Kids learn essential skills like reading, writing, and arithmetic in the everyday classroom. However, the ever-growing importance of technology remains outside of many school curricula.
Certain school districts fail to update their curricula with regularity. Some educational models use the same requirements as they did in the 1970s. Kids who attend these schools later find themselves at a disadvantage once out in the workforce.
Kids miss out on the key skill of learning how to code at these schools. Countless high-paying career paths call for proficiency in coding (or programming) computer languages. Without learning to code at a young age, a kid misses out on valuable opportunities.
Once you have established the critical skill of coding, you must next explore what computer languages are appropriate to teach a kid. Despite the demand for coding in the modern workplace, a child is not worried about the job marketplace. Perusing a job site to see what coding skills are in demand is unnecessary.
As a matter of fact, choosing a coding language based on what professionals use causes further issues in education. You may end up picking too complicated a coding language to teach in everyday schools. Furthermore, some coding languages rely on higher forms of math that children do not encounter until high school or later.
By the time your kid enters the workplace, coding languages may have changed to the point that the language you chose solely due to its career value may not be relevant anymore. Picking a kids’ coding language for its relevance to the marketplace is not wise.
When looking for a language that better appeals to kids, avoid compiled languages.
Compilation, a complicated step in coding, requires a high level of fluency regarding abstract concepts. Enough adults find the idea of compiling too difficult to comprehend — kids cannot even begin to grasp the concept.
Certainly, there are kids and teenagers in the world capable of grasping the ideas behind compiled languages. For the majority, however, the rule stands.
We want to introduce kids to coding via languages that have relevance in today’s society, as opposed to an outdated language or those that do not work well. Teach coding languages that achieve immediate results, rather than languages that require more time and input before making any progress.
Focus on languages that rely on visual elements. Children learn better when presented with illustrated information, as opposed to other types of data. For example, a kid’s coding language that works with graphics or web pages would be better than a language that focuses on databases or server management.
Highly-Recommended Kids Coding Languages to Try
Introducing kids at an early stage in education creates an interest. Cultivating an interest in young minds defines the main idea of coding as a standard in common curricula. A graphically appealing kids coding language helps you create and foster that interest, even if it does not produce a coder ready for their first big job right out of high school.
Keep those thoughts in mind while you consider teaching the following computer languages to kids with hopes they spark an interest in coding.
While HTML is not technically a programming language, it is similar enough to be mentioned here. HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is the standard language that most web developers use to create pages on the World Wide Web.
HTML, a markup language, uses English abbreviations to “markup” a document. This language tells the computer how large the heading should be or what words should be italicized, for example. An official definition can be found through Merriam-Webster.
HTML fits the language criteria required to teach kids. Hypertext has been around for decades, and Hypertext Markup Language still is used all over the world to program and design webpages.
One line of code using HTML can produce an almost immediate effect a kid can see and understand. Teaching coding through the HTML language requires minimal lessons on understanding the internet. Without time wasted teaching about browsers and such, the process of learning to code begins sooner.
Among other advantages, learning HTML does not require a high proficiency in math. The average middle schooler can handle the math HTML requires for coding.
Markup originally specialized in editing documents. Considering this fact, the appropriate math needed to code in HTML makes sense. The language was designed for editors, not coders. More information on markup can be found at Lifewire.
In order to program in HTML, you only need a web browser and a text editor, such as Sublime or Notepad. With other languages, the instructor must install software packages themselves or give permission for students to download software packages. There is no need for downloading software when using HTML.
Seasoned instructors know that permitting children to download software packages on school computers never ends well. Unless you enjoy working with anti-virus programs and deleting games on student laptops every so often, consider a different tactic.
”HTML” often includes the abbreviation “CSS.” CSS ( or Cascading Style Sheets) adds a lot of customization to HTML.
By itself, HTML resembles the plain websites of the 90s. CSS gives coders a lot more options. As a matter of fact, CSS Zen Garden illustrates all of the different ways CSS can change the appearance of a website, even if the HTML stays exactly the same!
CSS also has all of the advantages for teaching kids coding languages that HTML does, including the fact that you only need a text editor and a web browser in order to code using CSS.
CSS is not a programming language — it would be most accurately be classified as markup. But, like HTML, CSS is still heavily used by the world and is not in danger of going away any time soon.
You see, coders must convert all programming and scripting languages to a machine language to run them.
Interpreted languages do this as the program is running, not needing an additional step to translate the language.
Meanwhile, compiled programs take an extra step to run. The student must code the program, then the compiler compiles it and checks for errors, and finally, the program runs. This process may be counterintuitive for most students and involves a step in which nothing happens, which kids see as boring. In this article, we will not recommend programming languages that require a compile step as a kids’ coding language.
While important, databases and server management will generally bore kids to tears, which has the possibility of making them hate coding languages and perhaps even your class (perish the thought!).
PHP and WordPress
PHP has also taken on an added importance for kids as well as adults because it is the primary coding language that powers WordPress. WordPress is a website CMS (or Content Management System) that also allows users who are not familiar with HTML to build their websites.
WordPress has become more and more popular in the last few years, and all students should probably at least know WordPress basics, which require no math and are relatively easy to pick up.
Nearly all WordPress sites and applications are written in PHP, and WordPress is so vital that you should include PHP in your curriculum due to that fact.
Many articles and opinions state that the future of websites is in WordPress. If that is the case, then the future is inarguably PHP, and teaching this language to your students will make life easier for them later.
Unfortunately, unlike the previous kids’ coding languages we have covered, PHP is only available as a download. So you must either download PHP on every student’s computer or allow them to do it themselves.
As mentioned before, I highly recommend that you or an aide download PHP onto the students’ computers as opposed to allowing them to do it themselves. The download is free at PHP.net.
Complications of PHP
PHP also requires a solid understanding of math. Algebra almost certainly is necessary, but PHP may also require the equivalent of an Algebra II class for kids, to truly master the coding language. PHP requires a high-school level or above understanding of math, along with some maturity and patience.
However, the importance of teaching coding to young people cannot be denied. Across the world, coding is taking on more and more significance as humanity relies on computers for even the most mundane tasks.
Make sure to teach your students coding, if you can. They may not always enjoy it now, but they will benefit from it later.
Honorable Mention: Python
Although both of those languages can get very challenging in some of their tasks, I would recommend teaching them a language like Python. Python differs from the languages listed here in many ways but definitely is a viable language to teach advanced high schoolers.
Also, mastering Python requires quite a bit of math, so I would recommend that any student who wishes to learn Python be required to know Algebra at the very least.
Even simple concepts such as variables may go over the heads of students who are not conversant in Algebraic ideas. The last thing we as educators want to do is to throw kids into the deep end of the metaphorical pool and let them struggle with a coding language. Proper background learning is necessary for anyone to succeed in any endeavor.
Python is not impossible to learn, however. Unlike many other computer languages, Python accommodates different learning styles. If your students cannot wrap their heads around object-oriented programming, then you can try a different tactic. The language can work with you.
Also, Python is known for being more forgiving of kids’ errors than certain other coding languages, and it is written in English syntax. More information can be found regarding Python as a kids’ coding language at CodeWizardsHQ.
Get Your Kids into Coding!
Once again, no matter which language you decide to choose, the important thing is to get your students coding! From HTML to Python, coding will teach your students valuable skills that will accompany them through life. The time to start teaching them is now.