13 fun & simple ways to teach kids coding

“For children, early exposure to coding will open doors they may not have known existed”-Teacher, August Deshais.

I'm sure you appreciate how important technology is to our lives.  It's remarkable how much impact technology has had on our world in just the last five years.   Do you remember how hard it was to find a taxi-cab?  Or stay connected with long-distance friends & family?  Or find a great fast food joint in the middle of a road trip.   Nowadays you can simply ask your kitchen speaker, and she'll tell you the answer to any possible question you have.

(On a side note, imagine what it must have been liked to work on the product teams that created these technologies.  Pretty amazing I bet).

And I'm sure you realize that this impact on our lives is going to significantly accelerate as augmented reality, artificial intelligence, virtual assistants, speech recognition and more continue to develop.

In this brave, new world, learning how to code isn’t just for information technology professionals or software engineers.  It could be your children’s ticket to better personal and professional opportunities regardless of what career they choose.  When it comes to preparing your child for this swiftly digitizing world, helping your K12 child learn to code isn't a nice to have, its a must do!

I wrote a whole article on why coding is a fundamental skill, no different than chemistry or learning a language, which I recommend you read:  What does Apple believe should be required in every school?

But simply put, learning how to build websites and simple games helps kids enhance and polish their logic, academic, creativity and, problem-solving skills.

 Also, as former US President Barak Obama said, "computers are going to be a big part of our future..and that future is yours to shape".

As a parent, I know what question you are asking.  What is the most fun and simple way to teach your K12 to code?  One answer is online.

Learning how to code via the internet is liberating since your children can catch up with lectures anytime they want and as many times as they wish.

Keeping in mind, there are hundreds of websites that teach children how to code.  Down below we’ve listed the 13 best-rated websites that teach children programming. The list includes both free and paid resources to give you some options depending on how much you want to invest and how interested your child is in learning programming. These 13 websites are sorted by simple & free to advanced and requiring some level of cost.

1 BLOCKLY

Blockly is a website that introduces kids to programming principles and JavaScript. The site uses a block-based programming approach in which a few puzzle pieces appear on the screen. Each puzzle piece represents a code. The students are required to create a sequence of code to complete the story that ends up making a software program.

PROS:  This very simple site helps kids visualize the abstract concepts behind coding. The program is free to use and doesn’t require any registrations or sign-up. It’s a good way for children aged 5-10 to get their first steps.

CONS: Since there isn't any login, there isn’t any progress record, and once you close the browser, all your progress is gone. Secondly, the graphics of the website sometimes gets distorted.  Lastly, it's pretty basic.

2. CODE.ORG

I'm a big fan of code.org, having watched my daughter Khadija flourish after more than a year on their platform.  Code.org is a non-profit website and is one of the most effective platforms for coding novices.  Launched back in 2013, the website shares tons of useful online resources, apps and local schools that teach coding. It has been estimated that around 25% of US students have accounts on Code.org and they are particularly focused on increasing gender diversity with over 11 million female students.

I'd highly recommend you check out my longer review of code.org: ​Coding for kids: Why code.org maybe the perfect way to teach your child to code

PROS:  Code.org is an excellent platform for kids to learn; their focused and much engaging curriculum allows students to work at their own pace and stay challenged. In school, the platform encourages students to communicate with each other when they encounter an obstacle; The students are pushed to develop strategies to counter those barriers. Though coding is an individual learning experience, it's even more fun when coders are free to share and collaborate.

CONS: One of the biggest downsides to code.org is the lack of dashboards or progress reports for parents to track the progress of their child. From what I can tell, outside of logging into my kid's account, there is no way for me to see her improvement. Odd.

code.org

3. CODE MONSTER

Code Monster is a free & simple website that focuses on persuading students to work on their coding skills by actually typing code.  Code Monster from Crunchzilla is an interactive tutorial for kids that focuses on action. As you make adjustments to the code syntax, it immediately yields visible results.

Projects start with simple boxes and colors and then progress into experiments with simple animation and fractals. Important programming concepts like variables, loops, conditionals, expressions, and functions are introduced by example.

Code Monster is a first step in learning to program. It is not intended to teach all of computer science and programming.  The websites provide lessons for kids, adults, and developers.

PROS:  Code Monster is a free platform and doesn’t require a login.  It is still capable of storing data and will remember your child's progress the next time you visit the site.

CONS: One of the significant disadvantages of using this site is that kids can’t save or share their work.  Also, there is very limited content available on this website.

After using the site for a while, your kid will probably get bored.  Lastly, there is little help for those who may have trouble understanding the concepts.  Skip!

