How do I start my child coding?

You may have heard a lot about coding and how important it is for children to start learning about coding as early as possible. Computers have become part of our lives, and we’re not just talking about the laptop or desktop computer you might have in your home or on your desk at work. Your phone, your microwave, and your car are all controlled by computers, and those computers need instructions to tell them what to do. Coding, or computer programming, involves writing those instructions.

A boy types code at a CoderDojo coding club.

If children discover a love for coding, they will have an avenue to make the things they want to make; to write programs and build projects that they find useful, fun, or interesting. So how do you give your child the opportunity to learn about coding? We’ve listed some free resources and suggested activities below.

Scratch Junior 

If you have a young child under about 7 years of age, then a great place to begin is with ScratchJr. This is an app available on Android and iOS phones and tablets, that lets children learn the basics of programming, without having to worry about making mistakes.

ScratchJr programming interface.

Code Club World

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has developed a series of activities for young learners, on their journey to developing their computing skills. Code Club World provides a platform for children to play with code to design their own avatar, make it dance, and play music. Plus they can share their creations with other learners. 

“You could have a go too and discover Scratch together. The platform is designed for complete beginners and it is great fun to play with.”

Carol Thornhill, Engineering Science MA, Mathematics teacher

Scratch

For 7- to 11-year-old children, Scratch is a good way to begin their journey in coding, or to progress from ScratchJr. Like ScratchJr, Scratch is a block-based language, allowing children to assemble code to produce games, animations, stories, or even use some of the add-ons to interact with electronic devices and explore physical computing.

A girl with her Scratch project
A girl with a Scratch project she has coded.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has hundreds of Scratch projects that your child can try out, but the best place to begin is with our Introduction to Scratch path, which will provide your child with the basic skills they need, and then encourage them to build projects that are relevant to them, culminating in their creation of their own interactive ebook.

Your child may never tire of Scratch, and that is absolutely fine — it is a fully functioning programming language that is surprisingly powerful, when you learn to understand everything it can do. Another advantage of Scratch is that it provides easy access to graphics, sounds, and interactivity that can be trickier to achieve in other programming languages.

Python 

If you’re looking for more traditional programming languages for your child to progress on to, especially when they reach 12 years of age or beyond, then we like to direct our young learners to the Python programming language and to the languages that the World Wide Web is built on, particularly HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Animation coded in Python of an archery target disk.
An animation coded using Python.

Our Python resources cover the basics of using the language, and then progress from there. Python is one of the most widely used languages when it comes to the fields of artificial intelligence and data science, and we have resources to support your child in learning about these fascinating aspects of technology. Our projects can even introduce your child to the world of electronics and physical computing with activities that use the inexpensive Raspberry Pi Pico, and a handful of electronic components, enabling your kids to create a wide variety of art installations and useful gadgets.

“Trying Python doesn’t mean you can’t go back to Scratch or switch between Scratch and Python for different purposes. I still use Scratch for some projects myself!”

Tracy Gardner, Computer Science PhD, former IBM Software Architect and currently a project writer at the Raspberry Pi Foundation
A young person codes at a Raspberry Pi computer.
Python is a great text-based programming language for young people to learn.

Coding projects

On our coding tutorials website we have many different projects to help your child learn coding and digital making. These range from beginner resources like the Introduction to Scratch path to more advanced activities such as the Introduction to Unity path, where children can learn how to make 3D worlds and games. 

“Our new project paths can be tackled by young creators on their own, without adult intervention. Paths are structured so that they build skills and confidence in the early stages, and then provide more open-ended tasks and inspirational ideas that creators can adapt or work from.”

Rik Cross, BSc (Hons), PGCE, former teacher and Director of Informal Learning at the Raspberry Pi Foundation

Web development 

The Web is integral to many of our lives, and we believe that it is important for children to have an understanding of the technology that drives it. That is why we have an Introduction to the Web path that allows children to develop their own web pages, focusing on the kinds of webpages that they want to build, be that sending a greeting card, telling a story, or creating a showcase of their projects.

A girl has fun learning to code at home on a tablet sitting on a sofa.
It’s empowering for children to learn to how the websites they visit are created with code.

Coding clubs 

Coding clubs are a great place for children to have fun and become more confident with coding, where they can learn through making and share their creations with each other. The Raspberry Pi Foundation operates the world’s largest network of coding clubs — CoderDojo and Code Club

“I have a new group of creators at my Code Club every year and my favourite part is when they realise they really can let their imagination run wild. You want to make an animation where a talking pineapple chases a snowman — absolutely. You want to make a piece of scalable art out of 1000 pixelated cartoon musical instruments — go right ahead. If you can code it, you can make it ”

Liz Smart, Code Club and CoderDojo mentor, former Solutions Architect and project writer for the Raspberry Pi Foundation
Three teenage girls at a laptop.
At Code Club and CoderDojo, many young people enjoy teaming up to code projects together.

Coding challenges 

Once your child has learnt some of the basics, they may enjoy entering a coding challenge! The European Astro Pi Challenge programme allows young people to write code and actually have it run on the International Space Station, and Coolest Projects gives children a chance to showcase their projects from across the globe.

A Coolest Projects participant
A girl with her coded creation at an in-person Coolest Projects showcase.

Free resources 

No matter what technology your child wants to engage with, there is a wealth of free resources and materials available from organisations such as the Raspberry Pi Foundation and Scratch Foundation, that prepare young people for 21st century life. Whether they want to become professional software engineers, tinker with some electronics, or just have a play around … encourage them to explore some coding projects, and see what they can learn, make, and do!


Author: Marc Scott, BSc (Hons) is a former Science, Computer Science, and Engineering teacher and the Content Lead for Projects at the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

3 comments
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It’s good for youngsters to learn code for these microcontroller projects but if people under 18 want to learn actual electronics which involves soldering and the use of tools they have big problem health and safety rules mean shops wont sell tools to under 18s in case they injure themselves so they can no longer do electronics or model making as a hobby and are reduced to looking at screens how depressing

Reply to Mark Garton

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Tbh just to cope up with current IT industry your child don’t need to learn coding at early age of their life. With growing speed of upgrading technology whatever your child learns will be absolete by the time they are eligible to work in IT industry. So i would suggest not to force your child to learn coding, if he/she is himself interested then you can start with coding languages like C or C++ to help them clear there coding concepts and improve skills from base level. Later they can learn any other programming language with ease.
I would say best age to start learning coding skills is 15+, before that it is not going to make much of a difference other than stressing and mounting pressure on your child’s mind.

Reply to Ninad

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So useful. Thanks for sharing. We live in a modern technological age, so it can be said that computers and other electronics have become important items in life. I see that my son seems to be very interested in computers, he is curious and loves to explore. That’s why I want to let my child learn through coding to see if it is suitable for him? I find Scartch Junior to be a great fit for my son and it has a child-friendly interface as well. Thank you for this suggestion and other options for age-appropriate categories.

Reply to David Ortiz

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