Just to be clear, we’re not talking about you getting your child a python snake as a pet. That said, the Python we’re talking about might be just as intimidating to some people. This guide is about a widely-used, easy-to-read, open source computer programming language called Python; it is aptly named after the British comedy series, Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Now that we’re on the same page, let’s get into the details.
As the world is becoming more and more digital, the need for programming is increasingly growing. These days, programming is no longer dominated by computer scientists. It is slowly becoming an integral skill that people need to learn if they want to be a part of digital creation. Python is one of those computer programming languages that has proven to be beneficial in a multitude of ways.
Learning Python can empower children at an early age by giving them a job-ready skill. It is also easy to learn and is widely used in several applications and industries. This makes Python a suitable first programming language for your child if you want to set them up for future success.
If you are a teacher or parent who wants to teach children how to program with Python, you must first understand the language yourself. This guide will serve as a great starting point to understand Python.
What does Python stand for?
As a programming language, Python is what computer programmers use to give a computing device (a computer, a smart phone, a navigation device) a series of executable instructions to achieve some goal.
The beauty of Python is that it is a high-level programming language. This means that, as a programmin language, it’s closer to human syntax and therefore easier to read and understand when compared to machine language.
Now you might be wondering, what is machine language? It’s the language understood by a computer – think binary numbers, aka 1’s and 0’s. Machine language is difficult for adults to learn, meaning children will have an even tougher time with it. Unfortunately, computers only understand machine language. That means high-level languages will need to be translated to machine language for the computer to understand them. Luckily, you don’t have to translate Python yourself because computers these days come with an interpreter. An interpreter is a program that translates high-level Python code into machine code. This is why you will hear people say, “Python is an interpreted language.”
Python is also a generalized language. This means that if you need programming to solve a problem, you can use Python to develop a solution. The most common ways Python is used include building computer programs, websites, and web applications. It is also used for game development.
Some of the biggest companies in the world use Python. The most popular ones are Google, Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, Spotify, Lyft, Reddit, and even NASA. As you can see, if Python is taken seriously, children can end up working for some of the world’s biggest companies.
Why should your child learn to program at all?
Besides giving children a useful skill for solving the world’s problems through code, Python can help to:
Improve problem-solving skills
Programming emphasizes the use of logical steps to solve a problem clearly and efficiently. This involves analyzing problems, breaking them down into smaller, manageable parts, and tackling them in order of priority. This requires a great deal of logical thinking. Children can then use the mental processes developed through programming in other areas of their lives, from tying a tie to solving a math problem.
As with many things in life, learning to program can be a challenge. But most things worth doing are usually a bit challenging. Mistakes will be made along the way as problems become more complex. Instead of giving up in frustration, programming teaches your child to persevere by focusing on solving the problem logically and methodically; skills they will utilize beyond programming.
Be fun and gratifying
When a child sees the program they worked so hard to build and run, they will instantly feel satisfied. Whether they develop a simple app, a text-based game, or a website, experiencing this type of earned success can make learning to program fun and give them skills for life!
Humans use languages to express themselves. For example, a writer can pen a novel as the ultimate form of self-expression. The same can be said for programming languages. Programming can teach children to develop digital interactive media. In fact, your child can imagine any experience they want to create and bring it to life through programming.
Why should children learn Python programming?
Now that you can see how programming will benefit children, it is time to look at some Python-specific reasons to get them to program. Here are the biggest reasons Python is considered to be child-friendly:
It is beginner-friendly
There are many programming languages to choose from, in fact, there are approximately 700 in the whole world. However, some of them have complex rules and syntax as we mentioned above. Children would need to learn those rules and syntax before writing a single line of code. This can be confusing and demanding for anyone. Luckily, Python’s rules and syntax aren’t that hard to learn. That’s because, as mentioned earlier, it is one of the programming languages that comes closest to human thought.
Want your program to output something to the screen? In Python, it is as easy as writing a note to your friend:
Below is the output you will see on the screen:
Python is easy to install
Installing Python is one of the easiest things to do. Older children can even manage it on their own. All they have to do is head to the official page and download the appropriate Python version for their operating system. Then, they just need to launch the installer and follow the installation instructions to set up a Python environment on their machine. To begin programming your child can launch “cmd” in Windows, or “terminal” in Linux or in macOS.
Basic Python concepts
To effectively teach children how to program in Python, you need to familiarize yourself with some basic concepts. Below is a very basic Python tutorial for parents and children:
In programming, syntax explains the rules you must follow for your program to be structured properly. Your code won’t run if the syntax isn’t correct. For example, Indentation is important. Python compiler throws an error without proper indentation.