4. SCRATCH

The website is designed by MIT students and is best suited for children ages 7-16.  Scratch is one of the best platforms for learning to code for many good reasons. The program is simple to use (Tynker uses the same drag & drop code block concept), and its language lets kids create almost anything they can dream of. Kids can make animations, games, and small programs which they can share in Scratch’s community to get feedback.

Creativity is a key theme of the site, as children strengthen their brains and embrace their creativity through experimentation. The result is your child can learn to be both creative and technical at the same time.

PROS: Free!  The website provides step by step guides and illustrative videos to help your child get some momentum.   Probably one of the best platforms if your child is creative and artistic.

CONS:  No access to the site via mobile.  Not as much fun as code.org or Tynker.

5. KHAN ACADEMY

A world-class education provider that allows you to learn almost anything for free! The Khan world has got a lot to offer in the field of computer programming ranging from courses in JavaScript to learning SQL, HTML, and CSS. Each of the classes boasts detailed introductions intended towards building a base for eventual professional-level expertise. Khan Academy typically uses video tutorials for its courses. The tutorials are quite handy for kids in learning how to code, build animations, graphics, and visualizations from scratch. The website also offers a community program where students can publish their work, get feedback, leaves comments and also ask questions to avoid any confusion. Each course could take about 40-50 hours.

CONS:  The websites’ library contains over 3000 videos covering every subject so sometimes searching for a relevant video could take some effort.  Also, Khan Academy is less focused on kids, as its mission is to provide a free, world-class education to anyone, everywhere.

6. CODE COMBAT

Code Combat

To stimulate learning, Code Combat uses a mutually competitive gameplay mode. The website explains and teaches Python, HTML and JavaScript coding using text-based programming. After setting up the parents account, kids play through different levels in an RPG (role-playing game) set in a medieval world of knights, wizards, and fantastical beasts.

The game consists of different levels where K12 children write short Javascript, Python or HTML code to instruct their character on how to navigate through the dungeons and battle the enemy.  After completing the level, the player moves on to more complex activities and coding.

While I was researching this article, I created an account for myself and started to play a couple of the levels.  My son, Rizwan, was drawn to the computer by the music and was immediately curious about the game.  When I gave up my seat, he quickly slipped in and started playing.  By the next morning, he had logged three hours straight on the site and had to be told to take a break.   I suspect he'll be asking me shortly if he can play the game.

PROS:  The game is quite impressive, and don't be surprised if your kids forget that they are learning something. To play all of its core levels, the game is free; however, for $9.99/month you get extra level branches and some gems for a month. In short, it turns coding lessons into a fun role-playing game.  Your kid isn't going to learn how to create an app using code combat, but they will learn the basic principles of coding while having fun.  This is a proven way to get K12 children excited about coding.

CONS: A significant drawback of the program is that these lessons aren’t much applicable to real-world scenarios. Furthermore, a few levels of the game got stuck while loading which is annoying.  Lastly, the game is marketed towards boys, so consider code.org or Tynker if you have a girl.

kodable

7. kodable

Kodable offers self-directed and child-friendly lessons on the fundamentals of computer science. The learning is game-based, starting from Kindergarten level, and leading to reading and writing JavaScript.

The curriculum is organized and similar to what you'd see taught in schools, incorporating a couple of units including teacher’s script, timed activities, independent practice, and some easy quizzes and tests.  The website is best recommended for kids of age 4-11. The basic curriculum is free for all, followed by a parenting plan in which kids get access to an advanced syllabus.  The Forever plan allows your kid to use Kodable as long as he or she likes for only $29 (paid once).

PROS: The lessons are quite entertaining and don’t take much time (up to 30 minutes).  Access to use Kodable on any device with the paid program.

Cons: The free lessons introduce your child to the concepts, but within a couple of days you'll need to pay up to make real progress.

8. tynker.com

Working with interlocking blocks of Code, Tynker is an online self-paced programming course for kids. With this website, kids not only learn how to make their own games and apps but also learn how to program Minecraft mods. Similar to some other programs, this website also offers programming courses that are game based. The interface is spaced themed with aliens and spaceships, but if you dig deeper you'll find themes that appeal to both boys and girls.

Limited free options are available, but to leverage the platform you're probably going to pay $8 per month or you can pay a one time $150 lifetime membership. With the lifetime subscription, kids get access to their own private Minecraft server, ensuring a safe environment for them to create mods. In addition to that, they also get an opportunity to invite and play with their programs.

