used for and more importantly, where you can learn them.

Block Based Coding

Block based coding is an easy way for kids to learn programming. Even teachers with no coding experience can jump right in and start experimenting, and for that reason, it has become the go-to kids coding language. Programs are text based and if you miss a semicolon or make a typo the whole thing won’t run for you. It requires a lot of patience and that’s something that young kids don’t have. This is why block based programming is so great. You simply drag and drop blocks of code that fit together, like a jigsaw and if you make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world.

Kids coding languages like Scratch and Blockly, let children experiment with code and get creative. Even colleges are teaching them to students. At the ripe old age of (I won’t say), Scratch was being used in class projects on my Master’s Degree programme!

1. Scratch / Scratch Jr.
Scratch is the original block code kids language developed in 2003 at M.I.T. Since then millions of children and adults have been learning code and building games in the Scratch community. For even younger kids age 5-7 years, the Scratch Jr app is available. It uses icons instead of words, for kids who can’t read yet.

2. Blockly
Blockly is Google’s response to Scratch. Visually they look pretty much the same, but Blockly has been incorporated into more commercial based products.

3. Scratch Blocks
Hooray! Finally the best of both worlds. Blockly and Scratch have collaborated to produce Scratch Blocks so that developers can design amazing coding experiences for kids.

4. Alice
Alice is a block based programming language for creating 3D animations and 3D games. Just like Scratch, kids drag and drop blocks of code, but they can adjust camera views, and 3D characters to make interactive scenes.

5. ArduBlock
ArduBlock is used to program Arduino electronic kits. It’s a graphical programming language where users drag and drop blocks of code. It’s similar to Scratch but would be geared at an older age group. Great for visual learners as you have a split screen where you can see the text code on one side, and blocks on the other.

6. Others (worth a mention)
Hopscotch, ModKit and the Wonder Language for Dash & Dot.

Bridging the Gap: What about mixing up Text and Blocks?

Another reason to start out with block coding is that with some languages and coding environments, you can actually do both text and block coding. Tynker features transitional code blocks in hybrid puzzles, allowing kids to see the real syntax behind the blocks using Python and Javascript code.

A split screen of blocks, code and tutorials can be used as well to transition. Here are two examples of code editors for kids proficient in Scratch who want to learn Javascript.

WoofJS

1. S2JS
S2JS bridges the gap from learning Scratch to learning Javascript. It’s an all in one split screen solution, plus there are lots of tutorials.

2. WoofJS
WoofJS is another transitional language from Scratch to Javascript with a code split screen.

Text Based Coding

Text based coding is understandably a bit harder than block coding, but some kids will love the challenge. Minecraft and Roblox are examples of games that encourage kids to look under the hood and code in Java and Lua. Unlike block coding, there are no preset blocks of code to drag and drop. Though you never have to start with a blank page. There are plenty of great code editors that feature code prediction. It’s a bit like predictive text on your phone, and it helps speed up your coding workflow.

There’s no shortage of coding websites that will engage kids and help them step by step, no matter what coding languages they prefer. The community aspect of these sites is what really sets them apart. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck on a piece of code and having no one to ask. For adults, teens or kids, support is vitally important.

Related:  20 Best Coding Toys & Coding Robots for Kids

1. Python
Python is a very powerful text based programming language, which is a top favorite for artificial intelligence development. It’s also used in games, apps and is a good future proof language to learn. For older kids and teens, the language is easy to learn and nearly all coding courses teach Python.

2. Ruby
Ruby is an object-oriented programming language that’s intuitively easy to read. The code is similar to English and just makes sense to kids. It’s a good first coding language with a strong community behind it.

Hello Ruby Book

There is a book called Hello Ruby, designed for kids age 4-10 years to learn the Ruby language through stories. Ruby on Rails has been used to build a few famous websites such as Crunchbase, SlideShare, GitHub and Hulu.

3. Java
Have you heard of Minecraft Modding? This is where kids change (or Modify, hence the Mod) their Minecraft games using Java coding. Since Minecraft is hugely popular, it’s a fun way of learning to code something kids love to play. You can access the Minecraft Codebuilder through various learn to code platforms or directly.

Code Builder for Minecraft
Code Builder for Minecraft

4. Javascript, PHP, HTML, HTML 5 and CSS (Web Building Languages)
So Java & Javascript are completely different. Java is used to build applications and Javascript is a scripting language used to do things in web browsers. Javascript goes hand in hand with HTML, HTML 5, PHP and CSS for web design and development.

5. Lua (Roblox)
Lua is the programming language used in Roblox (similar idea to Minecraft and Java). Lua is easier to learn than Java and there is an editor for it already built into Roblox. The only problem is that the language isn’t widely used professionally, but if kids are into Roblox, it’s perfect for them. Below is the new Roblox Dark Studio theme.

Roblox Dark Studio Builder

6. Others (worth a mention)
Dart is a language developed by Google, and would be fun for kids to build Internet of Things (IoT) projects. Also, Swift is Apple’s programming language for developing mobile applications. Kids use the Swift Playgrounds app to build and play games coding in Swift. You need an iPad though.

Tynker, Code.org and FreeCodeCamp have a range of free coding courses for kids covering all the above languages.