It’s pretty safe to say that technology is here to stay. As entire companies go digital, as younger and younger kids are given mobile phones and tablets, and as social media continues to influence society, it is becoming more and more beneficial to understand the basics of computer technology. Even kids are jumping in! In fact, many parents and educators assert that providing children with the foundations of coding and programming not only better prepares them for success in STEM subjects, but also assists in developing problem solving skills and better understanding the world around them.
Although more and more schools around the country are implementing programming activities in the classroom, most children learning to code begin at home. This is possible thanks to the increasing number of books, websites, toys, and digital apps that are released each year to encourage kids to start coding. Because it can be tough to sift through all that’s available, we’ve listed below the 20 best resources for teaching kids how to code.
Apps and Programs
In order to battle their friends in this fun mutiplayer app game, kids must master the basics of coding. The scaffolded skill sets walk kids through the basic elements of coding and programming with engaging activities and clearly set goals.
Appropriate for children in grades kindergarten through 5th, Cork the Volcano is part app, part hands-on activity. Working under the mantra “Plan, Program, Play,” kids will learn different coding basics as they advance from one skill set to the next. Ultimately, they will use their own plans and program to help Rus the Dinosaur stop an erupting volcano.
Children as young as four years old can learn the basics of coding with the help of Daisy the Dinosaur. This free iPad app consists of a fun, easy-to-understand game, plus a separate download that allows kids to code and create their very own video game.
Hopscotch is a free app for iPad that children ages 9-11 can use to learn to program games. Both fun and educational, Hopscotch consists of video tutorials that walk kids through programming their own games. Once completed, kids can even play each other’s games!
Even kids can learn the helpful coding language Rub thanks to Kids Ruby. This downloadable program not only teaches coding basics, but offers kids the chance to run their code and see what it outputs, making learning how to program both fun and easy.
Don’t let Robot Turtles’s low-tech format fool you: this board game is a fun and effective way for children to learn to program. The game is appropriate for ages four and older, and the goal is simply to get one’s turtle to its matching jewel on the game board.
Every Lego product is designed to fuel a child’s creative mind, including Lego Mindstorms. Each Mindstorms kit comes with software and hardware that children can use to build and customize their own robot. Once built, kids can use the Commander App to program their robot to walk, talk, and even grab things.
Part hands-on toy, part app, Sphero is a great way for kids to learn basic programming skills. The more they program, the more Sphero’s robotic capabilities expand. The original Sphero is a futuristic looking white orb, though there are also Sphero options in the form of Star Wars’s BB-8 and R2D2.
Bitsbox is a monthly subscription package meant to introduce computer science to children ages 6-12. Each box comes with a variety of fun projects that collectively teach kids how to build apps. The activities range in skill level from beginner to advanced, though kids at all levels will be able to build, play, and share their created app.
The Kano Computer Kit is an entire computer that kids can build themselves. Once assembled, kids can use their computer to learn to code through a variety of fun activities, including Snake and Minecraft. Especially appealing is Kano’s price, about half that of similar computer kits.
A junior engineer isn’t likely to quickly tire of the Littlebits Gizmos & Gadgets Kit. The kit comes with a seemingly endless number of possible projects, plus the opportunity to later add, reuse, and change any existing element. Learning to code with a Littlebits Gizmo & Gadget Kit is as simple as connecting to a smartphone and using drag-and-drop equations.
Ideal for kids ages 9 and under, the Osmo Starter Kit and Coding Game is one of the most popular coding resources used in classrooms. Children can use either physical blocks or the iPad-supported add-on game, both of which are used with a game that teaches the basics of coding in a fun and logical way.
The Piper Computer Kit is a Raspberry Pi computer that kids build themselves. Piper requires a bit more assembly than some other kits on the market, making it a great challenge for older kids or those who have a little experience. Once assembled, the computer includes an LCD display that is much nicer than any competitor’s, plus a variety of Minecraft-themed challenges for the child to complete.
Hello Ruby is an innovative, fun, and educational way for kids to learn about coding and computer science. Each book in the series features Ruby and her friends, including Snow Leopard, Python, and Penguin. Ruby solves various problems using the basics of coding. By the end of each book, young readers will be able to comfortably communicate with common computer science terms, and will have already completed a variety of coding activities.
Written for children around age 12, Hello World is an easy-to-understand guide for learning how to program a computer. The purpose of the book is to teach kids how to write their own programs. Children can read the book cover to cover, or jump to individual sections on vocabulary, input and output, graphics, and much more.
Khan Academy’s user-friendly website is chock-full of fun and helpful lessons, including a number on the topic of coding. Children (and adults) can choose from a variety of coding sub-topics, including how to make drawings with code, cryptography, and creating webpages. Everything on Khan Academy is self-paced, with lots of opportunity to practice, quiz, or see the results of one’s work.
Tech giant Google created Made With Code to encourage more girls to pursue an interest in science and technology. Their project-based tutorials are easy to follow and informative, and the projects are separated according to skill level.
Code.org is a non-profit organization founded in an attempt to bring science and technology to more schools, and with the specific goal of providing easier access to girls and students of color. The website is chock-full of tutorials, how to’s, tools, and resources that make it fun and easy for anyone to learn how to code.
MIT Media Lab created Scratch, so perhaps it’s no surprise that this website is one of the most popular resources for teaching kids to code. No previous experience or knowledge is required to dive into the game-like tutorials, each of which uses animation and a coherent storyline to help immerse children into the world of coding.
Tynker is a fun website boasting a slew of games through which children can learn basic programming skills. The site’s activities are appropriate for a range of ages. We suggest beginning with the Hour of Code to learn all that one can accomplish by spending time on Tynker, then head to the “Parents” section for lots of creative ideas about for using it together as a family.