Best first time computer / path for children

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Post Reply
RobLyons
Posts: 82
Joined: Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:55 pm

Best first time computer / path for children

Post by RobLyons » Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:23 pm

My eldest child is turning the ripe old age of 9 and showing some interest in computer programming, namely with the game Minecraft. For his birthday he has been asking for a computer to use for minecraft. We don't currently allow any computer use for our kids beyond what they do at school and at the local public library.


What would be a suitable computer for him to use in regards to starting in perhaps an early path into computer science, programming, etc? Special attention to budget minded folks like myself.. also any input from those in computer related fields are genuinely appreciated !


Secondly, any recommendations as to programs for learning computer technology for children?

thanks

User avatar
Alexa9
Posts: 1632
Joined: Tue Aug 30, 2016 9:41 am

Re: Best first time computer / path for children

Post by Alexa9 » Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:32 pm

I would build a computer with him using www.pcpartpicker.com You'll save a ton and it's a fun and fairly easy project.
8GB RAM or 16 if you want future proof
7th gen Intel i5
250 or 500GB SSD
Compatible Motherboard
Case + Power Supply
Graphics card depending on how much gaming he is interested in.
I would dual boot Windows 10 and Linux Mint. Linux uses a lot of commands that are similar to coding. Windows has all the games.

If that doesn't sound fun, I'd get a Dell Tower or Intel NUC.

User avatar
cockersx3
Posts: 173
Joined: Sun Apr 17, 2016 3:55 pm

Re: Best first time computer / path for children

Post by cockersx3 » Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:01 pm

My first choice would be a cheap Chromebook. One can pick up a low-end one for around $200, so there's not much money to lose if your child breaks it. Many public schools we know of (both in our town, and those where our families live) are very heavily integrated into the Google ecosystem - they all have Google Drive accounts through their schools which they use to store assignments, and the kids regularly use the Office-like web applications that Google provides (Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc) for school assignments. Our town actually just recently went to a "1:1 Chromebook" program, where each child in middle school & up is required to have a dedicated Chromebook for school. (You can either bring your own device, or rent one from the school.) So if your child is in public school, getting a Chromebook may work out well as the child gets older and needs it for assignments.

My daughter began dabbling with coding at about the age of your child. Code.org provides some good, basic console lessons in a variety of languages, and she spent a lot of time with that initially - really liked the structure that program provides. Scratch (scratch.mit.edu) is another good resource that they've used in my daughter's school, and she seemed to take to that as well. This is more graphical and focuses on more event-driven programming, and has some relatively good graphics tools / options available to keep the kids engaged. For console programming that is less structured, she has starting using repl.it which provides an online IDE one can use to run and save her own code in a variety of languages as well. All of these can run from a Chromebook.

All that said - I'm not sure that a Chromebook will support Minecraft. (My daughter uses that a lot, but on her phone.)

One option you may want to consider is a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ (https://www.raspberrypi.org/products/) You can purchase the board, a case, and a small SD card (preloaded with an operating system) for less than $100 through Amazon (link), and pair it up with your own monitor and keyboard / mouse. This setup is more DIY-ish and geared towards hobbyists in robotics, but the basic Raspbian distribution contains an IDE that includes a special edition of Minecraft that allows for basic programming - see this link for details. Takes some work to set up, but with the Minecraft integration it may be something your child would like.

Hope this helps!

TheOscarGuy
Posts: 592
Joined: Sat Oct 06, 2012 1:10 pm
Location: Where I wanna be.

Re: Best first time computer / path for children

Post by TheOscarGuy » Thu Oct 18, 2018 5:02 am

RobLyons wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:23 pm
My eldest child is turning the ripe old age of 9 and showing some interest in computer programming, namely with the game Minecraft. For his birthday he has been asking for a computer to use for minecraft. We don't currently allow any computer use for our kids beyond what they do at school and at the local public library.


What would be a suitable computer for him to use in regards to starting in perhaps an early path into computer science, programming, etc? Special attention to budget minded folks like myself.. also any input from those in computer related fields are genuinely appreciated !


Secondly, any recommendations as to programs for learning computer technology for children?

thanks

Get something with a good GPU. He might want other games once he gets the laptop and regular laptops aren't good laptops for gaming.
If it is windows that you will run get at least 8GB memory. I would also recommend SSD and not HD. Dell has G series laptops you could look at, but there are other manufacturers that have good machines also. I would NOT recommend chromebooks, he is quickly going to feel it is underpowered if he remains interested and wants to continue playing other games. For Java edition (don't know what Minecraft version your son wants to play) look at the recommended requirements:

https://help.mojang.com/customer/en/por ... quirements

For recommendations on learning to program there are some good books on amazon. I personally like this one (I have to teach my son, but it is easy to follow):

https://www.amazon.com/Python-Kids-Play ... n+for+kids

You could also get him started on MIT scratch :

https://scratch.mit.edu/

Lightbot apps are also good way to introduce him to programming.

