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7 Easy Coding Languages for Kids

30th April 2019

7 Easy Programming Languages for Kids

Computer programming is a hot topic. We all know how crucial technology is to daily life – most industries from agriculture to banking are heavily reliant on computer software and we can’t imagine life without our favourite apps and games. With programming (or coding, the terms are interchangeable) now taught in all UK primary schools, we are finally starting to face up to how crucial an understanding of code is for today’s children. What’s more it is fun, satisfying and relatively easy to learn! Once you have learned to code you can very quickly make a simple game or a mobile app. Studies have shown that the logic required for coding strengthens maths and literacy skills as well as fostering creativity and resilience, so it is not just for engineers. It is a life skill that many of us wish we had!

In the UK, we are lucky that coding is part of the national curriculum, but to become truly computer literate it’s important for children to practice at home too. So what can we parents or carers do to help? The main thing is to show an interest and encourage your child. Even better, learn with them - you might surprise yourself! We know it can seem daunting so to help you keep up, we have put together a guide to what happens at school and what you need to know about programming languages. If you want to know more, check out this TED talk from an 11 year old app developer explaining everything you need to know about coding for kids.


KIDS CODING LANGUAGES IN SCHOOL


Years 1 and 2 (KS1)

Most schools use a robot such as a Bee-Bot to introduce the basics of programming at first. By the end of year 2 pupils should be able to do more complex tasks such as drawing out numbers or letters on the floor.

Years 3 to 6 (KS2)

Students are introduced to a visual programming language (more on what this is below), most often Scratch. They will then progress to writing their own code in the language and by year 6 they should be able to write code to develop their own ideas. Some children may then go on to start learning a textual code language (see below).

Years 7 to 9 (KS3)

At this stage, students should be able to use at least 2 programming languages, including a textual language. They will be able to accomplish much more advanced programming projects.

Confused? Don’t be. The terminology may be new to you, but the concepts are simple. So, what is a programming language? It’s just a way to teach a computer how to complete a given task. There are two types of programming languages: visual and textual. As you would imagine textual languages use typed text and visual languages use something visual, such as drag and drop. Visual languages are used in primary schools as they are much easier to get to grips with, but they are less powerful, so keen programmers will need to move on to textual languages to complete more advanced tasks.

For anyone interested in computer programming, selecting which language to learn is the first step. The choice can be daunting with so many on offer. Each one has its own particularities and benefits but much like choosing which foreign language to study, any one you pick will give you lots of transferable skills, so choose one that appeals to you.

the top 7 programming languages for kids

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1. Scratch

Scratch is a visual programming language suitable for 8-16 year olds that is intuitive and easy to learn. You can build simple games in minutes by dragging and dropping code blocks. Scratch has a well-established user community who can help trouble-shoot and give tips and is most popular language for UK primary schools.

Best for: A first introduction to code; visual learners.

This book from Usborne is an introduction to coding for complete beginners. It's very accessible and will teach children the basics, allowing them to get inside the code of their computer and create simple games and animations on screen.

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2. Python

In contrast to Scratch, Python is a text-based language and a language used by professional programmers in a variety of different businesses and industries. Python teaches the basics of code layouts and the accuracy required for more advanced programming later, so it is a great starting point for mastering other languages. Although it is text based, the language reads like speech, so it is easier to understand than most other textual languages, however it is relatively difficult to master. There are plenty of game-based courses that kids as young as 8 can get the hang of, but it is probably best for slightly older children.

Best for: Beginners who want to learn more and those who'd like to learn a programming language that can be used later in life.

This step-by-step book from Usborne shows how to get started and write a simple program. New commands are introduced with examples and colourful pictures so that by the end of the book, readers can code games, drawings and more. Includes extra help and downloads online.

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3. JavaScript

Almost everything we use within a web browser (Google Chrome, Internet Explorer) is built using this language but it is a tool for more advanced programming. With Javascript, Kids can learn how to build web pages and make them into interactive apps and games. Most users start with Scratch or Python and build up to using JavaScript aged 10+

Best for: Those with some experience; kids interested in web design.

This book helps kids to code five fun computer games using HTML and JavaScript. From Mario to Minecraft, discover the basic concepts behind computer games such as loops, ticks, scores, graphics and AI. Then follow the easy step-by-step Game Builds, and learn how to code five ground-breaking games, including Noughts and Crosses, Snake and Table Tennis. Short and simple explanations are given alongside examples of code and there is a supporting website if you get stuck.

