The push to educate students in computer science has grown rapidly, as the benefit to learning a coding language early is huge. Helping your child select the best language for them is vital to their immediate success and ultimately, their interest in computer science.
How to Pick the First Coding Language for Your Child
1. What’s your child’s previous coding learning experience?
Scratch coding is a block-coding language, meaning that students code by dragging and arranging logic “blocks” onto a canvas. While its applications are ultimately more limited than the other two languages, Scratch shares many coding fundamentals such as loops, conditionals, and variables.
Spending at least four hours per week for about one month will be valuable in developing your child’s intuition, logical thinking skills, and excitement for creating their own projects.
Classes can help your child pick up Scratch quickly as well, especially when led live by an expert. Middle schoolers will do well with advanced Scratch, while elementary students should explore Scratch Ninja:
2. Which learning style does your child prefer?
Another factor to consider when choosing between these languages is your child’s preferred learning style. A big selling point of Scratch is that it is incredibly friendly for visual and kinesthetic learners. The blocks are color-coded and designed to move easily on the screen.
A tricky Python concept like “nesting code,” for example, is more accessible in Scratch. If you child is less confident with coding concepts like logic and structure, he or she will benefit a great deal from Scratch’s colorful, fun approach.
No matter what language you choose, your child will get practice with major computer science fundamentals and skills, using both sides of their brains to build projects.
3. Why does your middle schooler want to learn coding?
Learning computer science is most meaningful for students when motivated by its applications in the real world. Thus, it is smart to choose a first language that enables them pursue their interests and create projects they care about.
Does your child love the arts of storytelling? Scratch is a great choice, because it will inspire them to build games, animations, and other highly visual projects.
Is your child excited about data science or software development? Python is a great place to start. Python, and Python libraries are the gold standard for data analysis, and can be used for everything from creating graphs for a science project to developing advanced data models.
Get Started with the Best First Coding Language for Your Child
We hope this guide helps you better understand potential opportunities for your child’s coding future. To help your student start learning right away with the guidance of a live expert and a curriculum designed by tech professionals from Google, Stanford and MIT, join one of our fun live online classes.
To begin learning Scratch, join our free, small group, expert-led Scratch class:
Join our free live online Python course for kids:
Written by Sarah Rappaport, who graduated from Northwestern University with undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering and music. She's now working on a masters in data with Georgia Institute of Technology. She taught math and computer science with Teach for America for two years, and now works as a Systems Engineer.