Introducing your child to the world of coding can be both exciting and rewarding, but you might be wondering where to start. Today we'll be covering coding basics for kids to help parents like you kick off your child's coding journey. We'll share fun facts, fundamental coding concepts, and even ways to get started learning without a computer, plus information on some great online classes your child can take to get a jumpstart with programming. So join us as we unlock a new world of learning, creativity, and fun with computer coding for your child!

To get started right away, join an award-winning live online beginner-friendly Scratch coding class: ScratchJr (K-2); Scratch Ninja (2-5); Accelerated Scratch (5+).

Facts About Coding

The world of coding is exciting and fascinating! Here are just a few fun facts to spark your child’s curiosity and get them excited about learning to code.

  • The first computer programmer was a woman named Ada Lovelace, who wrote the world's first program in 1843!
  • There are over 700 programming languages, and a few of them, like Scratch and Python, are specifically designed to be easy and fun for kids to learn!
  • Coding isn't just for creating computer games and apps; it's also used in fields like medicine, space exploration, and even movie-making!
  • The world's youngest iOS app developer was only nine years old when she created her first app, a storytelling app called Hanas, and got it published on the App Store!
  • In 2023, the world record for the fastest time to solve a Rubik's Cube by a robot was just 0.38 seconds, all thanks to the power of coding!

Basic Coding Ideas

Basic coding concepts are all around us, and kids can learn about these concepts without even needing a computer! Check out these five fun activities you can use to help your child learn about fundamental coding concepts.

1. Sequences: Following Step-by-Step Instructions

Understanding the order of instructions is essential in coding. Computers execute commands in the order they're given, like an instruction manual or a recipe. For example, creating a bologna sandwich involves a sequence of steps like placing a slice of bread, adding bologna, adding cheese, and then adding another slice of bread. In coding, sequences are used to create and control the flow of a program.

Try it with this activity: Create a simple treasure hunt for kids to follow, with each clue leading to the next one in a specific sequence. This will help them understand the importance of following step-by-step instructions.

2. Conditional Statements: If-Then-Else Decisions

Conditional statements are the building blocks of decision-making in coding. They allow a program to make choices based on specific conditions. For example, if it's raining outside, then wear a raincoat; else, wear a regular jacket. Kids can learn that different conditions lead to different actions.

Try it with this activity: Play a modified game of "Simon Says" using conditional rules. For example, "If Simon says 'touch your nose,' then touch your nose; else, hop in place."

3. Loops: Repeating Actions Efficiently

Loops in coding allow a set of instructions to be repeated multiple times, making tasks more efficient. For example, when drawing a square, you can loop the instruction "draw a line and turn 90 degrees" four times instead of writing it out separately each time. Loops help simplify code and save time by automating repetitive tasks.

Try it with this activity: Teach kids about loops with a simple dance routine. Have them repeat a set of dance moves a specific number of times, emphasizing the concept of repetition.

4. Functions: Breaking Down Tasks

Functions are reusable blocks of code that help simplify complex tasks. In real life, think of a function as a daily routine like "getting ready for school," which includes smaller tasks such as brushing your teeth, getting dressed, and having breakfast. Functions allow programmers to write code once and then use it multiple times, making the code more organized and easier to maintain.

Try it with this activity: Create a "morning routine" chart with your child, breaking down the process into smaller tasks (functions) that can be checked off each day. This will help them understand the concept of breaking down complex tasks into smaller, reusable steps.

5. Debugging: Finding and Fixing Errors

Debugging is the process of identifying and correcting errors or bugs in a program. Just like finding a typo in a book, coders must search for mistakes in their code to ensure the program runs smoothly. Debugging helps improve the quality of the code and teaches kids the importance of attention to detail and problem-solving skills.

Try it with this activity: Create a simple story with a few intentional mistakes, such as missing or wrong words. Have your child read the story and find the errors, explaining that this process is similar to debugging in coding.

Getting Started with Basic Coding Classes for Beginners

When your child is ready to start getting into programming computers, a great way to get going is with an online class by Create & Learn! The classes below are taught in small groups over Zoom, and cover everything your child needs to know to get a head start with coding. They also lead nicely into other offerings to further your child’s computer science education.

The classes below are all about Scratch, a beginner-friendly block-based coding platform. It’s a great starting point for young programmers, as it simplifies the coding process and allows learners to focus on learning the fundamental concepts of coding without getting bogged down with things like text-based coding’s tricky syntax. Plus, Scratch comes with a ton of built-in graphics and sound effects, allowing kids to dive right into the coding aspect of development!

1. Scratch Junior

Scratch Junior is a simplified version of Scratch designed for kids grades K-2. It allows kids to create their own interactive stories and games through simple graphical code blocks. This class walks young learners through fun projects, like the free intro class in which kids create a dance party animation in which they add characters and control them with code blocks! The course is taught over 6 sessions, which can be taken once per week, or in a single week as an online summer camp!

2. Scratch Ninja

The full Scratch program is more flexible than Scratch Junior, and allows kids to get into more complex topics. The Scratch Ninja course is designed for learners grades 2-5. It begins with the free introductory class, in which students create their own custom animation using Scratch. This course runs over the course of 4 parts, each containing 4 classes. As with Scratch Junior, the classes can be taken either once per week, or in the form of a summer camp.

3. Accelerated Scratch

For older students grades 5-9, Scratch is still a great choice for a first coding platform, but these learners may be able to learn at a faster pace. That’s why Create & Learn created the Accelerated Scratch course! It covers the same content as Scratch Ninja at a quicker pace, with projects designed for older kids. The course is taught over 12 sessions, and of course, these sessions can also be done weekly or as a summer camp.

Learn Coding Basics for Kids

There’s no better time than now for your child to get started with coding! If you’re looking for more information to help get started, check out our blog post on creating a game using Scratch. And don’t forget about Create & Learn’s great summer camps to help jumpstart your child’s coding journey!

Written by Create & Learn instructor Josh Abbott Salazar. Josh is a teacher, coder, audio engineer, and musician. After graduating with a Master's in Music from Belmont University in Nashville, TN, Josh turned his attention to the technology side of things, and has been working in various aspects of coding and engineering ever since. He runs a small music studio in Nashville called Tango Sound Studios, and develops video games in his spare time.