Programming is becoming an increasingly useful skill in today’s society. As we continue to rely more and more on software and digital technology, knowing how to code is also more and more valuable. That’s why many parents are looking for ways to introduce their children to programming. You might find it difficult to know where to begin, with so many different kids’ coding languages and platforms available. In this blog post, we explore how children can progress through different programming languages to realise their potential as proficient coders and creators of digital technology.
Everyone needs to start somewhere, and one great option for children aged 5–7 is ScratchJr (Scratch Junior), a visual programming language with drag-and-drop blocks for creating simple programs. ScratchJr is available for free on Android and iOS mobile devices. It’s great for introducing young children to the basics of programming, and they can use it to create interactive stories and games.
Moving on from ScratchJr, there’s its web-based sibling Scratch. Scratch offers drag-and-drop blocks for creating programs and comes with an assortment of graphics, sounds, and music for your child to bring their programs to life. This visual programming language is designed specifically for children to learn programming fundamentals. Scratch is available in multiple spoken languages and is perfect for beginners. It allows kids to create interactive stories, animations, and games with ease.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation has a wealth of free Scratch resources we have created specifically for young people who are beginners, such as the ‘Introduction to Scratch’ project path. And if your child is interested in physical computing to interact with the real world using code, they can also learn how to use electronic components, such as buzzers and LEDs, with Scratch and a Raspberry Pi computer.
Another fun option for children who want to explore coding and physical computing is the micro:bit. This is a small programmable device with an LED display, buttons, and sensors, and it can be used to create games, animations, interactive projects, and lots more. To control a micro:bit, a visual programming language called MakeCode can be used. The micro:bit can also be programmed using Scratch or text-based languages such as Python, offering an easy transition for children as their coding skills progress. Have a look at our free collection of micro:bit resources to learn more.
Everyone is familiar with websites, but fewer people know how they are coded. HTML is a markup language that is used to create the webpages we use every day. It’s a great language for children to learn because they can see the results of their code in real time, in their web browser. They can use HTML and CSS to create simple webpages that include links, videos, pictures, and interactive elements, all the while learning how websites are structured and designed. We have many free web design resources for your child, including a basic ‘Introduction to web development’ project path.
If your child is becoming confident with Scratch and HTML, then using Python is the recommended next stage in their learning. Python is a high-level text-based programming language that is easy to read and learn. It is a popular choice for beginners as it has a simple syntax that often reads like plain English. Many free Python projects for young people are available on our website, including the ‘Introduction to Python’ path.
The Python community is also really welcoming and has produced a myriad of online tutorials and videos to help learners explore this language. Python can be used to do some very powerful things with ease, which is why it is so popular. For example, it is relatively simple to create Python programs to engage in machine learning and data analysis. If you wanted to explore large language models such as GPT, on which the ChatGPT chatbot is based, then Python would be the language of choice.
Try out kids’ coding languages
There are many different programming languages, and each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. Some are easy to learn and use, some are really fast, and some are very secure.
Starting with visual languages such as Scratch or MakeCode allows your child to begin to understand the basic concepts of programming without needing any developed reading and keyboard skills. Once their understanding and skills have improved, they can try out text-based languages, find the one that they are comfortable with, and then continue to learn. It’s fairly common for people who are proficient in one programming language to learn other languages quite quickly, so don’t worry about which programming language your child starts with.
Whether your child is interested in working in software development or just wants to learn a valuable — and creative — skill, helping them learn to code and try out different kids’ coding languages is a great way for you to open up new opportunities for them.