RobLyons
Posts: 82
Joined: Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:55 pm

Re: Best first time computer / path for children

Post by RobLyons » Thu Oct 18, 2018 6:10 am

Alexa9 wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:32 pm
I would build a computer with him using www.pcpartpicker.com You'll save a ton and it's a fun and fairly easy project.
8GB RAM or 16 if you want future proof
7th gen Intel i5
250 or 500GB SSD
Compatible Motherboard
Case + Power Supply
Graphics card depending on how much gaming he is interested in.
I would dual boot Windows 10 and Linux Mint. Linux uses a lot of commands that are similar to coding. Windows has all the games.

If that doesn't sound fun, I'd get a Dell Tower or Intel NUC.


Sounds like a fun project for the future! I don't think he is quite ready for building one right now, short attention span and not quite into those type of projects yet. Definitely bookmarking that site. Thanks!

RobLyons
Posts: 82
Joined: Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:55 pm

Re: Best first time computer / path for children

Post by RobLyons » Thu Oct 18, 2018 6:16 am

cockersx3 wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:01 pm
My first choice would be a cheap Chromebook. One can pick up a low-end one for around $200, so there's not much money to lose if your child breaks it. Many public schools we know of (both in our town, and those where our families live) are very heavily integrated into the Google ecosystem - they all have Google Drive accounts through their schools which they use to store assignments, and the kids regularly use the Office-like web applications that Google provides (Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc) for school assignments. Our town actually just recently went to a "1:1 Chromebook" program, where each child in middle school & up is required to have a dedicated Chromebook for school. (You can either bring your own device, or rent one from the school.) So if your child is in public school, getting a Chromebook may work out well as the child gets older and needs it for assignments.

My daughter began dabbling with coding at about the age of your child. Code.org provides some good, basic console lessons in a variety of languages, and she spent a lot of time with that initially - really liked the structure that program provides. Scratch (scratch.mit.edu) is another good resource that they've used in my daughter's school, and she seemed to take to that as well. This is more graphical and focuses on more event-driven programming, and has some relatively good graphics tools / options available to keep the kids engaged. For console programming that is less structured, she has starting using repl.it which provides an online IDE one can use to run and save her own code in a variety of languages as well. All of these can run from a Chromebook.

All that said - I'm not sure that a Chromebook will support Minecraft. (My daughter uses that a lot, but on her phone.)

One option you may want to consider is a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ (https://www.raspberrypi.org/products/) You can purchase the board, a case, and a small SD card (preloaded with an operating system) for less than $100 through Amazon (link), and pair it up with your own monitor and keyboard / mouse. This setup is more DIY-ish and geared towards hobbyists in robotics, but the basic Raspbian distribution contains an IDE that includes a special edition of Minecraft that allows for basic programming - see this link for details. Takes some work to set up, but with the Minecraft integration it may be something your child would like.

Hope this helps!

I've been wanting to get them a Chromebook and that's interesting about schools requiring them now.
However, there's no Minecraft for Chromebook. I'm leaning towards a windows laptop. Although I personally do not like the OS, or the hardware for that matter, we all know it's what's used in schools and the business world. thank you!

RobLyons
Posts: 82
Joined: Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:55 pm

Re: Best first time computer / path for children

Post by RobLyons » Thu Oct 18, 2018 7:23 am

TheOscarGuy wrote:
Thu Oct 18, 2018 5:02 am
RobLyons wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:23 pm
My eldest child is turning the ripe old age of 9 and showing some interest in computer programming, namely with the game Minecraft. For his birthday he has been asking for a computer to use for minecraft. We don't currently allow any computer use for our kids beyond what they do at school and at the local public library.


What would be a suitable computer for him to use in regards to starting in perhaps an early path into computer science, programming, etc? Special attention to budget minded folks like myself.. also any input from those in computer related fields are genuinely appreciated !


Secondly, any recommendations as to programs for learning computer technology for children?

thanks

Get something with a good GPU. He might want other games once he gets the laptop and regular laptops aren't good laptops for gaming.
If it is windows that you will run get at least 8GB memory. I would also recommend SSD and not HD. Dell has G series laptops you could look at, but there are other manufacturers that have good machines also. I would NOT recommend chromebooks, he is quickly going to feel it is underpowered if he remains interested and wants to continue playing other games. For Java edition (don't know what Minecraft version your son wants to play) look at the recommended requirements:

https://help.mojang.com/customer/en/por ... quirements

For recommendations on learning to program there are some good books on amazon. I personally like this one (I have to teach my son, but it is easy to follow):

https://www.amazon.com/Python-Kids-Play ... n+for+kids

You could also get him started on MIT scratch :

https://scratch.mit.edu/

Lightbot apps are also good way to introduce him to programming.


