Coding for kids is more important than ever. Technology has become a part of our everyday lives. As a result, coding has become a crucial second language for children and adults alike.
However, parents may find it difficult to teach programming to children if they don’t have any experience themselves. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help parents bridge that gap and provide a great learning experience for their kids.
There are many online coding programs for kids that provide the structure needed for kids to learn while being flexible enough to meet the demands of the modern family. Not only are there ample options for kids’ programming classes, but there are also tons of other free games, websites, apps, and other resources that help kids learn programming skills.
Read on to learn more about how to teach your kids how to code and free resources that can help you along the way.
Table of Contents
- What is Coding for Kids?
- Why Should Kids Learn Programming?
- What Age Should Kids Start Learning to Code?
- What’s the Best Coding Language for Kids?
- How to Teach Your Child How to Code
- How to Choose the Right Coding Classes for Kids
- Free Resources That Help Kids Learn to Code
- CodeWizardsHQ: The Ultimate Coding Classes for Kids
What is Coding for Kids?
Simply put, coding is how we talk to computers and get them to do what we want. There are different coding languages, and they all have different rules and uses, but they all ultimately give computers instructions for how to do specific tasks.
Technology is all around us and is part of everyday life at this point. Coding allows you to go past just knowing how to use technology and lets you actually make technology do what you want it to do. For kids, it’s the difference between knowing how to navigate a website or play a game and building a website or game on their own.
Why Should Kids Learn Programming?
Learning to program is like learning a new language. Young kids can learn languages faster and easier than adults because their developing brains are made for learning, so childhood is a great time to start learning programming concepts. Learning to program helps kids develop skills that will not only benefit them in school but also help them stand out from the crowd in the job market.
Speaking of programming jobs, did you know that half of the highest-paying jobs in America require some coding knowledge? Not only this, but the demand for programming skills continues to grow. According to the latest STEM statistics, In 10 years it’s estimated that there will be 1.4 million programming jobs available, but there are currently only 400,000 candidates with the right qualifications to fill those positions. This means that there’s a huge supply gap for people with programming skills. Despite this, only 1 in 10 schools currently teaches any programming, meaning it’s up to parents to make sure their children have access to the learning resources they need to develop these skills.
Not convinced yet? See our full list of 26 Reasons Why Kids Should Learn to Code.
What Age Should Kids Start Learning to Code?
Kids can start learning the basics of coding as early as first grade. With students this young, the best strategy is to start with directional coding activities that use arrows or symbols to illustrate the very basics of coding.
In third grade, kids can start learning more specifics of coding with simple algorithms and loops. Elementary school-aged kids are more open to new concepts and beginning the discussion around coding at an early age makes it more natural for them to learn more advanced concepts as they get older.
What’s the Best Coding Language for Kids?
Block programming languages like Scratch and Blockly are great introductions to coding for kids in grades 3-5. The block interface makes it easy for kids to learn the basics of coding without getting frustrated over typing skills. Block programming also simplifies the process of making animations, games, and other interactive features so kids can easily create a fully functioning game or interactive page.
Python is the next best step after Scratch, this text-based language is a great way to introduce the concepts of lists, tuples, and maps in a way that is easy for kids to understand. Python code is similar to English, which makes it less complicated for kids to learn as well. Python is also a great jumping off point for other coding languages. Python itself has been around for a long time and is still used by professional developers today, both Instagram and Facebook were built with Python.
Discover other great beginner languages for your child in our 10 Best Kids Coding Languages.
How to Teach Your Child How to Code
There’s a lot you can do as a parent to introduce your child to coding and get them started learning the basics even if you don’t have professional experience as a programmer. Below are some simple tips. You can go even further depending on your particular skill level with coding.
Tip 1 – Introduce Coding Concepts to Kids
Introduce your child to the concept of coding. Some kids might already be familiar with coding and know a little about what it means. Others might have no idea what coding involves or they might think it’s something that’s too complicated for them to understand. Talking to kids about how coding is just a set of instructions for a computer can help make it something that’s understandable to them. Make sure to emphasize that kids just like them are learning to code, too.
Tip 2 – Explain How Coding Connects to the Real World
Connect coding to things that interest your kids. Some kids will jump at the opportunity to learn how to make a computer do what they want it to do, but some kids will need help connecting coding to their daily lives.
Does your child love watching videos on YouTube? Talk to them about how coding can teach them how to make their own website to share their favorite videos. For kids who love playing video games, coding is a natural way for them to progress to making their own games. Budding entrepreneurs can use coding skills to build an app or website for their business ideas.
