You may have heard people talking about computer science education and its importance for the future. Already, 27 states across the country offer CS courses at the high school level, with more on the way. As more schools incorporate programming into their curricula, it will be important to introduce young students to programming fundamentals. That’s why many resources have been developed to teach elementary students. Read on to learn about different tools, programs, and courses that are great for learning coding for 8 year olds.
Learn coding for 8 year olds
When introducing young students to coding, it’s important to find content with an appropriate challenge level for their age group.
Can an 8 year old learn how to code?
Certainly an eight year old can learn to code! Students of any age can work on foundational coding concepts such as conditional logic and critical thinking. There have been many successful tools developed that teach young students to code including Scratch, Minecraft modding, Lightbot, and more. Block coding (which uses click-and-drag code in place of text-based coding) is approachable for elementary-aged students.
Is 8 too young to start coding?
Although eight is old enough to learn the basics, there are some necessary prerequisite skills. One critical skill for coding is basic computer proficiency, such as being able to switch between applications and comfort with using the keyboard and mouse. As long as your child has those skills, they should be good to start coding!
Explore the best coding classes and camps for 8 year olds
There are numerous instructor-led courses and summer camps to get 8 year-olds into programming, a few of which are introduced below. Follow this curriculum designed for third graders for the best experience.
1. Scratch Ninja
Scratch is a free programming tool developed by MIT that allows young students to channel their creativity into making their own games and animations. Scratch is built on an intuitive block coding system, which makes it great for introducing beginners to coding. By enrolling in Create & Learn’s Scratch Ninja course, students will enjoy a structured, entertaining experience while learning basic coding concepts such as loops, variables, and more. There's even a free Scratch intro session, so there's no risk in trying!
2. Minecraft Modding
Minecraft, one of the most popular video games ever created, also has an Education Edition that helps students to build their coding abilities. Through Create & Learn’s curriculum, students will learn about events, loops, functions, variables, and use that knowledge to develop mini-games and interact with their Minecraft world. Minecraft: Education Edition uses block coding, which helps to abstract away the complexities of text-based programming. Any student taking the course through Create & Learn will also receive a free license for Minecraft: Education Edition.
3. Minecraft Redstone
Minecraft has a built-in “engineering” system of sorts in its game mechanics, called redstone. Redstone can be used to do things as simple as turn on a light or as advanced automatic doors, sensors, and more. Develop your child’s problem solving skills while learning to harness the power of redstone in this 6-part, instructor-led course.
4. Lights and Beats with Microbit
Microbit is like a mini computer: it has sensors, has lights, and can be programmed. It exists as both a physical item that can be purchased, as well as an online emulator. In this live online course for 8 year olds, students will have the chance to use block code to see how hardware and programming interact, which makes it a great class for students who have an interest in electronics as well. Prior coding experience is not needed for this course, and you do not need to own a physical Microbit unit as the class uses the Microbit simulator.
5. Junior Robotics
Vex VR takes the widely-popular Vex robotics system and puts it into a digital world, where students use block code to help a robot move around and interact with its environment. This is a great opportunity for students to combine their interests in robotics and coding! Plus, the Vex VR tool is free to use. Create & Learn’s Vex VR class is structured in two four-session parts, where each session is 55-minutes long.
Coding pathways for 8 year olds
When coding, programmers use a systematic approach to solve their problems. When learning coding, the approach should likewise be systematic. There are a number of different organizations that have created progressive pathways which start simple, then gradually increase in difficulty. This helps to keep students focused while minimizing unnecessary frustration.
Not sure what your third-grader should learn? We have picked great combinations of live online computer science classes that you can choose based on your child's interests. Following these tracks allows your child to keep learning and building their skills, while making it easy for you to plan. Choose from our pathways for game creators, young inventors, art-minded students, and more!
Best free coding for 8 year olds programs
If you're looking to try something for free to get a feel for your child's interests, explore these free options first.
1. Free Scratch
In this free Scratch class designed by experts from Stanford, MIT, and Google, students learn the basics of how to use the beginner-friendly block-based interface live online with an awesome teacher. In this 55-minute live online session, your child will enjoy programs created by other students, and work together to build a fun game of their own.
2. Google CS First
CS First is totally free of charge — any number of students, all materials, as many lessons as you want. Students learn through video tutorials and block-based coding in Scratch.
Code.org has launched a number of successful free programs for self-guided coding programs, like the Hour of Code program which has been used by millions of students worldwide! Their 100% free B curriculum teaches students block coding through instructional videos and practice exercises. Students can save their progress by making a Code.org account. This approach is great for strongly motivated students who like to learn independently.
Coding tutorials for 8 year olds
Once your student has tried Scratch (or any other block-coding tool) out for a while, the best way to continue building their skills is with hands-on work, like these tutorials!
1. How to make a sprite jump
While making a character walk back and forth on the screen is relatively easy, learning to make a sprite jump and interact with objects in Scratch requires some careful coding and is an intermediate skill when it comes to game design. Here's how!
2. Make a catching game in Scratch
Catch games are a simple yet fun entry point for Scratch coding. Students will get to use loops, events, and variables to create their project. There is plenty of room for customization, in that students can choose whatever sprites they want for their catching and falling sprites.
3. Make a Mario Game in Scratch
This one is the most challenging listed here. In this tutorial, your student will learn how to make a Mario game on Scratch. Super Mario Bros, released in 1985, is arguably one of the most popular video games of all time, and the poster child of not only the entire Mario franchise, but, to a degree, Nintendo as a whole. Super Mario Bros belongs to an extremely popular genre of arcade games: the Side-Scrolling Platformer.
Learn coding for 8 year olds
So there you have it: a litany of ways to get your 8-year old into coding! Between robotics, Minecraft, and more, your child is sure to find a coding program that can both entertain and educate them. If any of these sound like a good fit for your student, check out our expert-led, live online free coding classes to get started. Happy coding!
Written by Create & Learn instructor Dominic Occhietti. Dominic is a graduate of Michigan State University, where he studied music performance and computer science. He thoroughly enjoys teaching, whether that be coding classes, French horn lessons, or even downhill skiing lessons!