Across the education sector, coding is gaining momentum as a subject that every student should learn; in fact, 60% of teachers and 62% of principals believe that programming courses should be required where they are available according to the latest STEM stats. With its growing importance in schools, students are sure to benefit from starting early with programming. But how do you introduce your child to programming? Read on to feel confident with beginning programming for kids.
Steps to beginning programming for kids
Try out this five-step process to get your kid jump-started with programming, and also check beginning coding for kids for some additional strategies.
Why is coding an investment in your child’s future?
Coding is an invaluable skill set for the future. As far as jobs are concerned, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the job market for computer scientists to grow by 22% over the next 8 years. Not only is the field growing, but also the salary of computer science jobs exceeds non-computer science jobs by about $22,000 on average. And even for students who don’t become full-time programmers, having programming languages on your resume can help you stand out from other candidates.
1. Find an age-appropriate coding language
Choosing which programming language to learn will depend largely on your child’s age. The two main types of programming languages that kids learn are “block-based” and “text-based.” Elementary students and middle school students will benefit from starting with block-based coding such as Scratch. Middle and high school students can dive straight into text-based programming languages such as Python. Below is a list of different languages to try out.
Best programming languages for kids to learn
2. Use free coding resources to assess interest level
Before diving into a more structured curriculum, it’s important to test out some different programs to see where your child’s interests lie. There are a number of different free resources and free coding websites that they can try before committing to a particular language. See the list below of free resources to try.
Free coding websites
Create & Learn: Create & Learn's free coding classes are introductory level, and range from Scratch to Python, and even Minecraft and Roblox! The most beginner-friendly language and class is Scratch, so we recommend beginning with our free Scratch class.
Scratch: Scratch is a block-based coding platform that is 100% free, so students can dive right in to start coding on their own. They can visit Scratch’s ideas page for basic tutorials.
3. Choose a learning approach
There are numerous approaches to learning computer science. There are live online classes, books, self-guided courses, and even resources that utilize multiple approaches to varying degrees. For focused, highly-motivated students, self-directed courses and books may be the best option. Students who would like access to a teacher should consider live online classes. Below you can discover some of the best programming courses and best coding books for kids.
Best programming classes for kids
- Scratch: a Scratch course is a great introduction to programming because it is very beginner friendly. Students will have the opportunity to create numerous fun games and animations by dragging and dropping colorful blocks that teach coding logic. Students from grades 2-8 can benefit from this program.
- Minecraft: Minecraft is one of the most popular games of all time, and is played by many students. Why not take advantage of Minecraft’s sandbox environment to learn programming? With this course, students will create Minecraft mods that channel their creativity while reinforcing basic coding concepts like loops, conditionals, etc. Students should have some prior block coding experience before taking this course, and should be at least in grade 4.
- Roblox: Many kids have played Roblox at some point in their lives. But did you know that your child can become a Roblox game creator? This course introduces students to text-based coding using the language Lua, allowing them to make their own obbies, avalanche games, and more! This course is more advanced, and is recommended for students in grades 4-8.
- Python: Python is one of the most widely-used programming languages right now, whether that be for educational purposes, professional web development, data science, or something else! Students can dive into Python by making their own games and projects, eventually progressing to AI in part 4 of the course. This program is recommended for students with prior block-coding experience, and is geared towards students in grades 5-9.
Coding books for kids
- Coding Games in Scratch: Visual Guide: In this book, students learn the basics of coding by building 8 increasingly complex games.
- Coding Concepts for Kids: Learn to Code Without a Computer: A great approach for especially young children (ages 4-7), this book helps students develop foundational logic and problem solving skills without using computer coding.
- Coding for Kids: Python: Students will work through 50 progressive exercises in Python, including sample code, basic projects, and advanced projects for those in need of a greater challenge.
4. Select a curriculum
It’s important to choose a curriculum that will both give your student a comfortable starting point and also grow with them as their skills advance. For example, once students become comfortable with block-based coding, they should advance to text-based coding. Some programs already plan for this gradual development by curating a curriculum that grows with the student. One company that does this is Create & Learn, which offers different learning paths for students, depending on their ages through the curriculum.
5. Track progress and interests
Once you get started, it’s important to keep checking in with your child to see how they’re progressing. As your student’s abilities grow, they will likely want to explore new languages. They also may decide that there is a specific field they are interested in; for example, if they want to get into web design, they should look into HTML and CSS, but if they want to get into AI or Data Analytics, it would be wiser to explore Python. Pursuing your child’s topics of interest will surely help to keep them engaged for the long term!
Beginning programming for kids made simple
Today, you learned a simple, five-step approach for starting kids’ programming journeys. If you’re interested in jumping right in with your child together, here’s how to teach kids coding. Otherwise, why not try out a free introduction class to Scratch through Create & Learn where your child can learn with live expert guidance? There's no risk in trying!
Written by Create & Learn instructor Dominic Occhietti. Dominic is a graduate of Michigan State University, where he studied music performance and computer science. He thoroughly enjoys teaching, whether that be coding classes, French horn lessons, or even downhill skiing lessons!