The possibilities are endless for what kids can do with their coding skills once they learn the fundamentals.
Tip 3 – Learn Coding Basics with Block Based Programming
Use block-based coding languages to introduce the basics. As mentioned earlier, block-based coding languages are easy for beginners and a great place to start for kids. Scratch is the most commonly used block-based coding language and is free to use.
Thousands of games exist on Scratch already, so you can show kids the possibilities of what they can create before diving into building a game themselves. Remixing a current game is also a great option, so kids can see exactly how a game was built and then turn it into something new.
Tip 4 – Study Common Coding Terms for Kids
Introduce some common coding terms. Knowing some key terms and what they mean is a great way to set your kids up for success as they continue their coding journey. There are dozens of different terms used in programming, but here are some good ones to start with.
Variable: For kids, compare this to a container or a box. In coding, a variable stores a particular set of information. Once you give the variable a name, you can use that name to reference that information or change it.
Loop: This is a type of shortcut in coding that lets you repeat a block of code multiple times without having to write it all out every time. It’s up to you to decide what the condition is that makes the loop end.
Conditional statement: This is what helps computers make a decision. Using if, else if, and else statements, you tell the computer what to do under different circumstances. For example, you could tell the computer to display one sentence if the user responds “yes” to a question and to display a different sentence if the user responds “no.”
Function: This is another type of shortcut in coding, which lets you perform a series of actions instead of writing out the code for all of the actions individually.
Bug: Something every coder has to deal with! Bugs are errors within your code that need to be fixed before the code can run correctly.
Introduce more coding terms with our 200+ Common Programming Terms for Kids.
Depending on your skill level, now might be the time to consider bringing in some expert help to progress your child’s coding journey.
How to Choose the Right Coding Classes for Kids
With the myriad of options available to parents these days, it can be difficult to determine which coding program is right for your kid. This decision can be even more daunting for parents that don’t have a background in programming. Fortunately, there are several key indicators that you can use to judge the quality of a coding program and help choose the best option for your child.
Use these indicators to determine what program provides the most value for you and your child. For more insights and tips from industry experts, see our full resource guide Choose the Right Coding Class for Your Kid.
Free Resources That Help Kids Learn to Code
CodeKarts (4+; iOS/Android)
A pre-coding game for preschoolers, players learn to develop observational skills, concentration, and logic by guiding a car through various tracks.
CodeSpark Academy (5-9; iOS/Android/ Kindle Fire/Windows)
With over 1,000 fun activities and a simple-to-use interface, CodeSpark Academy is the perfect app to introduce kids ages 5-9 to programming.
Scratch Jr. (5-7; iOS/Android/Kindle Fire/ChromeBook)
With ScratchJr., children ages 5-7 can program interactive stories and games to solve problems, design projects, and express themselves creatively on the computer.
Move the Turtle (6-12; iOS)
Using visually engaging graphics, kids can implement various programming concepts to direct a virtual turtle and complete unique tasks.
Swift Playgrounds (8-12; iOS)
Swift is a programming language for developing Apple iOS programs and apps. Especially useful for beginner programmers (even those with no Swift experience) Swift Playgrounds lets kids work at their own paces with visually appealing and educational challenges.
Hopscotch (4-11; iOS)
Create games, art, stories, and more with kid-friendly programming. Kids can program and publish unique creations to Hopscotch’s fully moderated community, where others can play and learn from their creations.
Mimo (15+; iOS)
Mimo puts the power to learn in your child’s hands! With over 23 different courses to choose from and comprehensive lessons, Mimo enables kids of any age to begin programming and advance their skills.
Codea (13+; iOS)
A fully customizable code editor, Codea allows users to introduce all the colors and visual aids they may desire to assist in their programming efforts. It’s a free programming for kids app that lets your child turn thoughts into interactive creations.
Coding Safari (2+; iOS)
With a focus on pre-coding skills like problem-solving, decomposition, and computational thinking, Coding Safari is engaging and educational for children as young as two years old!
Algorithm City (8+; Android)
Algorithm City is a 3D style game where kids can learn the basic concepts of programming, such as command sequencing, functions and loops, and more. Make a character progress by collecting gold and solving levels.
LEGO Boost (7-12+; iOS/Android)
Lego Boost is an app that allows kids to build different Lego models and program them with code. Children can program their models to make sounds and move using drag and drop code.
Daisy the Dinosaur (5-7; iOS)
This app teaches basic programming concepts like sequencing and conditionals in the form of fun little challenges. Make Daisy the dinosaur move, jump, and dance with drag and drop commands as kids experiment and learn.