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4. Lua (Roblox)

Lua is a text-based code similar to Python. It is easy to use and embed in applications and Angry Birds and Roblox Studios (a popular kids coding platform) are based on this code. There is also a supportive online community.

Best for: Kids interested in programming games; Roblox fans. 

There aren't many books available on Lua but this one shows children how to create new objects and games in the Roblox world: from teleporting objects (or PCs/NPCs!), to adding and applying power ups, to creating a leaderboard, and allowing players to save their games. This book walks you through the basics of the studio tool, provides tutorials for specific actions and creations, then explains how to use all of that knowledge to create your own unique game world! With detailed instructions, example screenshots, and simple explanations of what code to use and how to use it, this book will be a must-have guide for any Roblox fans.

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5. Java (Used in Minecraft)

Java is one of the most widely used programming languages in the world but is trickier to learn. It is also the language used in Minecraft and many children’s first experience of coding is making modifications (“mods”) to the game.

Best for: Intermediate computer science students or teens; Minecraft fans.

Minecraft Modding For Kids For Dummies helps children build basic coding skills to make modding your Minecraft games easy. The book is in full colour and lies flat so you can look while you play.

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6. C++

C++ is definitely the most advanced language on the list. It is very mathematical so could prove off-putting for some students but it is excellent for advanced or mathematically-minded children. Most of today’s top programmers started coding in C++ and most of today's top video games are written in part in C++. Also, C++ is arguably the oldest language still in common use today, with its origins going back to 1979.

Best for: Kids wanting a deeper understanding especially teenagers who are interested in a career using computers.

Because of the complexity of C++ there aren't many books focusing on it for children, though you may be able to find one in the Adult section like this C++ Guide for Dummies.

7. Blockly

Blockly is a relatively new language developed by Google. It is similar to Scratch but is not technically a language of its own as it uses pre-written languages. Using Blockly anyone can develop a working Android app. Users arrange blocks in sequences and the programme is visually appealing as the UI resembles a child’s box of coloured blocks.

Best for: Visual learners who are keen to get started in app development.


Other Useful Books and Info

Other languages you may come across include:

- C#, an advanced language similar to Java and used across many platforms, including Windows, it's what many mobile games are built with too. 

- Apple's Swift (you can read more here)

- Ruby, a clear textual language used to create Twitter.

There are also many books about coding that do not focus on specific languages but help readers understand more about how computers work and provide some tasks and tips. Check out our list below and get coding!

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Lift-the-Flap Computers and Coding

An interactive introduction to information and communication technology, which explains what goes on inside computers and what makes them do what they do. With lots of flaps to lift and look beneath, fact-hungry children will devour the fascinating data contained in this bright and engaging non-fiction book.

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Computer Coding Made Easy Ages 7-11 Key Stage 2

Carol Vorderman takes kids' step-by-step through the basics of computer programming and how to work with code, the language of the future.

Speaking to a global movement to teach children to code, this Python programming workbook breaks down key concepts into small, easy-to-understand parts. Your child is encouraged to practise copying code into the workbook so their new computer literacy sticks. A playful, hands-on approach that enhances other cognitive benefits such as skills in problem solving and abstract thinking.

Computer Coding Made Easy is a great starting point for understanding code, learning how to program, and practicing computer language, for fun or for the future.

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100 Things to Know About Numbers, Computers & Coding

Did you know there's a single spot on your brain that recognizes numbers? Or that the first computer bugs were actual insects and that most of the internet is under water? This fascinating book is filled with 100 fascinating facts, bright, infographic illustrations, a glossary and index and links to specially selected websites to find out more.

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Computer Coding Python Games for Kids

Learn how to code in Python by building and playing your own computer games, from creative quizzes to perplexing puzzles with explosive sound effects and zany graphics.

Whether you're a seasoned programmer or a beginner hoping to learn Python, you'll find Computer Coding Python Games for Kids fun to read and easy to follow. Each chapter shows you how to construct a complete working game in simple numbered steps. Using freely available resources such as Pygame, Pygame Zero, and a downloadable pack of images and sounds, you can add animations, music, scrolling backgrounds, scenery, and other exciting professional touches.

