Programming For Kids

BitsBoxA below Ted Talk featuring the charismatic 6th-grade programmer Thomas Suarez has shown that programming is a skill that can be learned at any age. With the huge number of sites, programmable robots and products (and books) dedicated to programming for kids, there has never been a better time to get your class coding.

iPhone application developer... and 6th grader | Thomas Suarez | TEDxManhattanBeach

Statistics from the Survey of Graduate Enrollment and Degrees have shown that only 4.1% of master’s degrees awarded in 2009 were in Mathematics and Computer Science. This is concerning as many of today’s fastest growing professions are in related disciplines. With this need for programmers growing everyday, here are seven sites that focus on programming for kids and will encourage, nurture and ignite the coding spark for your students.

November 2017 Update
While these options are great, we’ve recently done an in-depth, hands-on review of BitsBox. We can’t recommend this learning tool enough – check out what our tester had to say! 

1. Scratch

Scratch Screenshot

Aimed at students aged 8-16 years old, Scratch is one of the best ways to take the first leap into programming. Developed by the MIT Media Lab, Scratch is a visual programming language. It allows students to build interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art. This visual approach to programming is the perfect way to teach students the fundamental concepts behind programming and software development. Scratch is free to download and runs on Mac, Windows and Linux.

2. Treehouse

Treehouse

Used by some of the biggest names in tech (Twitter, Square, Airbnb) Treehouse is one of the most trusted and well known platforms for learning to code. With interactive online tutorials for beginner and advanced coders, ranging from developing webpages to building and launching apps, Treehouse has one of the largest collections available. Kids can take a 7-day free trial to test the waters and get started on a lifetime journey of coding and creating.

3. Apps

Move the Turtle

Apps that turn programming concepts into fun games are a fantastic way to help your kids develop a programming mindset. There are a good number of apps to get started with, but our three favorites are:

Lightbot: Lightbot is a programming puzzle game that lets your kids create fun visual programs to move a little robot around his tiled world, cultivating a real understanding of procedures, loops, and conditionals.

Cargo-Bot: Created using Codea, Cargo-Bot is a fun game that requires kids to builds short programs to stack cargo. Creating recursive operations kids quickly learn some of the most foundational programming concepts.

Move The Turtle: A colorful and animated programming puzzle game, Move the Turtle requires players to write short blocks of visual code (similar to Scratch) to navigate this little dude around the screen.

4. Alice

Alice Screenshot

Alice is a 3D programming environment that allows students create animations, interactive games, or videos to share on the web. The application will help students understand key principles such as object orientated programming and 3D modelling. Programs are created by drag and dropping graphic tiles. Each instruction corresponds to standard statements in a programming language, such as Java, C++, and C#. Alice is free to download and runs on Mac and Windows.

4. Hackety Hack

Hackety Hack Screenshot

Taking programming for kids to the next level, Hackety Hack teaches the absolute basics of the Ruby programming language. Ruby is the foundation of many desktop and web applications such as Twitter, Shopify and Hulu and is a great starting point for command based programming. Students use an integrated text editor to begin building ruby apps and by the end will be comfortable with basic programming syntax. Hackety Hack is an open source application that runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.

5. Codecademy

Codecademy gets you coding as soon as you open the page and is a fun, social introduction to programming for kids. Aimed at higher level students, courses focus on generic programming skills and JavaScript development. Codecademy is different to other courses in it’s very interactive approach to programming. Students work through an integrated terminal that gives feedback as they code. The social element is grown through earning badges and sharing progress with friends.

6. How to Make Coding Fun (free course)

programming_for_kid_1920

Part of President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign this FREE course was created for educators and parents who want to start their kids coding. This jam-packed 1 hour online course, focuses on the tools, techniques and ideas you can use to inspire fun and creativity in programming. Covering games, exercises, apps and more, the course steers away from code syntax or the conventions of any specific language and keeps the focus on making coding fun.

7. OpenClassroom

Openclassroom Screenshot

Run by Stanford University, Openclassroom gives students free access to Computer Science lectures. Lectures cover a wide variety of programming curriculum and generic computer skills. Videos are well structured and go from quite basic lessons to detailed science, syntax and structures. The lecture format is a great way for students to engage visually as well as introducing them to tertiary styles of teaching and learning.

8. Codea

Codea Screenshot

iPad apps would have to be some of the hottest programs being developed right now. Codea helps make the iPad development process and programming for kids a lot easier. It is a great starting point for students interested in making apps and lets students program directly on the device. Students can create games, simulations and just about any visual idea they have. Like all apps, Codea is available from iTunes and is only $7.99.

9. Codakid

CodaKid-Minecraft-Coding-Course

A welcome break from drag and drop interfaces, CodaKid teaches kids 7 to 15 to write real code while creating custom Mods for Minecraft and Mobile Game Apps from the ground up. Created by a veteran Silicon Valley game designer, CodaKid provides online, self-paced courses such as Mod Creation: The Adventure Begins, a Minecraft Modding with Java course. CodaKid courses are fun, upbeat, and feature 35-45 hours of interactive projects and HD videos. The coolest part is that CodaKid’s teaching staff provides online support via screenshare and they have a robust learning platform that awards points and prizes.

10. Books (bonus)

Python for Kids

While apps and websites may catch the hype and attention, certainly don’t discount the value of books (digital and printed) to help kids learn the basics of programming.

With extremely popular coding books such as Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming and 3D Game Programming for Kids, books can provide an alternate avenue for learning as well as make an excellent ‘educational‘ gift. Check out our post on Books to Get Kids Programming for more ideas.

Do you think programming is a skill that should be taught in school? Or do you think it should stay as a hobby for enthusiastic students? Share you thoughts in the comments.

