Coding for Kids — How to Get Started

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In today’s digital age, knowing how to code can be likened to being able to read. When we teach our children to read and write, add and subtract, we’re teaching them ways to interact with the world around us.

Considering our world is becoming more and more digital, filled with smart devices that allow us to turn on our lights 15 minutes before we arrive home or lock our front doors as we leave, learning to code will help kids better understand –and control– their world.

The reality is, anyone can learn to code. Coding is nothing more than telling your computer what to do in a language the computer understands. And the sooner we accept this, the sooner we can equip our children with the right tools.

As parents and teachers, we should strive to give our kids the best possible education and tools so they can thrive in an entrepreneurial and innovation-led society.

Coding Education Starts Now

Even though it’s never too late to learn how to code, the resources below are specifically aimed at kids and focus primarily on introducing programming languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript in a fun and interactive way. Some of them use other languages as well, such as Python and Ruby. Once the foundation for learning is set, there’s no limit to what kids can accomplish.

Online Coding Resources and Websites for Kids

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code.org

Code.org: a non-profit foundation website is a great starting point for coding novices. It offers plenty of useful online resources, apps, and even local schools that teach coding.

It allows children to learn code with fun programming exercises involving Frozen and Minecraft. It even features video lectures from coding superstars like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.

CodeCademy: teaches kids basic code through fun and simple exercises. It’s focused on older kids and covers a variety of programming languages such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python, Ruby, and more.

Code Avengers: this website offers a 7-day free trial of their courses in building web pages, apps, and games covering languages such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python, and more. According to their website, classes are designed for ages 12+ but are successfully used by many 8 to 11-year-olds. Paid plans are available as monthly subscriptions for $29, and 6-month subscriptions for $120.

codecombat screenshot

codecombat.com

CodeCombat: is a platform for students to learn computer science while playing through a real game. Students can see the progression of their character through levels as they write code.

Courses are available in JavaScript and Python. Web Development courses utilize HTML, CSS, jQuery, and Bootstrap.

Code Monster: is a system that uses JavaScript and features two adjacent boxes. One displays code, the other shows what the code does. The Code Monster offers helpful prompts and a short description of what each command does.

Khan Academy: is an online school is known for a variety of classes, but they also have basic programming tutorials that teach kids how to build graphics, animations, interactive visualizations, and more. Their courses focus primarily on JavaScript.

Tynker: is another website that lets kids learn to program by modding games such as Minecraft, controlling drones and robots, creating their own apps, and more. They offer a limited number of courses for free with paid plans starting at $6/month for one child.

stency

stencyl.com

Made with Code: is Google’s project to encourage girls to pursue careers in computer science. Each coding challenge has a different purpose and topics range from the most basic ones suitable for complete beginners to advanced topics for those who already have some coding experience.

Stencyl: a software system that’s available for Windows, Linux, and Mac that makes learning code fun by using a drag and drop interface to create code blocks.

Scracth: is one of the most popular coding tools for kids, designed to help students get started with programming. Students can create animations and stories by using “building blocks” that behave like computer code does.

Coding Apps for Kids

The following apps are all available for on iPad or on Android and are perfect for teaching your kids programming on the go. Most are free or have free versions.

Daisy the Dinosaur: was designed to help preschoolers start to explore programming concepts using simple drag and drop commands for Daisy. Compatible with iPad.

Hopscotch App for iOS

Hopscotch: covers the same concepts of getting characters to move and obey commands, they also allow for more creativity. Older kids can add multiple characters, program actions, and develop stories around their code. Compatible with iPad & iPhone. Requires iOS 9.0.

Kodable: is a free app based on the Kodable curriculum to teach kids in grades K-5 basic programming concepts. Compatible with iPad.

ScratchJr.: was inspired by the popular Scratch programming language developed by MIT Media Lab. The ScratchJr interface and programming language were redesigned to make them appropriate for younger children.

They learn to solve problems, design projects, as well as use math and language in a way that supports the development of early-childhood numeracy and literacy.

Pocket Code: is an Android app lets your kids create their own games, apps, and music videos.

Run Marco!: is another Android app that lets the kids play an adventure game and use visual instructions to guide Marco through a series of levels.

Coding Resources For Teachers:

Ready to add coding to your lesson plan? These resources can help you do just that.

Free Teacher Workshops – Code.org offers elementary teachers free professional development workshops across the United States.

Teaching Computer Programming – Free by Khan Academy, this amazing resource serves as a complete resource to learn how to teach programming, including lesson plans and teaching materials.

Coding Resources For Parents:

Are you looking for ways to get your kids into coding? Here are a few resources you should check out.

7 Coding Toys for Little Kids – This list on Parents.com will help you foster an interest in coding in your toddler.

Programming Languages to Teach Kids How to Code – Learning how to code could lead to a lucrative career for your child. Check out this list of kid-friendly programming languages to get them started learning real computer languages.

5 Reasons Children Should Learn How to Code

In case you need more convincing, here are a few benefits your kids can enjoy by learning how to code.

1. Coding Develops Problem-Solving Skills

Learning to code helps kids develop critical thinking skills as well as the ability to solve problems. When children are working on solving a programming problem, trying to get the computer to do something, they are learning to look past the bigger picture and breakdown the problem into smaller, manageable tasks. They are able to make logical connections. Those skills aren’t needed just to make your computer do something, they are useful in everyday life as well.

And once kids gain those skills, they can analyze any situation and find an appropriate solution. It’s a skill that’s welcome no matter which career they choose and it builds their confidence as they become aware that they are capable of finding solutions and achieving their goals.

2. Coding Encourages Creativity

In programming, as in life, there is more than one way to solve a problem. Once your child learns the basic concepts, they will realize they are limited only by their imaginations. They can find their own solutions and they can examine someone else’s code and add their own tweaks to it to make it better. In fact, many programs we use today were created as improvements and variations upon older versions.

Because of this, coding can be a highly engaging and fun activity. Many platforms designed for teaching code to kids start them off by playing games where very basic commands are introduced. Additional challenges are then added by making more complex commands and combining them to expand functionality. When kids are done, they will have a completed version of their own game or app.

3. Younger Kids Pick Up New Skills Faster 

Kids have an easier time learning skills because their minds are like sponges. They absorb new information almost effortlessly. Learning to code is like learning another language, and it has been proven that babies and toddlers have an easier time mastering another language. There’s no better time than the present to introduce coding.

4. Coding is Widely Used

Computer science is present in our everyday lives. We rely on software development more than ever, and it doesn’t show signs of stopping. Smartwatches, TVs, heart implants, cars: they are all becoming a part of the Internet of Things which only proves how big a part computer science plays in our lives. When we teach our children to code, they will be able to understand the world around them and gain skills that are highly sought on the job market.

5. Coding Is Fun

Putting aside the practical applications of coding, consider the fact that creating a game, a simple app, or an animation of their own, can be tremendously fun for kids. Especially if you do away with the traditional classroom setting and introduce coding in the form of a game.

Know other great resources we should include here? Please let us know.

Top image cropped from Programming a Robot by Tim McCune. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.