PROS: Tynker does a good job of appealing to kids while making parents happy too!  Tynker has a free based plan that is perfect for introducing your child to coding and testing out the platform.  If your child really enjoys the platform, you'll want to pay for the monthly subscription.  The parent tracking reports are helpful.

 CONS: Most of the information is text based; the site lacks video tutorials and voice-over guides.  As a parent, I've had to intervene on occasion to help my daughter get unstuck.

Tynker Code

9. code avengers

With over 2 million student’s registries, Code Avengers is the next big resource on our list. The website offers self-spaced, mostly text-based courses.  The website includes introductory courses, like an introduction to web development, introduction to coding and an overview of coding in HTML, Python, CSS, and JavaScript.  The website’s program urge kids to work through the lessons, debugging codes and offers simple yet conceptual challenges. Unlike the above-mentioned resources, Code Avengers is not a free resource. You get a limited time free trial, and after that, you’ll pay for a monthly subscription. The subscription charges depend upon the billing plan you choose; monthly plan $29/month.

PROS:  More rigorous academic focus then above websites.

CONS: This is undoubtedly more learning and less fun.

I'd suggest not starting with Code Avengers, and instead paying the subscription after your child has enjoyed 1-2 of the simpler options above.  Other cons are the lack of student forums, and comparatively limited selection of courses compared to other paid services.

10. stencyl

Inspired by Scratch’s snapping block’s system,  Stencyl is a game creation software platform. The software allows users to develop and create simple games for Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, and Mac. The kids are empowered to be creative when they are designing their games.  Also, your child's logic understanding capabilities will be more enhanced with this approach.

While there is a free option, if your child loves the platform and wants to create games they can publish, they'll need to pay for either the indie ($99 a year) or advanced ($199 a year to publish to iOS or Android).

The best Stencyl games have reached top slots in the App Store and Google Play while being featured under the "Best New Game" section under their respective stores.

PROS: How cool it is that your child can create a game that could be played by millions!

CONS; Not a powerful engine, it was left in the era of flash games and has a slow release cycle.  The sense of design and user experience also is a bit poor.

11. code hs

Code HS brings amalgamated learning to high school computer science classes.  It’s quite an interactive learning platform and is used by learners all across the globe.  The developmental lessons are deep, yet easy to understand, plus, their curriculum integrates with school lessons as well.

The courses include two introductory phases, one for JavaScript and other for Python. The teaching is done via video tutorials, exercises for coding and live tutors’ session.

The website offers a limited free trial after which there are three paid levels. These paid levels incorporate quizzes, relevant exercises, handouts, lesson plans and access to live tutors. Their AP computer science classroom can be licensed for $3000 per classroom. However, their introductory computer science courses would cost as much as $1499 per course.  For parents, there is an individual program which costs $75/month.

PROS:  For serious computer science instruction this is a premium learning platform especially for Advanced Placements students who are serious about programming.  Plenty of tutorial videos, support, and the curriculum is constantly being refreshed with the latest technology and themes.

CONS: $75 a month is more than many parents can or are willing to pay for classes.

12. codewizardshq

CodeWizardsHQ is unique compared to all the other above platforms in that the classes are teacher-led in small weekly group classes.  After completing the introductory course, the platform introduces students to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, WordPress, Responsive Design, Python, App development, SQL, and Git. The classes are taken online weekly for a couple of hours, and the students are encouraged to work independently or in troops.

Instead of driving your child to a local coding class, your child can log in from the convenience of home.  The website charges $149/month including four classes of one hour each and 24/7 instructor email support.

PROS: The convenience of logging in from home combined with the benefit of learning from an experienced instructor in a small group class.

CONS: Program specifically designed for middle and high school students.

13. code academy

Next on our list is a phenomenal website (Code Academy) which offers a detailed set of courses on web development and almost all the relevant program languages. The site provides a complete range of courses for those who are interested in pursuing a career in coding.

As far as the cost of the courses, the website’s PRO courses are a little expensive; each of the professional courses costs at least $199. The professional courses comprise of 8-10 training sessions in which kids learn how to build a professional website from scratch. In addition to that, Kids get to know about some various tools which professional developers use.  The website offers a wide range of free courses that are enough for children under 13 to try the platform.

PROS:  The courses offered are quite user-friendly and easy to understand. It teaches kids basic programming languages through simple and interactive exercises.  Also, the content here is quite deep.  Your child can even learn how to build and host your own Alexa skill.

CONS:  There are no video instructions on the site, and a  problem with these types of courses is students become accustomed to being told what to do next. Sample code is usually provided, and all a student has to do is to copy and paste it.  We'd like to see more focus on creativity.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *