Children are learning to code at younger and younger ages – even as young as the age of 4! If you think learning to code would benefit your child, you’ll need to know where to start, and how to find age-appropriate lessons for them. Whether you want them to grow up with an interest in computer science, or simply want to teach them the basic problem-solving skills needed to identify patterns and puzzle problems that make for a good coder, there are resources out there to help you. By helping your child learn these skills, you’re giving them a huge advantage in the digital world they are going to grow up in.
There are many different types of items your child you could use, including toys, games, interactive tutorials and lessons online, and so much more! We’ve broken down the best ways to learn into the following categories:
- Beginner sites and apps/online lessons
- Advanced online lessons
- Games and toys that teach coding
- What the “Hour of Code” is and how it helps instructors
Once you find the right tool for your child, you’ll know, but ideally, you’re looking for something that suits their personality and learning style. Don’t be afraid to try out a few of the resources we’ve listed below until you find a good match!
Best sites and apps for children to begin coding
Robuzzle is an online puzzle game that teaches the principles of logic and sequencing. In the game, you program the “robot” shaped like an arrow to pass through colored squares and pick up stars along the way, facing a series of challenges such as doing it in the fewest moves possible, or never going back on a square you already passed through.
Recommended Ages: 12+
Lightbot and Lightbot Jr.
Lightbot is an interactive coding game that helps teach basic principles by having you code the movement and actions of your robot, having him move to achieve various goals. There’s also a version with more basic principles, called Lightbot Jr., which means your child can start young with the Jr. version, and work their way up to mastering the original Lightbot game!
Recommended Ages: Lightbot: 12+ | Lightbot Jr. 4+
Cargo-Bot was the first game programmed entirely on iPad, and it’s available for free on the App Store, though unfortunately, only for iOS devices. You complete the game by working through 36 levels, programming a robot to move crates. The concept is simple, yet the takeaways are very useful! Your child can even save their solutions, and post them to YouTube or share them with your friends!
Recommended Ages: 9+
Download it Now: iOS
Recommended Ages: 6-12
Download it Now: Available for pre-order
Will be available for Windows, Mac, and Android!
Flexbox Defense/Flexbox Froggy
In Flexbox Defense, your goal is to make sure the enemies don’t get past your defenses. However, unlike other Tower Defense style games, you have to use CSS to position your towers. Not only is this a strategic defense game, but it helps you work on your CSS coding skills as well. In a similar game, that’s a little simpler, Flexbox Froggy is more introductory, where you use the same principles, but don’t need to defend from enemies. Instead you’re writing lines of code to help your Froggy and his friends.
Recommended Ages: Flexbox Defense: 12+ | Flexbox Froggy: 6+
Sites and apps that help your child with advanced coding languages
Khan Academy – Hour of Code
SpaceChem, another great coding game, allows the user to play the role of Reactor Engineer, tasked with creating circuits that molecules and atoms can flow through, producing complete chemical shipments. The tasks are difficult, and the problems a little more complex, but this game is a great way to get familiar with coding, especially if you’re already starting to learn coding on your own. Unfortunately, Space-Chem is no longer available for iOS devices.
Cost: $10.99 on Steam | $3.14 on Android
Recommended Ages: 12+
In a visually-appealing game where you are a knight in shining armor, your child can fight through dungeons and castles as a hero, all while learning the syntax and principles of coding. This game has incredible graphics, and won’t seem like you’re learning at all! You can choose which kind of languages you want to code with before you begin the adventure, and your character is totally customizable!
Cost: Introduction is free – other courses cost money.
Recommended Ages: 8+
In this game, some coding experience is an asset, because its intention is to help you hone your skills in your coding language of choice, giving you the ability to choose from 25+ languages. Top developers add their own tips, tricks, and algorithms to help you learn how to code better, faster, and more efficiently. There’s even a community to help encourage one another and post solutions to problems, so this is a great place to go if you want to level-up your own real-life skills.
