From Carl Jung to Fred Rogers, childhood play has long been recognized not just as a part of childhood, but as Maria Montessori once said, “the work of the child.” As many parents view childhood play as non-productive, the opposite is actually true. Allowing children time for unstructured play is an essential component of their learning and development, and coding is no exception. Games can be one of the best ways for kids to learn coding. Here is a list of age-appropriate resources where your child can start learning to code with the power of play.
For younger children between the ages of 3 and 5, coding can seem like a far reach outside of their little developing abilities. But what you might not know is that coding doesn’t have to be learned in front of a screen. There are many ways to introduce coding to small children without sitting them in front of a computer or tablet.
Learn with Mochi is a monthly subscription box for children ages 4 and up that teaches the beginning principles of coding. With products like STEM storybooks, 3-D puzzles, STEM board games, and coding blocks, preschool-aged children can begin to learn programming concepts and computational thinking without any screen time at all.
Learning Resources has a large selection of coding toys for preschoolers, such as Coding Critters® and Botley® 2.0 the Coding Robot. Using the power of storytelling, children can learn the basics of computational thinking by becoming active participants in the story. By learning counting and sequential order, Learning Resources coding playsets can help preschoolers get a head start on the principles of coding.
The Coding Family Bundle by Osmo is another great choice for parents of preschoolers who want to give their children a head start in computer programming. Osmo is an interactive learning system that utilizes an iPad or other tablet. With the Coding Family Bundle, you can transform your child’s device into a playground for computational thinking. The bundle includes 3 hands-on learning games and over 35 levels to keep the learning fun going for hours.
For older children who have more attention span, Scratch Jr is a free app to start learning to code today. With no investment required, parents can quickly and easily introduce coding to their elementary-aged children through the power of coding blocks. Because this age group is still learning to read and write, coding can become overly frustrating if they are having to adapt to both computational thinking and spelling on a more advanced level. Scratch Jr overcomes both of these obstacles with coding blocks that kids can snap into place and easily create a quick program.
For a low-cost gaming option, the Code Monkey app is a great choice for elementary-aged kids. Parents can choose from a variety of monthly subscription plans that start at just $6 per month. Code Monkey’s game-based learning is fun and educational for kids. Unlike Scratch or Scratch Jr that use coding blocks, Code Monkey also uses actual coding language to teach kids the beginning phases of coding like a computer programmer.
Another low-cost learning option is the Tynker app. Tynker offers a wide range of learning levels, from coding blocks to Python. You can also choose learning games based on experience level or age level. Tynker monthly subscription plans start at just $9 per month.
For older kids in high school, learning to code can be a new and exciting challenge. Especially for kids who love gaming with programs like Roblox and Minecraft, learning to code can be a natural transition from playing to creating.
For teens who are just getting started in coding and don’t know where to start, Outschool offers a wide variety of low-cost online classes that focus on computer gaming. From 3D Game Design to Stop Motion Video Game Design to Coding in Minecraft, teens can try many different aspects of computer programming to find what appeals to them the most.
CodaKid offers online coding and game design classes for teens. With both self-paced options and 1-on-1 private lessons, CodaKid helps teens learn to code by harnessing some of their most beloved interests -- Minecraft and Roblox. CodaKid even offers specialty coding courses such as HTML and CSS and drone programming. With an annual subscription plan that starts at just $12.50 per month, CodaKid is a great option for parents of teens.
For kids and teens from 8 to 18 who want to learn computer programming beyond gaming, Code Wizards HQ offers live online coding classes specialized for teens. From Wizard Level I all the way to Graduation, Code Wizards HQ can help teens progress in their coding abilities to the point of applying for a high school internship.
No matter how old your child is, what your budget is, or how little your own knowledge of coding may be, there are so many opportunities today for kids to learn how to code that the possibilities are endless. From starting with no screen time at all and focusing on games and sequential numbers, nearly every parent has an opportunity to give their kids a great head start. The most important thing to remember is the teaching of Dr. Maria Montessori, that “play is the work of the child.” Always let your child’s natural curiosity lead the way.
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It is undeniable that technology will continue to expand and grow and fill our lives more and more as time goes on. By equipping kids with the coding languages, logical thinking, and visionary perspective to improve their lives, you’re giving them more than just an in-demand job skill -- you’re giving them the tools to create their future!