Inside: A great overview of coding for kids, the learning benefits of coding and 18 best coding websites for kids.
“Mum, you have to see this really cool game I coded in IT today. I created a drawing program that allows you to change the pen colour and everything!”
My daughters have been learning to code at school for the past few years now. They absolutely love it. After all, as a kid it’s super cool to see a code that you have created work as you intended it to. Hey, I would think that’s pretty cool even now and I’m 40-something!
There’s no denying that computer science is essential to our modern day lives. Technology makes our lives easier (most of the time!) and everywhere you turn you are surrounded by it – from your TV to your phone to your car and smart home appliances.
At this stage I have no idea if either of my children will choose to work in a computer science field once they enter the workforce but I do appreciate that children need to understand the importance of computer technology, and I think it’s helpful for them to understand how computer programs work, what code is and how it works because learning to use code is really cool and it helps kids develop important thinking and learning skills that have applications far beyond the reach of their keyboard.
What is coding for kids?
Coding is the act of writing instructions for a computer to make the computer perform a task. Coding may also be called programming. A finished set of computer instructions is called a program.
Every app, game and software program we use requires a coded program to work. Many of our household appliances and even our cars also require a coded program to work.
For a program to work it must be written in a way that a computer understands. This is done with a computer language. There are different computer languages designed for different types of computer programs.
When learning to code, children typically learn to use simplified, visual programming tools that allow them to build programs with pre-made blocks of codes that can be stacked together to form a sequence of instructions. This is commonly called block coding or block programming.
Children will then typically move on to learning to program with text-based programming languages that use words, abbreviations, numbers and symbols to create the coded instructions.
To learn to code children need to also understand how computers work, they must develop computational thinking.
Computational thinking involves a logical thought process to solve a problem, including the ability to spot and troubleshoot mistakes when a program does not work as you intended it to. Computer’s only work as well as the instructions they have been given! If a program’s instructions are not written correctly then the program won’t work properly.
Very young children can even begin to learn the principles of coding without touching a computer. These types of coding games and activities provide opportunity for children to learn the basic principles behind coding and to develop the logical thinking sequences, or computational thinking, that are helpful once they begin to learn to code on a computer.
Why Teach Kids to Code?
Coding teaches kids that finding a solution to a problem often involves a logical sequence of steps or actions. It helps to develop problem solving skills such as perseverance, trial and error and understanding of cause and effect, analytical thinking and reasoning skills, as well as math and language skills.
Coding also challenges children to think creatively and to pursue innovative ideas and solutions. We Are Teachers shares a detailed article outlining the many benefits of children learning to code.
At the end of the day, kids think coding is fun and I love that it really works their brains. And if my kids are going to be engaged on a screen, I would rather they be using it to create something rather than passively consuming entertainment!
18 Best Coding Websites for Kids: Websites for Teaching Programming Skills
There are many websites where kids can learn how to code but they are not all created equal. The list below highlights eighteen of the best coding websites for kids, offering online coding lesson, tutorials and games for kids from age 4 through to 18 years. The list includes a mix of free and paid resources, useful for learning to code at home or at school.
Format: Online, app, game based coding Ages: 4+ – 13+ years Cost: Free & paid
CodeMonkey invites users to code with block or text based programming language to solve a variety of progressively more challenging puzzles (each level includes an additional piece of code or new function to use). Great for home and school, the website includes coding courses across a range of levels – from Code Monkey Jr for 4+ years to Coding Chatbots for 13 + years.
Get started with CodeMonkey‘s free 14 day trial.
Format: Online, game Ages: 5+ years Cost: Free
Click through to learn more about code.org.
Format: Online, app Ages: 5/8+ years Cost: Free
For kids aged 8-16 years, Scratch is a great tool where they can learn how to code practically anything they can dream of. With Scratch coders can program interactive stories, games, and animations — and share their creations with others in the supportive online community. The system uses block programming
Scratch is free to use for all coders, and schools can access the tools license-free.
Younger children can learn too with Scratch Jr, created for 5-7 year olds.
Click through to get started with Scratch.
