Coding is everywhere. Every game, website, and YouTube video your child watches was made possible with code. Programming is now one of the most in-demand skills employers are looking for, even in nontechnical staff and those not directly involved in tech companies. Because of this, parents and teachers everywhere are encouraging their kids to learn coding earlier than ever. So today we'll reveal how to code for kids!
How to Code for Kids
In this article we'll share some of the top free coding programs children enjoy learning with. Plus, we'll provide some tips from one of our expert teachers on how to teach your child to code. Spoiler alert: having a growth mindset and having fun are two keys! Luckily, as coding has become more ubiquitous, it has become more accessible. There’s never been a better time to learn programming. So let's get started.
Top Free Coding for Kids Programs
Rather than compiling a comprehensive list of all the possible free coding programs for kids, we've pulled together the three recommendations we think you'll find most useful. Each of these free resources have strong reviews from parents and partners. No matter your child's learning style, age, or skill level, you should be able to find a program here to start learning how to code for kids. Because they are free, it's possible to give each one a try and see which your child connects with best!
Most often used by schools across the country, this is a low commitment option, best for students that prefer to work at their own pace, and can stay self-motived. The Code.org program - designed with the idea that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science - offers a myriad of self-guided tutorials on a number of subjects, including ScratchJr, Scratch, and Python.
One of the things that sets Code.org apart from other platforms is its focus on making computer science education accessible to all students. The platform offers a range of resources for different age groups and skill levels, and it provides materials in multiple languages to make it more inclusive.
Code.org is also known for their annual Hour of Code event. Teachers and students can pick from hundreds of online tutorials and activities - each of which only take one hour to complete - giving students a taste of the fun and reward process of learning to code.
This website is a particularly helpful resource for parents looking for ways to be more directly involved in their child's learning process of computer science disciplines. Of course, the drawbacks include that there are no experts to turn to, should questions arise, and that it can be a little challenging to decide which tutorials to try and when based on the layout of the website.
- Format: On-demand interactive tutorials
- Ages: 5+ years old
- Cost: Totally free
We're happy to share a little bit about our program because we love teaching kids computer science! Our program is a great kids coding option for children and teens who want to learn programming with the support of instant feedback and instruction from a live online expert. Our platform offers 30+ online computer science classes and camps year round.
Students get personalized instruction as they learn to code, because of the small group class format (typically 3-5 students). Kids can learn how to make games with Scratch, Minecraft, and Roblox, design websites with Wix, master a powerful real-world programming language Python, and even take AP Computer Science classes that meet the College Board requirements.
All of the class' curricula are designed by professionals from Google, Stanford, and MIT, so kids build cutting-edge, real-world skills using the best technology. And skills build progressively while reinforcing previous learning.
Create & Learn offers 8 free introduction coding classes in which kids build games, and start learning essential coding concepts. The most popular beginner class, and the one we recommend to most parents, is Scratch Ninja because it uses a block-based programming language, specifically designed to help kids learn coding. Kids are able to use different blocks to program games and animations very quickly, which provides a rewarding feedback loop.
Create & Learn classes have been recognized and awarded by Minecraft Education, Meta, HulaFrog, ActivityHero, and SMASH. There is also a full satisfaction guarantee for our classes.
However after the introductory classes, classes need to be purchased, and you'll need to find a date and time that works for your student's schedule because classes are live.
- Format: Live online expert-led classes
- Ages: 5+ years old
- Cost: 8 Free classes
Where as the first two programs offer coding lessons and instructions for all sorts of programming languages for kids, Scratch is focused on just one language - its own. Scratch coding is a great option for kids ages 8 and up, interested in learning how to code. It's a free, online kids coding platform developed by MIT Media Lab that uses their own proprietary block-based programming language. Which means that instead of typing out lines of code, children can drag and drop pre-written blocks to create programs. This makes it easier for students to learn the fundamental concepts of programming in a more visual and interactive way.
Similar to Code.org there are a number of self-guided tutorials children can pursue to learn this language, and create fun games and animations. Students can also get ideas and be inspired to create by checking out the projects uploaded by other Scratch community members. For every project, kids are able to select to See Inside the project, so they can examine how the code was made. They're also able to Remix any project - basically copy their project and then build on top of it and creatively edit and customize it to their liking.
Scratch has also been recognized as an effective educational tool by numerous organizations, including the National Science Foundation and the European Schoolnet.
- Format: Interactive coding interface with tutorials
- Ages: 8+ years old (younger students can try ScratchJr)
- Cost: Totally free
Teach Your Kids to Code
To teach kids programming, there are a million paths toward success, but consistent effort is the best way to progress on any of them. So setting aside dedicated time each day, to do something coding related - attached to a habit your student already has, will set you up well. For example, if they already have a habit of eating a snack after school, add coding practice in right after that.
We recommend easing your child into coding if you want to build a lifelong love of Computer Science. With beginners, it’s important not to overwhelm them and to meet each child where they are. At the end of the day, learning to code will be challenging for everyone, but a growth mindset and having fun are the keys to building habits of perseverance and curiosity.
Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, once wrote an article, “The Learning Myth: Why I’ll Never Tell My Son He’s Smart,” in which he encourages parents to shift from a fixed mindset of intelligence to a growth mindset. A fixed attitude assumes that some kids have natural talent and intelligence in some subjects and not others: the world is divided into smart people and dumb people. Khan totally rejects this idea. Instead the key to gaining mastery is perseverance, problem solving, and communication. With these tools, anybody can learn anything! As parents, one challenge is to praise your children for working hard to solve problems as they learn to code.
Beyond that, scaffolding is a crucial pedagogical tool for any subject, but it is especially important in CS. Kids will need to begin with understanding what coding is, where it is used, and how to perform simple commands. If kids begin with a desire to create the next Minecraft, they might get overwhelmed or frustrated by the sheer complexity of larger programs.
Finally, help them make and learn what they want to! Often times that's games - games as diverse as a Super Mario game to a mini-golf game to a Roblox game. Gaming has been shown to improve the educational outcomes of high school students. So while gaming at the expense of school could be bad, placing boundaries is part of a parents’ responsibility. Going one step further, if you encourage kids to game while encouraging them to learn the code that makes the game, you could be opening the door to one of the most in-demand professions in the world today and certainly in the future! Here are some easy games to code if you'd like to begin your lessons with a game in mind.
Now You Know How to Code for Kids
Starting your child's coding journey can be intimidating, especially if you don't have a coding background yourself. But now that you know a few helpful resources, you can begin encouraging your child to learn. Be sure to stay involved and ask questions about how their projects are coming along, what they're learning, and what they're finding frustrating. Get started today with a live online coding lesson for kids!