If software is going to rule our future, what can be better for our kids than getting them prepared for that future early on? Teaching your kids to code, you improve their odds of landing a lucrative job and being competitive in the world of informational technologies. Whether your child is going to pursue an SC major or they will just follow their passion in any other niche, coding skills will help them stand out and program machines instead of being replaced by them. But how do little ones cope with such complex knowledge as programming? The secret is in not presenting it as complex and using the help of a wide range of fun resources, apps, classes, and camps created with kids in mind to help them get a foot in the door. If you are an educator, we suggest that you try a free website builder for teachers to create an engaging online educational environment for your students.
Online coding platforms
Writing lines of code is probably not the best way for a kid to get introduced into programming. For this reason, experts suggest starting with a visual programming language that helps code using drag and drop blocks that either fit or don’t fit each other.
- Code.org is a great platform where a child can attend hundreds of free courses and create their own games and animations while their parents can search for local coding activities for their kids.
- Tynker is a place where kids can create their own apps, build games, program drones and robots, and even mod Minecraft for a modest monthly fee ($10). Free coding missions are available as well.
- Scratch developed by MIT is a free coding tool for kids that enables them to create comics, animations, and interactive stories and teaches creative thinking, solving problems, and correct coding syntax through a fun block-based programming language.
Kids aged 13 and older can gradually transit from drag and drop programming to a real-world text one. It is better to start with simple coding languages like Python or Lua. The best places where your child can make this transition are LearnToMod and CodaKid.
Programming games is where many young coders started off. What can be more uplifting for a child than completing their own game inspired by legendary Minecraft, Angry Birds and the like? Al Sweigart, a popular author of many programming books recommends starting with creating a small simple game that will be easier to complete and enjoy the results. Also, he is prejudiced against using “dedicated” game making software that kills creativity and oversimplifies the programming process making it disconnected from reality. A free book by Sweigart helps older kids create their first real stuff in Python.
Mobile apps are a simple way to teach kids programming basics and make their inevitable screen time more useful. Here’s a list of apps that help kids aged 4 and older get their first experience in coding:
- Daisy the Dinosaur (iOS) teaches basic concepts of programming and offers a downloadable material that assists a child in creating their own game.
- Code Karts (iOS, Android) helps the youngest coders (4+) to program a race car using directional bricks.
- CodeSpark Academy (iOS, Android) teaches coding through games and puzzles that use the drug and drop bricks. The app offers personalized coding plans under subscription.
- Lightbot (iOS, Android, browser) is a puzzle game that introduces kids to programming logic (sequences, procedures, loops, etc.) while teaching them to program a robot.
- Kids Ruby and its older bro Hackety Hack introduce the little ones to the real Ruby code.
Coding camps, classes, and courses
Kids aged 7 and older can attend various types of offline training that help them find their favorite coding activity and probably their future profession. iDTech offers a wide range of summer camps and classes for kids (Scratch summer camp, Lua coding course, Roblox coding class, etc.). The organization works on improving the gender situation in STEM jobs (they are still mostly male) by giving girls aged 10-15 a head start in coding with their “all girls” Alexa Café. Happy Code Club offers lots of classes and welcomes to its summer coding camp. Please, search for more camps and classes in your specific location!