By Camille McCue, Sarah Guthals

Part of Helping Kids with Coding For Dummies Cheat Sheet

When we were growing up, there weren’t as many applications and languages targeting novices. Logo and Basic were the main choices! Luckily, in the past decade, programmers and educators from around the world have developed so many languages and environments for coders of all ages and levels of expertise! This is a short list of programming languages, applications, and environments by age.

Ages 4–7

The general goal for coding with children as young as age 4 is to help them develop logical thinking and “computational thinking.” Basically, this is understanding how to break apart problems and formulate a set of clearly defined steps to solve the problem in such a way that a computer could carry out the steps.

Ages 8–12

Children in the 8–12 age range really rev up their coding as they advance their math skills and improve their abilities in creating long and more complex sequences of code. At this point your goals in guiding them are helping them expand their understanding of how code is used (apps, electronics, and others), fostering their creativity, and building their persistence in sticking-to-it when they encounter challenges — including debugging. Help them realize that they can build almost anything they can imagine!

Ages 13+

Coding with teens introduces a whole new world of making! This is usually when youth start working in text-based languages and therefore engage in industry-standard languages and high-level concepts. At this point, you should be motivating your young coders to think about how they might apply what they are learning to future careers, advising them to really plan their programs, and encouraging them to determine what languages would be best for what they want to build.

(Note: Alice is a teaching language, and Cue is a robot that uses both tile-based code and JavaScript.)

Coding is a life-long journey, and Sarah has still been surprised and inspired by the programs she can write in Scratch, even being a professional software engineer! So if you have an older coder, don’t be afraid to challenge them with applications to build in “younger” languages. Scratch is the first language used at Berkeley for students who might be interested in computer science — undergraduate students! Exposure, creativity, and exploration is what matters; don’t feel the need to force kids to move onto “real” languages too quickly — let it be a journey!