Run Marco (6-12; iOS)
This game uses simple commands like “move one step forward” and “repeat” to help students learn how to sequence a set of actions. Children will learn to modify their code to complete the task at hand, as well as design their own levels.
SoloLearn: Learn to Code (ages vary; iOS/Android)
Grasshopper (ages vary; iOS/Android)
Rox’s Secret Code (5-8; iOS)
Kids can explore the basic principles of coding with this app by helping Rox, a code whiz, debug a “Chorebot” that was programmed to help clean her room, but begins acting out on its own.
DCoder (ages vary; iOS/Android)
DCoder is a mobile code compiler. This app is meant for more experienced individuals who are looking for fast and easy ways to compile and run their programs on the go!
Ever heard of robot fighting? Well here is a cool alternative! RoboCode lets kids build a robot in Java or .NET in order to compete against other robots.
This is a resource for students who want to learn a programming language by themselves, but still want the support of an experienced community of people! StackOverflow is a question and answer site meant to answer a diverse range of computer science questions.
Coursera (ages vary)
Offering more than 1,000 courses from 119 institutions, there are a number of free introductory programming courses in various specializations from universities. This lends itself as a very versatile and valuable tool in learning code.
Free Code Camp (ages vary)
edX (ages vary)
Another leading online-learning platform that is open source, edX was founded by Harvard University and MIT, so you can trust you’ll learn cutting-edge skills and theories from the 50+ schools included in their material.
Udemy (ages vary)
Udemy is an online learning platform used to improve or learn new skills. With plenty of free programming courses taught via video lessons, such as Python Frameworks, APIs, HTML, CSS, + Payments, this site is a convenient option for advancing your abilities.
AGupieWare (ages vary)
An independent app developer that created a curriculum based on the free courses offered by Stanford, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Berkeley and Columbia, this program is broken into 15 courses ranging in complexity and focus. Perfect for anyone looking to expand their qualifications.
GitHub (ages vary)
While this may not be the first site you think of when wanting to learn how to code, it is definitely worth mentioning! GitHub allows students to collaborate on cool projects and look at the projects of other individuals for reference.
MIT Open Courseware (ages vary)
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has publicly available courses for a multitude of subjects, including programming. You get the chance to sit in programming classes from a very prestigious university!
Hack.pledge() (ages vary)
Hack Pledge connects mentors and mentees with each other so that young programmers can learn and grow from experienced individuals.
As one of the most popular eLearning platforms out there, BitDegree offers a multitude of fun computer science courses!
Create & Learn (ages 7-10)
Create & Learn lets kids explore multiple interests like Scratch, robotics, and digital design. They offer a free Scratch class for getting started and host online events with top experts.
Unplugged Activities (ages vary)
If you prefer more hands-on activities, go ahead and try some unplugged activities. This a compilation of different computerless games and paper activities. Plenty of free programming for kids resources here.
Free activities and tutorials, right here at CodeWizardsHQ. Try our Scratch, HTML, and CSS #NowYouCode activities that are perfect for beginners. It’s also a fun way to practice your coding skills and personalize your own games and projects. If you have questions, we’re ready to help in our STEM, Coding, and Robotics Facebook group.
GoalKicker (ages vary)
Do you like learning through reading? Then check out GoalKicker! GoalKicker collects a ton of free programming books so that anyone can read about different programming languages and ideologies.
As a volunteer-led community of free programming workshops for kids, CoderDojo teaches programming to young, interested, individuals in multiple locations around the United States.
IDE (ages vary)
An integrated development environment is a must-have for people learning how to code. Whether the IDE be BlueJ, Eclipse, or Microsoft Visual Studio, kids will have an easy way to debug, compile, and run their code.
Hackathons (ages vary)
There are plenty of hackathons all over the world that are not only free, but give you the chance to learn programming skills from experienced mentors, support you through your journey of bringing your cool coding idea into fruition, give you swag, and give you free food!
CodeWizardsHQ: The Ultimate Coding Class for Kids
If you want more support and a structured curriculum while learning to code, see the online coding classes for kids that we offer here at CodeWizardsHQ. We’ve adopted a blended method to teach kids and teens programming principles and practices using a combination of small, online teacher-led classes delivered and build-as-you-learn projects.
Kids can start in elementary school with block-based programming and advance to front and back end coding languages in high school. Every student has direct access to a teacher who is an experienced programmer. The instruction and projects are all web-based, so students can attend CodeWizardsHQ from any place where there is a reliable internet connection.