Coding for Kids | our favorite websites (with lessons, games, and coding challenges), community activities, and free printables |

Coding for kids

We’ve unexpectedly stumbled into the world of coding for kids recently, and have run across a number of amazing activities that are fun and accessible to even very young learners.

Here’s an initial resource round-up of some of the best resources and activities we’ve found related to coding for kids. I’ll write more posts on this topic as we discover more ideas, because it’s looking like it’s going to turn into a growing obsession around here. 🙂

Code.org

We’ve known about this website for a while, but I thought my boys (2 and 4 years old) were too young to get started with it. I spent a few minutes though, just for fun, looking into it the other day and discovered that there are a ton of activities that my 4 year old could do! I showed him a few and he was instantly hooked. We’ve spent several hours over the past couple weeks working through lessons and challenges together, and he can already do a lot of these beginning level activities on his own.

Code.org is a COMPLETELY FREE huge resource of online courses, mini-lessons, games, and both online and offline activities designed to teach kids basic coding skills. Kids as young as 4 can enjoy the beginning levels (several units are designed for pre-readers) and the courses continue up through high school. It’s built for use by both school districts and individual students. I definitely recommend checking out this site as a starting point for your journey into teaching your kids to code. (You may never get past this starting point though since there’s so much to do here! 🙂 )

The activities approach coding from different angles, helping kids get in the mindset of programming a computer to follow commands that will achieve a desired end result. The means to do that differs across various platforms, so I think it’s wonderful that kids can learn from the very beginning how to adapt to slightly different styles of commands and patterns of instructions.

Superman (our 4 year old) loved an artist program where you draw shapes by writing out the code for a “robot artist” to follow. When he figured out how to make it draw a square, he was so excited that he started jumping and dancing around the living room! My husband and I were delighted to see him enjoying the simple joys of (21st century) childhood. <3

Mazes

Coding for Kids | our favorite websites (with lessons, games, and coding challenges), community activities, and free printables |

Several of the coding for kids activities involve programming directions for a character to make its way through a maze. These can be as simple as using arrows for left/right/up/down to a more complex system that involves describing directions in terms of pixels (length) and degrees (direction), using repeat loops and “when” and “stop” commands.

Michelle at Research Parent offers a free Lego maze activity with very clear instructions. Superman loved this activity because it brought some of the coding principles that he’d seen on a screen to life, using his absolute favorite toys in the whole world! 🙂 After building the maze, we “wrote the code” for our little people to get safely out of the maze. He insisted on also writing a separate series of instructions for the bad guys to end up in the trap ;).

I was so impressed with this activity because Michelle took the time to create four levels for this game, with multiple maze maps. Each level adds in more layers of computer coding skills, so basically everyone (more specifically: 4 -100+ years old) could enjoy this activity and learn something from it. (I’m linking her free activity here with her permission. Thank you, Michelle, for creating such a thorough, fun, educational resource and sharing it for free!!) You can visit her website to get your own lego maze game, and check out her other STEM resources as well!  http://researchparent.com/coding-a-lego-maze/

Coding for Kids | our favorite websites (with lessons, games, and coding challenges), community activities, and free printables |

Google’s coding game

A few weeks ago, the Google Doodle (the image that appears above the search bar on the Google homepage) was a coding game for kids, to celebrate Computer Science Education week (Dec. 4 – 10). We all had fun writing code (and trying to make it as concise as possible!) to get the bunny through the park and feed him all the carrots. If you’d like to try it out, you can still access the game here: https://www.google.com/doodles/celebrating-50-years-of-kids-coding.

Apple Store events (including coding for kids)

We accidentally followed the links on this coding game (meaning that Superman started clicking on links while I was trying to cook dinner and I had to come running over to the computer to see what he was doing – insert mini panic attack and lecture about not clicking random links!). It turned into a fortunate accident though because I discovered that Apple stores were hosting free activities for the next couple weeks to help kids and adults learn to code. There was an event starting in half an hour at the Apple store nearest to us … so I quit cooking, grabbed a couple granola bars, and got the boys in the car. I’m not usually that spontaneous, but it worked out really well this time! Only one other person had registered for the event, so Superman got an entire hour of one-on-one help as he learned to write code to get a robot ball (named Sphero) through a maze. The instructor was amazingly patient and helpful, making a complex, intriguing activity accessible to a four year old.

Coding for Kids | our favorite websites (with lessons, games, and coding challenges), community activities, and free printables

They even helped Lil Dude get involved in the coding action! 🙂

Coding for Kids | our favorite websites (with lessons, games, and coding challenges), community activities, and free printables

We later attended a “Coding the Droids from Star Wars” activity at a different Apple store, but there were too many kids at that one, so it was harder for Superman to follow. The older kids had a great time though! 🙂

We found information about the events at this link: https://www.apple.com/today/category/kids-and-parents/. That link will get you to current events at Apple stores – the coding events may be over but I think they have ongoing free events.

I looked it up later and realized you could buy your own Sphero and have endless fun at home coding your own robot ball! 🙂 Here’s an affiliate link, if you’d like to check it out yourself:

Coding Game for Kids

coding cover
Click here to read the full description and see a preview.

I love all the resources mentioned here, and I have several more to share with you over the next few weeks. I realized, however, that there’s a missing element in a lot of these resources — quite naturally, most coding activities are carried out on a screen :). There are a lot of offline activities as well that are paper-and-pencil or book based, and while I’m a fan of all of the above, I thought it might be helpful to provide something that taught/reinforced fundamental coding skills in a much more active way.

So I designed an interactive (and very active!!) game that gets kids up and dancing while learning and practicing coding skills. Students work together to write code as they choreograph a {human} robot dance, and the if/then conditionals take the dance-off in wild and wacky directions. This can be played at many different levels, in as simple or complex manner as fits the crowd, so it lends itself easily to natural differentiation for all ages and skill levels. It would work great at home or in a classroom setting.

If you’d like to see a full description and an in-depth preview of this game, you can find it here.  

Subscribe if you’d like to follow this series of posts on Coding for Kids

I’m working on a series of posts related to kids’ coding activities. I’ve got some great books lined up to share with you all, more websites and online resources that I highly recommend, and several coding games and projects of my own that I’m drafting up right now (including some great freebies for my subscribers!) I’ll update this post with links here when all of that is ready, or you can look for it in my next newsletter. (If you’d like to follow our learning adventures and get more resources and activities like this, make sure to subscribe to my newsletter! You can find the subscribe button on the top, side, and bottom of this page.)

More posts in this series:


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