After building the game, find out how to adapt it to create your own personalised version with secret hacks and cheat codes!

Along the way, you'll master the key concepts that programmers need to write code - not just in Python, but in all programming languages. Find out what bugs, loops, flags, strings, and turtles are. Learn how to plan and design the ultimate game, and then play it to destruction as you test and debug it. Before you know it, you'll be a coding genius!

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My First Computer Coding Book with ScratchJr

A fun, friendly guide to coding on a tablet computer using the free ScratchJR app. Discover how computers work and how to tell them what to do using code, then follow simple, step-by-step instructions to code stories and games including a fairy garden, a pet monster and a space game. Links to websites and helpful notes for grown-ups included!

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Super Skills: How to Code in 10 Easy Lessons

So, you want to learn how to code, but you don't know where to start? From writing simple coding instructions using Scratch software, to learning the coding skills to create your own computer game, and even design your own website, this book leads the way. By breaking this daunting subject down into the 10 'super skills' needed, young readers can to get to grips with computer coding, and build on their skills as they progress through the book. Starting off with a short introduction that poses the question "what is coding?", the super skills of coding include using Scratch coding software to give coding instructions, write simple code and use loops; learning how to debug and fix code; and using your coding knowledge to create a simple computer game and create a webpage using simple HTML. 

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DKfindout! Coding

DKfindout! Coding explains coding clearly for children with beautiful photography, lively illustrations, and key curriculum information. The DKfindout! series will satisfy any child who is eager to learn and acquire facts - and keep them coming back for more!

DKfindout! Coding is packed with up-to-date information and fun quizzes, while key curriculum text tells children why we use code, how computers use code and covers the history of coding from early computer programming languages to Python and Scratch. Learn about coding pioneers Ada Lovelace and Alan Turing and how codes have been used throughout history.

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Building a Mobile App: Design and Program Your Own App!

Coding is cool, and these fun projects help you get started today!

Building a Mobile App offers basic lessons in Android development, designed specifically for kids! Three fun projects walk you through basic coding skills using MIT's App Inventor--a free, online programming tool that uses a simple block style language that makes coding easy to learn. No long chapters to read, and no homework--just dive right in! You'll begin with a basic project that shows you how to make an app that works; next, you'll put those skills to work on a photo editing app that takes your skills to the next level. Finally, you'll level up one more time to become a Game Maker--that's right, you'll actually build a mobile game that you can send to your friends! Each project includes step-by-step directions and plenty of graphics to help you stay on track, and easy-to-read instructions help you complete each project frustration-free.

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Raspberry Pi For Kids For Dummies

Raspberry Pi For Kids For Dummies makes it easy for kids to set-up, operate, and troubleshoot like a Pi pro! Introducing you to Pi through a series of entertaining and inspiring projects, this handy, step-by-step guide shows you how to write computer games, build websites, make art and music, create electronic projects, and much more! From downloading the operating system and setting up your Raspberry Pi to creating art in Tux Paint and designing games with Scratch, everything you need to have fun with Pi is inside!

Raspberry Pi For Kids For Dummies leaves the confusing tech talk behind and explains in plain English how to unleash all the cool possibilities of Pi, like playing Minecraft in Python, using HTML to make a website, managing and customizing your Raspberry Pi, playing music with Sonic Pi, and understanding and playing with the GPIO.

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Computer Coding for Kids: A Unique Step-by-Step Visual Guide, from Binary Code to Building Games

Python programming and Scratch are a doddle to learn with this easy and colourful guide to coding for kids. Just follow the simple steps and you'll be writing programs in no time.

With more than 250,000 copies sold worldwide, Computer Coding for Kids is perfect for beginners of all ages. It starts with the Scratch programming language. Simple examples get readers up to speed quickly, explaining not only how Scratch works but also introducing universal coding concepts, such as loops, variables, strings, and Boolean logic. The Scratch section includes several longer, worked examples of games that readers can build in minutes by following the simple numbered steps.

The second part of the book covers the Python language, building on the principles learned in Scratch. This section is ideal for readers who've mastered Scratch and are eager for new challenges. The Python section includes several longer, step-by-step projects that allow readers to build and adapt their own games.

Computer Coding for Kids is equally well suited to children who are new to programming and to those who are already interested and hungry to learn more.

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