Format: Online Ages: 8+ years Cost: Free
As the name suggests, Blockly teaches coding through a series of puzzles with block programming. Kids need to solve a series of eight puzzles, dragging and dropping the blocks of code to solve a specific challenge. Blockly is a simple tool created for children who have not had any prior experience with computer programming with the goal of introducing conventional text-based coding languages. Children need to be able to read independently to progress through the lessons without adult assistance.
Click through to give Blockly a go.
Format: Online, lessons Ages: 6+ years Cost: Free
Designed for use with students in elementary/primary school through to high school, Code for Life uses Blockly and later Python to learn everything from basic coding principles through to coding through game play. The comprehensive lesson plans are a great resource for teachers.
Learn more at Code for Life.
Format: Subscription box Ages: 6+ years Cost: Paid
Find out more about coding with Bitsbox.
Format: Online, game Ages: 7+ years Cost: Paid
Start with a 14 day free trial at CodaKid.
Format: Online, video lessons Ages: 8+ years Cost: Paid
Great for home use, Coding Kingdoms uses interactive video coding lessons to guide school age kids through the comprehensive coding program. Users start out with block coding before moving to Java and Lua text based coding languages to create games and mods for use in the popular computer games, Minecraft and Roblox.
Get creating with Coding Kingdoms.
Format: Online, app Ages: 8+ years Cost: Free & paid
Check out Tynker for some fun online coding fun.
Format: Online Ages: 8+ years Cost: Free trial/paid
Codemoji capitalises upon childrens’ fascination with emojis as a clever visual code to teach the basics of computer coding, web design and animation. Includes a great library of animated Learn to Code tutorials and interactive coding lessons. Coders can get started with a free 14 day trial followed by a monthly/annual subscription for home or classroom use.
Visit codemoji.com for more information.
Format: Online, learn coding through game play Ages: 8+ years Cost: Free
Gamester Mechanic uses fun, game based quests to help coders learn game design, and code and share their own video games. Free to play and learn at home and school, it’s a popular choice in ICT classrooms.
Check out Gamestar Mechanic here.
12. Code Monster
Format: Online, lessons Ages: 8+ years Cost: Free
Have some coding fun with Code Monster now.
13. Khan Academy
Format: Online, coding lessons Ages: 9+ years Cost: Free
Find out more at Khan Academy.
Format: Online, game based coding Ages: 9+ years Cost: Free & paid
Children can play the eleven CodeCombat levels online without creating a login though they will need to create a free account to save their progress through the game levels. There are also paid subscription options for further levels and paid personalized lessons for children who would like to learn more about coding. CodeCombat also offers school licensing plans with substantial teacher support materials.
Learn to code while gaming at CodeCombat.com.
Format: Online Ages: 9+ years Cost: Paid
Get creative with Vidcode.
Format: Online Ages: 10+ years Cost: Free & paid
Stencyl is block coding, just like the popular Scratch, but with turbo boosted capabilities! Users can create games to be published across a variety of platforms with simple block coding. Includes tutorials and an extensive range of helpful resources, including an Education Kit for schools.
Try Stencyl for free at stencyl.com. Paid upgrades offer more game sharing options for those who wish to publish their completed games and educational licenses for schools.
Format: Online, game and puzzle based coding Ages: 11+ years Cost: Free
CodinGame allows middle schoolers and high schoolers to improve their coding skills by exploring game play and creation. This free site helps students practice by solving puzzles, compete in coding battles, contribute to multi-player games, and learn coding in various languages including C++, HTML, Java, Python, Ruby and Swift. Even professional coders and adults enjoy this site. Free tutorials make it easy to get started with any coding task!
Get gaming at CodinGame.
18. Code Wars
Format: Online Ages: 13+ years Cost: Free
Designed for high school aged coders with experience, this website provides a platform with real coding problem solving challenges. There is a wide variety of text based programming languages to choose from.
Start coding with Code Wars.
For more great coding for kids ideas for your home or classroom, check out our list of Coding Apps for Kids.
Looking for a gift for a kid who loves to code? Check out this list of 12 Super Cool STEM Toys for Kids Who Love Coding.
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