Does your child like working with computers? Playing video games? Robotics? If your child is interested in any of these subject areas, then it could be a smart idea for them to learn computer programming. Kids can start learning coding as soon as they enter school, and studies show that kids who code are 17% more likely to attend college and excel in other subject areas. The good news is that there are plenty of excellent coding programs for kids online! Whether your student is looking for self-guided introduction or a teacher-led program, there is a solution out there which will be an appropriate fit for your kid. Read on for excellent coding programs for kids.
Discover the top coding programs for kids
There are programs for kids as young as Pre-K, all the way through 12th grade. Keep in mind your child’s preferred learning style when choosing one of the following programs.
Create & Learn’s award-winning curriculum - designed by experts from MIT, Harvard, Google, and more - offers a number of live expert teacher-led classes to introduce students to coding. Younger students and those who have never coded before can start with block-based programming, taught in Scratch and Accelerated Scratch intro courses. Students with prior experience could pursue a number of paths, whether they try Create & Learn’s AI Explorer intro course, learn to build virtual game worlds in Roblox, or make cool Minecraft mods!
Curricula are organized into “Pathways” based on ages and interests of students, so you can find an appropriate track for your child to progress through. Paid class sizes are typically 2-5 students, which means every student has the chance to ask questions and receive teacher feedback. Classes feature engaging projects and are taught using an inquiry-based method that helps build creativity and critical thinking skills.
Upon completion of all classes within a particular part, students will receive a certificate of completion. Another useful feature of Create & Learn is their satisfaction guarantee, which ensures that students can move into a more appropriate course for free if their current course isn’t a good fit. One drawback to consider about Create & Learn is that classes are synchronous, which means you may sometimes run into scheduling conflicts.
Best for: Ages K-12 (elementary, middle, and high school students) that would benefit from structured learning and feedback from a live instructor
Price: Free introduction classes and a la carte pricing for complete courses
Scratch is a web-based block coding platform created by MIT. Because Scratch coding was built with younger students in mind, it has an intuitive user interface that uses color-coding to group blocks by their function. This makes it easy for young students to pick up the basics quickly; however, Scratch is also quite powerful, so advanced students can still benefit from using Scratch.
Kids can create games and animations using Scratch’s built-in sprites, or by adding their own sprites into the software. One unique feature of Scratch is its community-focused “Explore” page, where users are able to try the games and animations created by Scratch users. Students can also build off of and learn from other projects by using the “Remix” button, which allows students to see the code for that project, make changes to it, and then publish their modified version of the project.
The major drawback of learning directly from Scratch’s website is that students will be learning entirely on their own, without an instructor or established curriculum.
Best for: Grades 2-8, for students who need an introduction to coding and enjoy being self-motivated and directed
Price: Completely free
Code.org is a non-profit organization which strives to bring computer science education to every student’s core education. They are also the creators of the Hour of Code program, which has been utilized by more than 15% of all students in the world! All their curricula are self-paced, so students have the freedom to progress as quickly as appropriate for themselves.
Students can make an account to track their progress, and also to use their coding tools the App Lab and the Game Lab. When working through a curriculum, students will read tutorials, be quizzed, and have the chance to try some coding in their online IDE.
Best for: Pre-K to 12, great for self-motivated students
Price: Completely free
Raspberry Pi is a widely-popular “mini-computer” of sorts; the Raspberry Pi Foundation, on the other hand, is a non-profit organization which strives to teach students around the world how to code. The foundation offers a number of “paths” for learning coding. The three main paths are in Scratch, Python, and Unity development, and are all available online.
In these units, students learn using the “321…Make!” curriculum which essentially involves 6 projects, where each project is accompanied by a 3 question quiz. For students who want a one-off project without going through an entire curriculum, they can visit the Projects page and filter projects based on their interests.
Students can create an account to save their achievements for completing paths, and can also submit their projects to be featured on the community page. Similar to other programs, the main drawback of this curriculum is that students will not be working with an instructor.
Best for: Ages 9-13
Price: Free to create an account and go through online tutorials; although not necessary, purchasing an actual Raspberry Pi unit will cost anywhere from $50-100 depending on how much RAM and accessories are included
W3Schools offers industry-standard tutorials in numerous web-development languages and technologies. It is one of the most popular web development websites, with over 60 million visitors each month.
Each language has its own set of tutorials, which are broken down into small, easily-digestible chunks of content. Virtually every page has an opportunity to experiment with the provided code examples via their “Try it yourself” in-browser IDE.
For HTML specifically, they offer a free video course, and every technology includes a 25-40 question knowledge quiz at the end. This website is great for strongly-motivated older students who want to learn on their own; however, there are no instructors or means of asking questions other than their community forum.
Best for: Teens and high schoolers
Price: All tutorials are free; however, if students want to take advantage of their website building tool Spaces, it will cost $4.99 a month
Get started with the top coding programs for kids
With these options in mind, here are a few closing tips for getting your child started with coding:
- Start simple: Starting with blocked-based coding can help to ease kids into the complexities of text-based coding
- Play to their passions: There are courses in a wide range of subjects, from game design to robotics, web development and more! Choose one that your child is passionate about
- Be positive: Learning coding can be frustrating at first, so be sure to provide plenty of support to kids as they begin their coding journey by asking questions and complimenting them on their attempts to make progress, rather than their end results
Now that you have an idea of coding programs to try out, here are some of the best coding classes for kids that you can look into as well!
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!