When we say coding is a child’s play, Microsoft took it literally. While we lacked encouragement to program when young, the future for our children seems bright. Microsoft has a few applications that allow children to program at a basic level. The interesting part is that they have been here for eight years with little awareness.
Though none of the software could be used for mainstream programming, they are quite good as the first baby step. A child can develop an aptitude for programming from a very young age. On the other hand, we as their parents or supervisors can judge if it is the right thing for them to do.
Teach Kids to Code using these free tools
These 5 applications can help kids learn to code.
Microsoft Small Basic
My first touch with programming was with BASIC (Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code). However, despite being the easiest of programming languages, I found it somewhat boring, and that pushed my interest elsewhere. Perhaps, the developers at Microsoft have understood it of late that a lesser version is needed for juniors. Microsoft Small Basic is a much simpler form of BASIC specially designed for kids, so they don’t find it cumbersome or monotonous. The language has only 14 keywords.
Microsoft Small Basic has been tried and tested with children in the age group of 10 to 16, and it is claimed to be a success with them. Rather, the software isn’t a bad idea for adults either who have an inclination towards programming. This software works with Windows XP and later versions of the Operating System.
A perfect language for beginners, Microsoft Small Basic, excludes the use of scopes, types, object orientation, etc. One could also submit his/her programs to their site where they could be featured.
Kodu Game Lab
What could be a better encouragement for a child into programming than making the programming software a game? And to add on to it, the software is used to code XBOX games. Originally named Boku, this software runs on Windows XP and later versions of Windows and XBOX 360 too.
Kodu Game Lab doesn’t involve coding by typing letters (which is boring for kids). Rather users program by arranging visual elements using a game controller. And the programs are built in a 3D simulation environment. However, do not get into believing that Kodu is any less with the learning experience. It uses the most serious of programming tactics like branching, loops, symbolic variables, number and string manipulation, polymorphism, subroutines, etc.
Minecraft Hour of Code Tutorials
I would call Minecraft more of a predecessor to a programming language than one itself. This game is designed for younger children who know how to read and write but are not mature enough to write code. It involves picking pre-written instructions and making an algorithm out of them.
Microsoft Touch Develop
Touch Develop is not exactly designed for children, this software is good enough for those starting early. It is used for designing application programs for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. That is where the name ‘Touch Develop’ comes from. It is used on touchscreen devices and thus has been developed for ease on them.
Code Hunt from Microsoft Research
Code Hunt is another ‘coding game’ where the player/user wins points and raises levels for finding the missing code. This software doesn’t use its own coding language, and the codes are to be completed in Java or C#. This game is for those who have a certain basic knowledge of these languages. It is more of a practice software. The software can be integrated with Microsoft Office, and it runs directly from the web and does not need to be downloaded.
Quite certainly, our kids would have more of an inspiration towards programming than we ever had. These baby steps help a lot in the long run.