Parenting

How to Help Kids Learn How to Code Without Melting Your Brain

Updated: 
Originally Published: 
Teaching Kids Coding
Rebecca Nelson/Getty Images

The initial title of this article was “How to Teach Your Kids to Code.” Then we thought about it, took a very non-scientific poll, got wise, and realized a majority of our households don’t contain a member comfortable enough with coding to teach it to another human person. In cases when they did, the person who could code was a tween. This really isn’t our fault. Back in school, our computer classes consisted of touch-typing and opening a new document in Microsoft Word. Or let’s be real, more often than not, playing Oregon Trail (RIP Sally… the dysentery always got ya).

Now, here come our kids — those smug digital natives — and it’s not enough that they sometimes have to help us do that one thing on the remote control; now they’re literally learning how to code computer machines. Assuming you don’t have a coding background yourself (or even a basic working knowledge of it or what “coding” actually refers to, other than computers), you may require some backup.

Need to learn about coding for kids? We’ve got you covered, with information on online classes (including some that are free), apps, toys, and websites that can give your child the boost they need to technologically dominate you.

Online Coding Classes for Kids

While many parents opt to have their kids learn to code using apps and websites like the ones we’re about to describe below, others know their child would likely perform better in more of a structured online class. Some options for those include:

  • Codecademy (the basic class is free, then $19.99/month)
  • Code Avengers (free trial, then prices start at $20-$29/month)
  • Code Monkey (free trial then starting at $6/month)
  • Free websites and apps that teach coding for kids

Your kids are probably using some combination of these websites and apps when they learn coding at school, which makes them a great option to use at home, too — especially if they’re already familiar with how they work. Some free websites and apps that teach coding for kids include:

Scratch

When you think of programs that teach coding for kids, Scratch immediately comes to mind. Designed by MIT students, Scratch is a fantastic option for kids between the ages of eight and 16, thanks to its user-friendly programming language. Plus, it uses a clever (and intuitive) system where kids arrange virtual blocks (like Legos) into something that makes sense. Scratch is available as a coding for kids app or website.

Code Monster

Code Monster is an interactive tutorial that teaches Javascript coding to older children and preteens. Not only does it come in the form of a game (which yes, involves a monster), it teaches code in a way that allows kids to immediately take a look at what they’ve created, which is something that could encourage them to stick with it. This coding for kids website has a decent chance of holding their attention.

Code.org

As a website operated by a nonprofit foundation, Code.org is available for all to use. There are many different levels of programming, including a Minecraft coding game for kids. Perhaps the best feature is that a lot of the site’s games are available offline for emergencies, like spotty internet connections.

Daisy the Dinosaur

Geared towards kids ages four to seven, this is a great starting point for those new to coding. A major upside of the Daisy the Dinosaur app is that it doesn’t require kids to spend time memorizing certain coding terms. Instead, it teaches them to understand the logic of using those terms. The downside? For now, it’s only available for the iPad and iPhone.

Stencyl

Does your kiddo love video games? Well, Stencyl gives children the opportunity to create their own two-dimensional video games for desktop and mobile devices. This program is a free video game development tool and offers drag-and-drop features so users don’t have to understand code to build a program. However, Stencyl still provides a coding option for kids who want to learn.

Toys Can Help, Too

Want to give your child a chance to learn about coding offline? Plenty of coding toys and games exist that can get the job done without the added screen time. Then, one day (if you’re lucky), your child will teach you how to code — you know, as long as the technology hasn’t changed again.

What are the benefits of coding for kids?

Coding isn’t just a skill but will help your child grow and benefit them in the future. Coders are essential to many modern business models. Providing your child with those skills at an early age will help them use those techniques in the future. This also gives your kid an edge when applying to academic programs or internships. It’s a great way to improve problem-solving skills and collaboration.

What age can a child learn coding?

A child can learn to code at whatever age a parent introduces it to them, but even before a kid uses a computer there are several skills they learn before that gives them the basics to become quality coders.

There are many skills someone must develop to be a good coder, but many of those skills are taught early on through childhood activities. Problem solving, resilience, and creativity are a few tools someone can use to code well.

When children are young, they learn problem-solving skills by being exposed to puzzles or riddles that push them to find solutions. Children are also constantly making mistakes which teaches them to be resilient by trying again. Kids learn to be more creative through pretend play activities. They may not code in preschool, but there are several tools children pick up that can help them in this field.

This article was originally published on