After some research I believe you're right, a tower computer is what we will need.
I thought those days were long gone!
It's been over a decade since we've had anything besides a laptop/ipad !
Thanks for your input! :D

User avatar
Alexa9
Posts: 1632
Joined: Tue Aug 30, 2016 9:41 am

Re: Best first time computer / path for children

Post by Alexa9 » Thu Oct 18, 2018 7:52 am

I'd highly recommend Costco for a desktop. They have a 90 day return policy and free 4 year warranty if you purchase with the Citi Costco Visa. Their prices are competitive.

High end: https://www.costco.com/Alienware-Aurora ... 05484.html

Mid range: https://www.costco.com/Dell-Inspiron-Ga ... 05469.html

bob60014
Posts: 676
Joined: Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:59 pm
Location: The Land Beyond ORD

Re: Best first time computer / path for children

Post by bob60014 » Thu Oct 18, 2018 8:03 am

"
What would be a suitable computer for him to use in regards to starting in perhaps an early path into computer science, programming, etc? Special attention to budget minded folks like myself......"


Just buy a refurbished, used or cheap WIN 7 desktop (yes support goes away in 2020, but who cares, this is a trainer computer) and let him learn on that. No need for anything elaborate with high power cpu's, graphic cards etc at this point. If he shows further interest go to the "build your own" route to learn the processes and continue to upgrade as he progresses. Main thing just let him tinker, but be sure you're overseeing what he is doing! ;)
Last edited by bob60014 on Thu Oct 18, 2018 8:13 am, edited 2 times in total.

bloom2708
Posts: 4900
Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2014 2:08 pm
Location: Fargo, ND

Re: Best first time computer / path for children

Post by bloom2708 » Thu Oct 18, 2018 8:10 am

A 9 year old will (hopefully) never have to experience a desktop computer. (Except maybe in a museum :wink: ) No need when laptops/tablets are just as powerful. Kids are mobile. They want to sit on the floor, in a chair, in their room, on the couch, etc.

The entry model Surface Go might be a good place to start if you are going new. Still probably a bit spendy.

Otherwise, an i5 (i7 might be overkill) laptop, 8gb RAM and a 256 SSD will last a long time.

Used is a good option as well. Doesn't have to be perfect for a pre-teen.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/HP-Elite-X2-10 ... :rk:2:pf:0

Buy a copy of Windows 10 on this HP Elite and you have a great little machine.
"We are not here to please, but to provoke thoughtfulness." --Unknown Boglehead

TheOscarGuy
Posts: 592
Joined: Sat Oct 06, 2012 1:10 pm
Location: Where I wanna be.

Re: Best first time computer / path for children

Post by TheOscarGuy » Thu Oct 18, 2018 8:12 am

RobLyons wrote:
Thu Oct 18, 2018 7:23 am
After some research I believe you're right, a tower computer is what we will need.
I thought those days were long gone!
It's been over a decade since we've had anything besides a laptop/ipad !
Thanks for your input! :D
I didn't mean workstation/desktop. When I said G series I was referring to the laptops. I am sorry if I wasn't clear. You are certainly welcome to buy a desktop, and it would be a much better bargain than a laptop. However, I am not sure if your kid would like it -- mine hated the idea when I floated it to him when I was in the market to buy a computer for him.

MrBeaver
Posts: 238
Joined: Tue Nov 14, 2017 4:45 pm

Re: Best first time computer / path for children

Post by MrBeaver » Thu Oct 18, 2018 8:41 am

I'm a big fan of two things in this domain:
  • Following and capitalizing on the interests of the student. Let them follow their interests while setting up / showing / modeling interesting ways within that context they can learn useful skills.
  • Simplify the platform to the simplest necessary for the task. Computing these days is built on many, many, many layers of abstraction. Not everyone has to understand all those layers, but if this is something that morphs into a career, a minimal knowledge of the layers and their functions is crucial to a lot of real-world development and troubleshooting.
Because of the second, I would eventually suggest some sort of embedded device learning, but that requires a computer to program it anyway. I started out with a Commodore Vic20, which is essentially an embedded system (and less powerful than even an Arduino at this point). But given the interest in Minecraft, I wouldn't start with this.

Given the first (interest in Minecraft), you're lucky. There are a lot of resources from in-game design using the logical game blocks (overview: https://minecraft.gamepedia.com/Tutorials/Mechanisms advanced: https://minecraft.gamepedia.com/Tutoria ... e_circuits) to block-based visual algorithmic learning (https://makecode.com/blog/minecraft/10-18-2017) to python scripting for deeper modifications to the game: (https://coderdojotc.readthedocs.io/proj ... en/latest/ and https://www.jjinux.com/2013/05/drawing- ... le-in.html). Finally, Minecraft has been ported to Raspberry Pi, which is essentially a small computer running linux which has some bindings to make it 'pseudo embedded' where it can control voltage on pins to turn on LEDs and interface with other circuits (https://projects.raspberrypi.org/en/pro ... necraft-pi and https://minecraft.net/en-us/edition/pi/). If you get Raspberry Pi hardware, that could easily lead into interest in more embedded systems to learn about more of the 'layers' of abstraction. Finally, there is a company who has wrapped up many of these in a turnkey solution if you want that (https://www.tynker.com/parents/).

As to your original question, the actual computer you get is fairly inconsequential. I'd get something with Windows 10 though, since some of the Minecraft programming tutorials / tools seem to be targeted for that.

Good luck!

LordB
Posts: 103
Joined: Sat Mar 13, 2010 7:03 pm

Re: Best first time computer / path for children

Post by LordB » Thu Oct 18, 2018 8:50 am

Minecraft specifically the one that is useful for learning coding is the older java based version of it and requires a real laptop running windows or OSX.

I lean towards a desktop for kids.

It makes it less easy to break.

It is easier to monitor what the kid is doing as there is no hiding under the sheets with it or anywhere else and if windows start getting closed when you open the door you know something is up (not that a kid that age is good at evading, but depending on parental computer competency seeing the kid quickly closing windows may be the easiest way to realize the kid is up to something)

It also is cheaper and while things are going more towards all in one or similar things knowing how to do a regular desktop may if anything become more valuable should one go into IT or programming because both these professions will continue to need real computers for their work (IT for managing the devices and programming for multiple monitors and working faster).

For any adult absolutely I would get a laptop or ipad depending on use, but for a kid that age a desktop has many advantages.

User avatar
LadyGeek
Site Admin
Posts: 48547
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:34 pm
Location: Philadelphia
Contact:

Re: Best first time computer / path for children

Post by LadyGeek » Sat Oct 20, 2018 8:04 am

This thread is now in the Personal Consumer Issues forum (computer).
Alexa9 wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:32 pm
I would build a computer with him using www.pcpartpicker.com You'll save a ton and it's a fun and fairly easy project.
8GB RAM or 16 if you want future proof
7th gen Intel i5
250 or 500GB SSD
Compatible Motherboard
Case + Power Supply
Graphics card depending on how much gaming he is interested in.
I would dual boot Windows 10 and Linux Mint. Linux uses a lot of commands that are similar to coding. Windows has all the games.

If that doesn't sound fun, I'd get a Dell Tower or Intel NUC.
I have a different idea. How about this? Raspberry Pi — Teach, Learn, and Make with Raspberry Pi

All you need is a keyboard, mouse, and HDMI monitor.
Wiki To some, the glass is half full. To others, the glass is half empty. To an engineer, it's twice the size it needs to be.

downshiftme
Posts: 1049
Joined: Sun Mar 11, 2007 6:11 pm

Re: Best first time computer / path for children

Post by downshiftme » Sat Oct 20, 2018 1:14 pm

I lean towards a desktop for kids.

It makes it less easy to break.

It is easier to monitor what the kid is doing as there is no hiding under the sheets with it or anywhere else and if windows start getting closed when you open the door you know something is up (not that a kid that age is good at evading, but depending on parental computer competency seeing the kid quickly closing windows may be the easiest way to realize the kid is up to something)
There's a lot to be said for having a family desktop in a shared space that other kids and family members can use part-time as well. With any internet connectivity there's a lot of unsavory stuff that you probably don't want your 9 year old to have unfettered access to.

Tabulator
Posts: 265
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2012 4:03 pm

Re: Best first time computer / path for children

Post by Tabulator » Sat Oct 20, 2018 4:44 pm

Because others have suggested systems that are actively cooled, I will propose a different idea. If you decide to build your own, consider doing it with no moving parts for a more pleasant experience. Here is one such example.
With vents on the top (and mesh panels) the Cooler Master Elite 110 will provide enough fresh air for natural convection to occur. Add a highly capable and hyperthreaded Pentium G5500T (35W TDP), Arctic's Alpine 11 Passive CPU cooler, ASUS H310T Thin mini-ITX motherboard (with DC power), a compatible 150W FSP adapter, 8GB of Crucial memory, a trusty 500GB Samsung SSD, and here's your $450 fanless Coffee Lake PC.
I am not endorsing the idea of building your own. But if you do, proceed thoughtfully.

Post Reply