Adventures in Minecraft
One of the first steps to ensuring that children have a real and genuine interest in learning to program is presenting them with concrete goals that they want to achieve. If you are to talk to any child about their Minecraft experience, the odds are high that there’s something about the game they’d love to just get in there and change. Adventures in Minecraft is a solid introduction to coding for children, teaching the simple joy of putting together a few simple instructions and then seeing them have an effect on the game that they play day to day.
Perhaps the biggest benefit here is that new information is presented in terms of practical projects. With everything broken down into specific goals, children learning from this book have the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and see the results of their work. It also helps that the book supplies links to video tutorials (for those of us following along).
Learn To Program With Minecraft
It’s hard to know quite what to say about some books, not least when they do pretty much exactly as their title suggests. Learn to Program with Minecraft introduces children to programming in small steps, but also manages to engage them early on by offering them the ability to change in-game items from one type to another. That might seem like a modest goal, but it’s an excellent first step into programming that offers children an immediately understandable and tangible benefit. It's almost impossible to oversell the fact that the book also gives children a fun introduction to Python.
Everything here is handled step-by-step and with plenty of screenshots, so it's almost impossible to go too far wrong. If you're using a Raspberry Pi or a Mac, there are specific sections dealing with different hardware setups.
The projects grow in ambition and complexity as the book progresses. There are times when that might be a concern, but a history with Minecraft itself prepares children to take on sizeable projects and run with them.
Minecraft Modding for Kids for Dummies
For those whose children are already interested in Minecraft’s seemingly endless mods, then Minecraft Modding for Kids may be just what the doctor ordered. Where modding is particularly interesting for kids is in its social aspect. Obviously, there’s the potential for children to collaborate with one another, but the real joy of having kids building mods for games is that it allows them to put a twist on the game that they play as a group, and then enjoy playing through those modifications together.
Be well warned though, the book is heavily supported by web content. This means that it's as current as possible, but its license is only good for a year… if you think you’ll end up consulting it beyond that, then you'll need to be prepared to shell out again in a year’s time or consider another book.
Coding Games in Scratch
If you’d like to get your child into the creative work of actually making their own projects, then Coding Games in Scratch is a great place to start. For children who already love to spend their time playing games, there are few things that capture a child’s attention quite as well as the promise of making their own. This book is pitched at children aged 8-12, and uses a combination of straightforward instructions and visuals to ensure that they can follow the process themselves.
The key here is that Coding Games in Scratch does well to teach children the reasoning behind what they’re doing, rather than just having them follow a step-by-step guide. There are also instructions on how to make simple adjustments and modifications to change your game in specific ways, which opens the doors for children to really get their hands dirty and start playing around with fundamental elements of their games.
Python For Kids
If you’d like to encourage your kids to look into programming beyond gaming, then you’ll find few books better than Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming. Aimed at children from the age of 10 and up, this book is an excellent starting point for anyone looking to get their children more interested in programming with broader applications. It helps that Python is a great language to learn if you’re just finding your feet.
The only real difficulty with any such project is that, as you move away from what children are already interested in, it can be tricky to persuade them to overcome any stumbling blocks they encounter. Fortunately, Jason R. Briggs’ writing is direct and to the point, which helps to keep things as clear as possible for younger readers.
This is a book filled with tiny projects and examples that should be suitable for children, and if not then they certainly should be able to get by with a little help from someone else.
Adventures in Raspberry Pi
The Raspberry Pi’s build-it-yourself approach is a perfect fit for Minecraft fans. For those who aren't familiar with it, the Raspberry Pi is a tiny, cheap-as-chips computer designed to plug into a TV or monitor. Obviously, this is changing tack a little from our previous suggestions, but bear with us. It’s excellent to be able to give a child something as inexpensive and safe as a Raspberry Pi and encourage them to just play with it and see what they can do. There are few programming projects as immediately accessible as those that give a child the ability to interact directly with their own hardware.
Adventures in Raspberry Pi taps into the simple pleasure of having your own hardware to work with (rather than just using the family PC to flex their coding skills). The flexibility of the Raspberry Pi also means that kids can really throw all of their creative weight behind a project and see things through to their natural conclusion, while the book offers some direction for those early projects that can help get them started.