It’s pretty safe to say that technology is here to stay. Entire companies are going digital. Younger and younger kids are given mobile phones and tablets, and 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 better prepares them for success in STEM subjects. It also assists in developing problem solving skills.
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 30 best resources for teaching kids how to code.
Apps and Programs
According to The App Store, codeSpark Academy is the #1 learn to code program for children ages 4-10. Uniquely, the app uses a “no words” interface to teach kids the basics of coding through puzzles, games, and critical thinking tasks. There are even offline printables.
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.
Kids ages 13 and up who already have some foundation in coding are sure to love Hackety Hack. The free app includes seven conversational lessons that will teach kids to code a blog in six lines, or their own IM in about twice that.
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.
As mentioned previously, learning to code is akin to thinking outside the box. One app that provides children with great practice in thinking outside of the box is Move the Turtle. This iPad app is completely free, and is most suitable for children ages 9-11.
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 additional orbs and accessories also available.
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.
RaspberryPi is a great resource for anyone who prefers something tangible as they’re learning to code. The RaspberryPi is a small computer the size of a credit card. Kids need simply plug in a mouse and a keyboard, then hook the RaspberryPi up to a TV monitor. The mini computer offers a full desktop experience, and encourages kids to learn to code in a fun, rewarding way.
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.
Code Avengers offers a huge selection of coding lessons ranging from Python and web development to building apps and games. A seven-day free trial allows kids to get a feel for all available courses, though progressing with Code Avengers does require a membership ranging in price from $20-$29 per month.
Codecademy is a user-friendly, interactive website designed to teach kids coding with fun and simple exercises. Children love the fact that time spent with Codecademy feels like playing a computer game. Though the basic class is free, going beyond the basics requires a $19.99/month subscription.
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.
Code Monster is a great coding resource for the visual learner. The simple website features two boxes. While the box on the left displays code, the box on the right illustrates exactly what that code does. A delightful monster walks learners through the steps, but also leaves plenty of opportunity for a child to exercise creativity.
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.
Stencyl has the look and feel of a classic video game. This engaging software allows children to learn to code, and to create games for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Flash. The app is designed for kids ages 12+, and because it requires paid plans, it’s best for the child who is truly serious about learning to code.
Swift Playgrounds’s tagline is “Learn serious coding on your iPad. In a seriously fun way.” Indeed, kids are sure to have a blast solving interactive puzzles throughout the guided lessons. They’ll master the basics of coding, while also being given the opportunity to experiment with a wide range of newly developed skills.
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.