Recommended Ages: 12+
Games and toys you can buy to teach coding
Think and Learn Code-A-Pillar (Fischer Price)
This cute toy is one of the best ways to introduce coding at a very early age. This caterpillar-shaped toy is suited for children from ages 3-6, yet teaches the principles of coding. With 9 easy-to-connect segments to the caterpillar’s body, your child can rearrange the way the caterpillar is assembled, which leads it to move in different ways, including left, right, forward, pausing, dancing, or even moving towards a target you set up in your room. This toy teaches sequencing, and can teach it as young as three years old!
Cubelets Robot Blocks are a great way to get children interested in sequencing, and building robots – and then having fun playing with them. The cubes attach magnetically, and particular sequences of cubes cause your “robot” to perform different behaviours. They can move across a surface, light up, and even move away from your presence – almost like magic; but in reality, this is pure science, and a great way to get your child started at a young age.
Code Monkey Island
Code Monkey Island is a board game designed to teach computer science logic – all while having fun playing a board game. The game revolves around flipping over cards, and completing actions based on the state of the board. For example: “CHECK: If a monkey is on a tree and a rock, move 10 spaces.” It also includes a booklet that teaches basic programming syntax, in case you want to take it that extra step.
This is a neat board game that teaches programming to kids, though they’ll simply feel like they’re playing a game while learning the basic principles of coding. It had humble beginnings on Kickstarter, and since then, has become one of the most backed board games ever to begin on the site. Essentially, using sequences of cards, the players form their own “code” to step on a Robot Jewel on the game board, and win. It also has clever coding language, allowing players to change their mind before the end of their turn, and say “Bug,” while tapping their Bug card.
Coding Awbie (by Osmo)
This game is for iPad or iPhone, and aims to teach logic and problem-solving skills to children, by controlling “Awbie,” a cute character within the game that must move through his world encountering various challenges along the way, as he attempts to collect and eat strawberries. If you want a more hand-on experience, you can purchase the game with Osmo’s own gaming system, which includes physical blocks your child can organize and press to instruct the character where to go on the screen.
Download the app: iOS
This is a programmable robot, that is slightly more advanced than simple robotic children’s toys. It is scratch and water-resistant, and can run straight for up to 60 minutes on one charge. It has programmable sensors and LED lights, so you can choose how it moves and what it does. Using an app on your phone, you can program your robot to perform hundreds of different actions, and put some real (basic) coding into practice.
LEGO Mindstorms EV3
Similar to other build-a-robot type of toys, this toy works similarly, but has an added bonus – it’s LEGO! If your child enjoys playing with LEGO, it may be time to make the upgrade to the Mindstorms EV3 robot-building pack, where your child can build their own unique robot, and have it perform various actions depending on the way that they build it. These robots can walk, talk, shoot small items, grab things, and so much more – the limit is your child’s imagination.
Project Bloks (Google)
This project is still in the research stage of development, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t cutting-edge, and it doesn’t mean you can’t get involved. In partnership with Google, Project Bloks is aiming to develop a system for tangible programming that can teach children that principles of coding. It contains an arrangement of blocks, shapes, colors, base boards, and the “Brain Board” that holds it all together. These blocks could be connected in a variety of different ways to suit different learning styles, and in the future, will likely bring something interesting to the coding tool game.
If you’re interested, you may even be able to be a part of the testing for the project!
What is the “Hour of Code” movement?
The “Hour of Code” is a movement organized to help get children interested in coding, and believes in the principle that with just a one-hour lesson about coding and programming, children will gain interested in the subject of computer science, and want to take part in future coding lessons.
The Hour of Code can be in a variety of environments, with various methods of teaching. Some instructors choose to do an in-class lesson with their students; others play with toys and games designed to teach coding; while some people choose to make use of online lessons geared towards teaching a solid coding skill within one hour – so the child will want to keep learning more in the future.
To learn more, check out this YouTube video, which explains some ways you can get kids interested in coding with just a one hour lesson.