Having at least a basic knowledge of coding is becoming more and more essential as we rely on computers, mobiles. and other devices more and more in our professional and day-to-day lives. Whether you’re aiming for that six-figure position working at Google or just want to troubleshoot why the game you want to play isn’t working, being able to code is incredibly useful. There’s no better time to learn than from a young age as coding for kids can be fun and engaging.
Many countries are starting to add computer science to school curriculums which goes to show not only how useful a skill it has become but also, similar to other spoken and written languages, it’s easier to learn a coding language if you start at an early age. So let’s take a look at some great resources for helping kids to learn in intuitive ways that will keep them interested and possibly promote a lifelong love of the subject.
Learning Through Games
Games can be a great way to engage children as they are colorful and rewarding, using a gameplay loop to slowly increase the difficulty level as well as the rewards to give that ‘one more’ feeling. Although programming games may not be as engaging as some of the other games, it can be a great way to introduce kids to programming concepts without them even realizing it. Games also have a very solid structure to learn from which is helpful in a field like programming where you will have to jump between a whole bunch of different sources of information and structure your learning yourself.
You can check out our full list of games for coders here. Here is an excerpt with some of the games that are more suitable for kids.
Human Resource Machine and 7 Billion Humans
Human Resource Machine, and its sequel 7 Billion Humans, are games about organizing a workforce to complete simple tasks. To do this you need to give them exact instructions in a perfect order which starts out simple at first but soon comes complicated as it introduces goals that require looping instructions and has you jumping back and forth through different chunks of instructions, much like actual code works. As with real code, it’s less about giving direct instructions and more about writing code that can work in a number of situations as some aspects are randomized, this way that game code might need to account for all sorts of eventualities.
Whilst a simplified version of code, one of the important things that these games teach is efficiency in code. You will have a limit on how many lines of code you can write, with higher scores requiring more optimized code. In real code, this makes the code run efficiently and without issue and is a very important part of programming games. It even allows you to annotate your code with notes to help you remember and understand it, a good practice for coders to do in case they ever have to review old code or pass the code to someone else to work on.
Code Combat is a fantasy RPG-style game where you give a set of instructions to your hero to tell them how to navigate dungeons and fight monsters. Code Combat is aimed towards children and young adults as a way to get them into coding from a young age and show them the power of programming and the fact that it is something anybody can do. That being said, it’s not just a kids game, anyone who’s starting out with coding can find this game useful.
The code that players use is very similar to many programming languages, using conventions such as ‘loops’ and ‘if statements’ that are present in practically every programming language without being specific to one language or getting too bogged down in syntax.
Learning Resources For Coding Kids
There’s a huge amount of programming resources out there, but they vary from beginners to experts, as it’s a field that you will always be learning in. Whilst most of these resources are not aimed at kids, there are quite a few useful resources out there that are perfect for kids.
Code.org is a fantastic website for learning code, providing resources for learning at multiple levels. They allow you to work at home in your own time or can pair you up with educators who can teach coding near you (USA only). It’s a non-profit organization whose sole motivation is to help people learn programming skills that can set them up for life. Because of its focus on education, it’s the ideal resource for kids and young adults to get into the coding world and helps them with a solid learning structure.
As well as providing you with ample resources to get you started, they also provide a whole host of one-hour tutorials so that you can learn in bite-sized pieces, breaking up what is otherwise a very complicated web of learning. The best part when it comes to coding for kids, each of these tutorials is associated with a school grade level, meaning it’s easy to find the right level of tutorial for your children.
Scratch was developed by the guys at MIT and is another non-profit organization designed to help people learn to program, specifically it is designed to teach children ages 8-16. Scratch isn’t just a website that helps to teach kids coding though, it’s also its own coding language, specifically designed to cut out all of the usual difficulties with other coding languages, so the kids can focus on learning the main mechanics of coding.
It’s still possible to achieve a lot with the Scratch language. The tutorials will have kids working with animation, video sensing, and multiple basic games. Creativity is a key aspect of Scratch’s teaching, which is all about giving the kids the ability to create whatever they wish with their newfound coding knowledge. Much like programming in real-world jobs, the children will need to think outside of the box to create new and wonderful things that will hopefully capture their imagination in a way that only creating things from your imagination can.
Khan Academy is a wonderful teaching resource for practically every topic under the sun, and programming is no different. Whilst not as aimed at kids as some of the others on this list, the explanation of each topic is always clear and concise, and unlike many of the others, Khan Academy teaches you how to use actual coding languages that you will be using out in the wider world.
Whilst learning the languages that professionals use makes it more difficult to get started, they are skills that could directly land you a job in the future. The sense of having a one-to-one tutor that Khan Academy brings makes learning easier but these tutorials are often better for older kids or those who already have some basic knowledge of the topic.