The idea is similar to grammar and spelling rules in our human languages. Syntax helps you write programs that make sense to the computer. An example of Python syntax is: strings should be enclosed in single, double, or triple quotes.
The following examples are correct:
|print(‘Learn Python for kids’)|
|print(“Learn Python for kids”)|
|print(‘’’Learn Python for kids’’’)|
|print(“””Learn Python for kids”””)|
The following code will throw an error because it breaks this important syntax rule (it has no single, double, triple quotes):
|print(I am learning Python for kids)|
Think of a variable as a container that stores a value in computer memory. Variables are a great way for programmers to give descriptive names to data or values. The value stored in a variable can be one of the fundamental data types in Python. The important ones to know are:
- Integer: An integer is used to represent real numbers with no fractional parts. Examples are 1, 13, 78, and 1996.
- Float: A float is a number with a decimal point that divides a real number (integer) from its fractional part. Examples include 1.5, 3.14159, and 100.5833.
- Strings: A string is a sequence of characters. This can be a name like “Bob” or a phrase like “This is a phrase” or even a password like “Password1234#”.
- Boolean: A boolean is a data type that can either be true or false at a given time.
You create a variable by giving it a meaningful name and assigning it a value. Here’s how you do that in Python:
|age = 12|
In the above example, age is the variable, and 12 is the value. What that statement tells the computer is, “Take the value on the right side of the assignment operator (equals sign), assign it to the variable on the left, and remember it for the rest of the program’s execution.” Now, anywhere the variable age is written in the program, the computer will replace it with 12.
So if you wrote:
You will see this as the output:
Variables can also be manipulated. For instance, if age has changed, you can change its value in the following way:
|age = 13|
By typing the above code, the program will replace 12, which is the current value of age in memory, with 13. This is important because it makes your program more flexible.
This level of flexibility can also save the programmer a lot of headaches when values change. Suppose this program had hundreds of lines of code (it happens), and we wrote the value directly into the code instead of a variable. If the value changed, it means we would have to go through each line of code, find everywhere we used the value, and change it manually. With a variable, we just have to assign it the new value, and the value will automatically change throughout the entire program.
A conditional statement executes an indented block of code depending on whether a condition is true or false. Here is an example of a common type of conditional statement known as an if-statement:
|Age = 13 if age > 12 print(“You are a teenager!”)|
In a computer program, a computer reads and executes the code line by line. In the above example, it will assign the value 12 to the variable age and check if age is greater than 13. If it is, it will execute the indented line of code. Otherwise, it will skip it.
The above code will execute the indented code block since 13 (the value of age) is greater than 12. It will show:
|You are a teenager!|
Common Boolean operators include = (is equal to), < (is less than), > (is greater than), <= (is less than or equal to), and >= (is greater than or equal to). It is worth noting that the equals sign does not act as an assignment operator in a conditional statement or loop.
A loop is a code block that will execute instructions contained therein over and over until the given condition is met. This way, programmers don’t have to repeat code unnecessarily. The most widely used loop is the while loop. Here’s an example:
|x = 1 while (x < 10) print(x) x += 1 print(“We are outside the while loop!”)|
The above while loop is telling the program to print the value of x while it is less than 10 (between 1 and 9). The program starts by assigning the value 1 to the variable x. In the while loop, the program will print the value of x to the screen and then add 1 to x over and over until x is 10. At that point, it will stop executing the while loop and continue executing the other lines of code (the last print statement).
The output will be:
|1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 We are outside the while loop!|
A while loop saves you time and shortens your code. In the above example, you would have had to increase x by 1 and print the result nine times if you didn’t use a while loop. With the loop, it only took three lines of code.
Books that teach Python to children
The above examples of Python code for kids may still be kind of confusing for beginners –adult and adolescent alike. Fortunately, there are books to help you out! Here are some titles that will help you teach Python to kids in more detail:
- Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction To Programming – uses a lot of colors and silly jokes to teach kids Python.
- Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python – teaches your child Python through text-based games.
- Coding for Kids: Python: Learn to Code with 50 Awesome Games and Activities – Kids learn Python through useful coding activities.
Python for kids is great fun, and it will provide children with a 21st century job skill. Furthermore, Python is easy to learn and install. Programming, in general, improves children’s problem-solving skills, teaches them persistence, is fun and satisfying to learn, and allows your child to get creative. This is enough incentive to enroll children in a coding class at BYJU’S FutureSchool!