A great overview of what coding for kids involves, the learning benefits of coding and 12 great, free online coding games sites your kids will love.
“Mum, you have to see this really cool game I coded in IT today. I created a drawing program that allows you to change the pen colour and everything!”
My ten year old daughter has been learning to code at school for the past year now. She absolutely loves it. After all, when you’re ten it’s really cool to see a code that you have created and written work as you intended it to. Hey, I would think that’s pretty cool even now and I’m 40-something!
There’s no denying that computer science is essential to our lives. Technology makes our lives easier (most of the time!) and everywhere you turn you are surrounded by technology. From your TV to your phone to your car and smart home appliances.
At this stage I have no idea if either of my children will choose to work in a computer science field once they enter the workforce but I do appreciate that children need to understand the importance of computer technology and I think it’s helpful for them to understand how computer programs work, what code is and how it works because learning to use code is really cool and it helps kids develop important thinking and learning skills that have applications far beyond the reach of their keyboard.
What is Coding?
Coding is the act of writing instructions for a computer to make the computer perform a task. Coding may also be called programming. A finished set of computer instructions is called a program.
Every app, game and software program we use requires a coded program to work. Many of our household appliances and even our cars also require a coded program to work.
For a program to work it must be written in a way that a computer understands. This is done with a computer language. There are different computer languages designed for different types of computer programs.
When learning to code, children typically learn to use simplified, visual programming tools that allow them to build programs with pre-made blocks of codes that can be stacked together to form a sequence of instructions.
Children will then typically move on to learning to program with text-based programming languages that use words, abbreviations, numbers and symbols to create the instructions.
Very young children can begin to learn the principles of coding without even touching a computer. These types of coding game provide opportunity for children to learn the basic principles behind coding and to develop the logical thinking sequences that are helpful once they begin to learn to code on a computer.
To learn to code children need to also understand how computers work by developing computational thinking.
Computational thinking involves a logical thought process to solve a problem, including the ability to spot and troubleshoot mistakes when a program does not work as you intended it to. Computer’s only work as well as the instructions they have been given! If a program’s instructions are not written correctly then the program won’t work properly.
Why Teach Kids to Code?
Coding teaches kids that finding a solution to a problem often involves a logical sequence of steps or actions. It helps to develop problem solving skills such as perseverance, trial and error and understanding of cause and effect, analytical thinking and reasoning skills, as well as math and language skills. It also challenges children to think creatively and to pursue innovative ideas and solutions.
At the end of the day, kids think coding is fun and I love that it really works their brains!
And if my kids are going to be engaged on a screen, I would rather they be using it to create something rather than passively entertainment.
RELATED: We Are Teachers shares a detailed article outlining the benefits of children learning to code.
12 Free Coding Games Websites for Teaching Programming Skills
Nowadays there are many free websites where kids can learn how to code. The list below highlights ten of the best free sites offering online coding games for kids.
1. Khan Academy
Well known for its elaborate and intricate math program, Khan Academy also offers a different vertical that teaches kids how to code for free. It is more suitable for kids in the elementary levels as the lessons could be detailed and a little technical for preschoolers. The website utilizes talk-throughs that allow the kids to follow and create their own programs in the site’s editor panel.
2. Code Combat
This is a great site for kids of all ages who love playing online games and want to learn how to code in the process. The games are interactive and to control actions of players, the kids have to write lines of code. The difficulty rises as they advance in stages.
For kids aged 8-16 years, this is a great website where they can learn how to build practically anything they can dream of. The website was created as an online community to help young kids become programmers through easy activity packs and a great support system.
4. Code Monster
As the name suggests, this website teaches programming in a series of puzzles and blocks. Kids need to solve a puzzle through drag and drop to create a story that solves a specific problem. They are then allowed to see the results of their work in action.
This website allows kids to learn programming at their own pace. There is so much to do here and with easy lessons and tutorials, kids can be able to make practically anything they wish including applications, web apps, games or website pages. The website is free to use but there is a subscription if your kid wants to take their expertise to the next level.
Kids will love and appreciate the familiar emojis they come across while learning how to code in this website. Kids can be able to learn at their own pace with easy to follow and interactive lessons.
Code.Org is well known in teaching sciences and computer science is one of their popular subjects. Kids in middle school can enjoy the interactive one-on-one tutorials as they learn to code in whatever language they wish.
This site allows kids to improve their coding skills by exploring game play and creation. For upper elementary kids and older, this free site helps students practice by solving puzzles, compete in coding battles, contribute to multi-player games, and learn coding in various languages including C++, HTML, Java, Python, Ruby, Swift, and more! Even professional coders and adults will enjoy this site. Free tutorials make it easy to get started with any coding task!
CodeMonkey provides kids with practice coding using programming language to solve a variety of progressively more challenging puzzles (each level includes an additional piece of code or new function to use) as they help a monkey retrieve the mixing bananas stolen by a bad gorilla! CodeMonkey offers a free 30 day trial.
This site by Mozilla allows kids to learn interactive programming by providing a platform where they can code directly and observe what the output of their coding becomes. It allows for creation of online web pages while still learning more detailed programming.
12. Code Wars
Designed for kids in high school, this website provides a platform where coding competition can take place through picking real challengers online. There are a variety of programming languages to choose from.
For more great coding for kids ideas for your home or classroom, check out our list of Coding Apps for Kids.
Looking for a gift for a kid who loves to code? Check out this list of 12 Super Cool STEM Toys for Kids Who Love Coding.