Image courstesy of Flickr, Jim Sneddon

47 Comments

    1. Hey Kim. Resources you’ve collected look great and inspiring to see you pushing your students to get so involved. Will let you know if we post or see anything that might be relevant.

  1. Also check out

    CodePupil.com

    We focus on teaching pupils html, css and more thru unique/fun games & visual exercises.

    We are sending out invites on a rolling basis.

    cheers
    paul

    1. I’m terrible at mathematics and yet I’ve been a programmer for 33 years. Further more, I’ve graduated from code to processor design in VHDL.. Mathematics is a myth for the majority of programming.

    1. Hi Tom. Any of the web-based services would be compatible with chromebooks. This would be Codecademy (my favorite), OpenClassroom and Code School. This setup would be fine for learning through the sites, but once your sons progress and are looking to develop their own programs/sites/apps, they may need a more full operating system (Linux, MacOS, Windows).

    1. Very cool! My school just went to iPads, but at home, I am using a Android tablet with my own child.

      1. Thanks….
        Algoid is actually a young app, not really known by peoples yet. But I hope a day it will be more famous ^_^….
        I am actually working on a game edition of the app, a kind of codea but for Android (but I hope to make a simpler object architecture be more intuitive…. I hope….)

      2. Cool. Thank you !
        Well I hesitate at the beginning to make Algoid on IOS. But with java, AL language can run on win/mac/linux too. It was a choice.
        You can try Codea on Ipad. But I found it difficult to begin with. (but I am not objective, it is not possible for me lol ;-) )

  2. Check out Code.org for more resources to get your class started learning to code. AppCraft is also an option for programming on the iPad, which you can use for free (with ads).

  3. I think programming is an essential part of modern literacy and should definitely be taught in school. Games like Light Bot and environments like scratch are great for getting kids to “think like” programmers. REBOL is the best language I’ve found for teaching kids to actually write code. I wrote an introduction to it at http://easiestprogramminglanguage.com

  4. Well i think programming is attitude, it must be taught in school but with essentials like data structure, Bolen Algebra, basic computer architecture & operating system, these essentials or basics will answer all Ys

  5. There is a website that is really fun and aimed for kids.

    it’s teaching them the programming principles using the Logo turtle :).

    Pilots are already being running in some schools. and anyone can use it in few different languages so far.

    http://www.turtleacademy.com

      1. Thanks! Yes, in 2 days (May 1) we’re releasing 16 more levels covering objects and basic loops. If you want an early peek, sign up now and let me know your login – I’ll make you a beta tester.
        Towards the next school year we’ll have 128 levels covering all the fundamentals of programming!

      2. I have 2 kids Kianna 12 and Kaleb 8 who eat, sleep, breathe all things computers. Have you heard of Dot and Bo the little coding robots and if you have what do you think of them. I home school both kids and I am looking for a coding app, program so that I can enough their knowledge. I would be shocked if they did anything other than a computer related job as adults. I am very interested in them becoming beta testers!!!!!! dotmcdowell@gmail.com If anyone knows of other things that can help me please let me know!!!!!!

      1. Thanks! If you want to cover our first official public release here on FractusLearning we’d be thrilled! It’s will happen in just 2 days – on May 1.

  6. You have not mentioned “”hour of code” from code.org. Is it not worth?
    I am asking this as my 7 yr old son is enjoying doing an hour of code.

  7. Kids need to learn how to use a computer before learning to code. Switch to Ubuntu for a start, and let them use the power of the terminal.
    Then teach them Python.

  8. Hi I’m Beta, and I hope to be on the next list of programming games! Playing Beta the Game, you can learn programming and game design by being the creator of your very own platform-style world. You can build dynamic levels and games with code, share them with your friends, and play their games too!

    For a free trial download, go to:

    http://www.betathegame.com

    Check out my social networks at:

    facebook.com/betatherobot

    betatherobot.tumblr.com

    @betatherobot

    1. Hi Brianna!

      So cool that your loving coding and we’re sure you’re doing some amazing things. Scratch is definitely one of the best games out there and there is always new things to learn and build with it.

      If you are looking for your next big coding challenge we’d recommend you try one of the free courses on Codecademy (http://www.codecademy.com/).
      If you want to learn a great language like Python (http://www.codecademy.com/tracks/python) you could start building amazing programs that can change the world, like Google, YouTube and DropBox (they are all built with Python).
      Or start learning HTML & CSS (http://www.codecademy.com/tracks/web) and create your own websites and cool online games.

      Also check out some of the links below for some other fun coding sites for games and tools you might like:
      https://www.gethopscotch.com/
      http://studio.code.org/

      Keep up the great work coding and we look forward to hearing about your amazing creations in the future!!!

      Nick

  9. The school system is owned by the government which ruins everything it touches because face it the government never did care about the common people it cares about money, power, prestige, and keeping the great powers who are pulling the real strings happy (think oil). Learning on our own takes crap heaps of personal discipline which none of us have. The children I see advancing the fastest in programming are those currently playing a game called Minecraft and joining together, WITHOUT ADULT SUPERVISION, to buy with divorced tired mommy’s credit card their own servers. Yes, isn’t it ironic. Those who come from broken homes now have an advantage because mom’s to tired to tell them no they cannot have her credit card. On their own without adult help these people are programming like madness Minecraft games and they already have huge worlds full of people. On the side for more money these kids sell stuff on Ebay. Via poor tired divorced mom, of course.

    Will any of these kids grow up to work for Microsoft? Gawd I hope not. It would ruin perfectly good kids. The pursuit of success and money is not always the best outcome.

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