Ready to get started with kids coding? Today we'll guide you through some of the best free coding programs for kids. We'll take you through the basics of each platform, and explain why each is a good fit for kids coding. We'll also reveal what studies have shown about the programs' effectiveness. And we'll share some challenges students might face. We hope this helpful guide will provide everything you need to begin your kids coding adventure!
The Best Kids Coding: Top Free Kids Coding Programs
Explore the best kids coding programs! From expert-led and designed live online classes to an entry level playful app, you're sure to find the right tools and resources for your student's learning style and interest. It's likely that a combination of these programs will provide your student with the best kids coding experience. So get started with a few options today!
1. Create & Learn's Free Program
We're happy to share a little bit about our program first because we love teaching kids computer science! Create & Learn is a great kids coding option for children and teens in grades K-12 who want to learn to code and are looking for a comprehensive and well-regarded program. This platform offers 30+ online computer science classes and camps led live by expert instructors. With a systemic learning path for every age and interest, your student will discover their love for computer science in a safe, collaborative environment.
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. Cool hands-on projects, relatable real-life examples, and lively teachers keep computer science exciting. Furthermore, children get personalized instruction and support as they learn to code, because of the small group class format (typically 3-5 students). Unlike other coding class programs, rather than being told a set of code text to copy and paste, in these classes, kids learn the underlying logic behind coding, and they're encouraged to express and build their creativity along the way with many options for applying their own unique spin to projects.
To help kids explore their passions at no cost, 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. Parents have found the classes to be very effective for their children, and have rated the platform as 5-stars on Facebook. Beyond that, 60,000 students have enjoyed over 1 million learning hours with the company. The company also provides a full satisfaction guarantee for their classes.
Some of the challenges of kids coding with Create & Learn are that after the introductory classes, classes need to be purchased; you'll need to find a date and time that works for your student's schedule because classes are live; and your student is automatically matched with an expert teacher - though you can request others.
Best for: Kids of all ages that enjoy learning with consistent instruction and ideas for their end goal, feedback, and guidance, alongside fun tinkering!
2. Scratch Kids Coding
Scratch coding is a great option for kids, ages 8 and up, interested in learning how to code because it is specifically designed for kids and beginners. It's a free, online kids coding platform developed by MIT media lab that uses a 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.
Scratch has been very successful in helping kids learn to code. Today it is used by millions of kids around the world, who have used it to create their own games, animations, and other interactive programs. Scratch has also been recognized as an effective educational tool by numerous organizations, including the National Science Foundation and the European Schoolnet.
There have been several studies that have investigated the effectiveness of Scratch in helping kids learn to code, such as "The Effects of Scratch-Based Game Development on Students' Problem-Solving Skills" by B. Özmen and M. Arslan (2017). Some of the key findings from studies include:
- Scratch can help kids develop important computational thinking skills, such as problem-solving, logical reasoning, and design thinking.
- Scratch can be an effective tool for teaching kids programming concepts, such as loops, variables, and conditional statements.
- Scratch can foster creativity and collaboration among kids, as they can use the platform to create and share their own interactive games, stories, and animations.
- Kids who use Scratch may be more likely to continue learning about computer science and pursue related fields in the future.
Some of the challenges of learning to code on Scratch are that kids need to be self-motivated; it can be intimidating to start with a blank page and no guidance; there's no expert source to ask questions to; and Scratch has a moderation system in place to flag and remove inappropriate content, but it is possible for inappropriate or offensive material to slip through the cracks. Also as with any online platform, there is a risk of bullying and harassment on Scratch. It is important for kids to be aware of this risk and to report any inappropriate behavior to a trusted adult or to the Scratch team.
Finally, Scratch allows users to share their projects and interact with other users through the Scratch website. While the platform has safeguards in place to protect users' personal information, it is important for kids to be aware of the potential risks of sharing personal information online. Create & Learn offers an Internet Safety course that can help equip your child for navigating the Internet safely across all sorts of sites and applications. We also have tons of free Scratch tutorials your student can explore for inspiration of what to create on the Scratch platform.
Best for: Kids ages 8+ that want to experiment and learn on their own.
3. Code.org Kids Coding
Code.org is non-profit organization founded in 2013 by twin brothers Ali and Hadi Partovi that aims to promote computer science education and make it more widely available to students around the world. The organization offers a variety of resources and tools to help kids learn to code, including interactive tutorials and projects, as well as curriculum resources for teachers.
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 also emphasizes the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the tech industry, and it aims to promote equal access to computer science education for students from underrepresented groups.
Code.org is probably most well known for its annual Hour of Code event. Hour of Code aims to introduce students to computer science and encourage them to learn to code, and takes place during Computer Science Education Week (usually in December). 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. According to Code.org, over 10 million students participated in Hour of Code in 2019, and the event has reached a total of over 1 billion students worldwide since it was first launched.
Code.org is also highly regarded in the education community and has received endorsements from organizations such as the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and National Science Teachers Association (NSTA).
Similarly to Scratch some of the challenges of learning to code on Code.org are that kids need to be self-motivated; it can be confusing about where to start among the many tutorials; there's no expert source to ask questions to. We've pulled together a few fun games kids can try on Code.org.
Best for: Parents and teachers to get ideas for tutorials for kids to try.
4. Raspberry Pi Foundation
This is a great option for kids who want to start coding physical items right away. The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a UK-based charity that aims to promote the study of computer science and related subjects, particularly among young people. To achieve this goal, the foundation developed the Raspberry Pi, a small and affordable computer that is designed to be easy to use and learn with. It's similar to the Micro:Bit.
The Raspberry Pi is a great platform for kids who want to learn to code because it is versatile, affordable, and easy to use. It can be used to learn a wide range of programming languages - including Scratch, Python, and Unity - and can run a variety of operating systems, making it a flexible tool for learning to code. The Raspberry Pi is also very affordable, especially when compared to other computers, which makes it accessible to a wider range of students.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation provides a range of resources and tutorials for free, online, in up to 30 languages to help kids get started with the platform. There's a series of free, instructor-led videos called Digital Making at Home. And an online projects that are completely free, can be completed in no more than an hour, and include step-by-step instructions. Children can also start coding today on Code Club World, their free online platform where young people ages 9 to 13 can learn to make stuff with code. Plus there is a large online community of Raspberry Pi users who are willing to help and share their knowledge with others.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation is also highly regarded in the education community and has received endorsements from organizations such as the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).
Some of the specific challenges that kids may encounter when learning to code with the Raspberry Pi include that it's actually hard to get a Raspberry Pi device (they tend to be back ordered); and students may find it challenging to set up and configure the Raspberry Pi so it may be helpful for students to have guidance or support from an experienced mentor or teacher when getting started with the platform.
Best for: Kids ages 8+ who want to learn to code a physical item and bring it to life.
5. Daisy the Dinosaur App
Designed for kids ages 6+, Daisy the Dinosaur is a free iOS app that was created to be user-friendly and easy to learn, particularly for children. The app has a simple interface, so that even kids with no prior programming experience can pick it up right away.
Daisy the Dinosaur is a great platform for kids who want to learn to code because it is highly interactive and engaging. The platform uses a visual programming language (similar to Scratch), which means that kids can see the results of their code as they create it.
In a study on the effectiveness of Daisy the Dinosaur, "Learning to code via tablet applications: An evaluation of Daisy the Dinosaur and Kodable as learning tools for young children" the authors conclude that participants improved in their knowledge of Daisy commands (i.e., move, grow, jump) and Kodable gameplay (i.e., placing arrows in the correct sequence to move a character through a maze), but did not improve in their ability to verbally explain what coding is. Furthermore the results suggested that young children can learn foundational coding skills via apps, especially when the apps are appealing to children.
The app's parent company, Hopscotch, is also highly regarded in the education community and has received endorsements from organizations such as the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and was on ABC's Shark Tank.
Daisy the Dinosaur is only available on iOS devices (such as iPhones and iPads). This may be a limitation for kids or educators who prefer to use other types of devices or platforms. Plus depending on their level of experience, kids may find it challenging to navigate and use a touchscreen device to create their projects. So it may be helpful for kids to have guidance or support from an experienced mentor or teacher when getting started.
Furthermore, Daisy the Dinosaur is designed to be a simple and introductory programming platform, and as such, it has limited functionality compared to more advanced coding languages and platforms. Many students may find that they quickly outgrow Daisy the Dinosaur and want to move on to more advanced tools.
Best for: The youngest students that want to dabble with a fun introduction to coding (and have parents with Apple devices).
How to Pick the Best Kids Coding Program
Here are some important considerations to keep in mind as you evaluate the top free coding programs for kids:
- Age-appropriateness: Make sure the program is suitable for your child's age and level of development. Starting your child on something too challenging is likely to dissuade them from continuing.
- Ease of use: Look for programs with a user-friendly interface and clear instructions. And programs that match your child's schedule and availability.
- Content quality: Consider the level of expertise of those who designed the curriculum. Check out reviews and ratings to make sure the program provides high-quality content that is engaging and educational. Also note the safety features of the platform.
- Variety of languages: Consider whether the program teaches a variety of programming languages, or just one.
- Support resources: Look for programs that offer additional resources, such as forums, video tutorials, or live expert guidance, to help kids learn and troubleshoot as needed.
- Project-based learning: Consider programs that offer project-based learning opportunities, where kids can apply their coding skills to create their own projects.
Experts Recommend Getting Started with Kids Coding
There are a number of reasons why experts believe kids should learn how to code. Some of the specific benefits of learning to code for kids include:
- Problem-solving skills: Learning to code requires logical thinking and problem-solving skills. These skills are valuable in a variety of fields and can help kids excel in other areas of their education and in their future careers.
- Creativity: Coding is a creative activity, because it allows kids to design and build their own programs and projects. All of the different possibilities, variations, and challenges help to encourage right and left brain thinking, and inspire kids to think outside the box.
- Confidence: Learning to code can be a challenging and rewarding activity, and as kids learn and master new skills, they may develop a sense of accomplishment and confidence in their abilities.
- Future-proofing: Coding is a rapidly-growing field, and experts predict that jobs related to computer science and technology will be in high demand in the future. In general, STEM jobs are expected to grow 10.5% between 2020 and 2030 compared to 7.5% growth for non-STEM jobs. This equates to 1 million more job openings over 10 years! Learning to code can help kids prepare for these types of careers and give them an advantage in the job market.
It's a good idea to try out a few different kids coding programs to see which one your child enjoys the most. It's also important to encourage your child to persevere and be patient as they learn to code, as it can be a challenging but rewarding process. Happy coding - we hope to see you in class soon!