Programming and computer science essentially brings together the four pillars of STEM education, as the the process naturally involves science, technology, engineering and mathematics. As such, learning coding can drastically improve a child’s knowledge across a wide range of subjects, due to it’s use of maths and science concepts, the requirement for problem solving, and the involvement of art and design (for a game, for example!).
The best part about learning to code is that children often don’t realise they are are expanding their knowledge across these areas, as it can be such a fun and rewarding experience. Thanks to the internet there are an abundance of resources available geared specifically towards children, leveraging their natural ability to maintain information to teach them skills that can last them a lifetime. After all, tech jobs are plentiful and lucrative, and according to Code.org there are currently 570,926 open computing jobs in America at the time of writing, and it’s a similar story elsewhere around the world.
To help you find a starting point we’ve scoured the internet and collated the best coding sites and games for kids, both free and paid.
20 free coding games initially – $20 per month for additional courses
Tynker is a great introduction to coding for kids, due to it’s intuitive visual code blocks that are simply dragged and dropped, linking together to create functions. The learning process is very slick, with rewarding gamification and guided learning and engaging problem solving. When confidence is built up, children can leave the visual blocks behind and move to real coding, or switch seamless between both.
They have some great courses around Minecraft, making it easy for kids to make their own mods or create games within Minecraft that they can play with their friends. Pricing starts $20/month billed quarterly, with larger discounts if you sign up for a year or lifetime.
Scratch & ScratchJr
Scratch and ScratchJr are free coding resources exercises created by MIT, aimed at 8 – 16 and 5 -7 year old respectively. While slightly dated when compared to other sites in this article, the core teachings are still spot on, and like Tynker it masks confusing lines of code behind drag and drop blocks that act like virtual Lego.
Code.org’s Hour of Code
The Hour of Code is an initiative by Code.org, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to increasing the presence of computer science in schools. As the name might suggest, it eases people into coding with a one hour course, suitable for ages 4 to 104 (!), available in over 45 languages.
The Minecraft Adventures are a fantastic starting point, where kids must adventure through the world of Minecraft and overcome challenges using blocks of code. Best of all, it’s completely free!
Free Courses – Paid membership at $19.99 per month
Codecademy is one of the most well known websites for learning coding, and while it’s aesthetics aren’t as geared towards children, the content is extremely high quality.
They also have ‘hour of code’ courses which are a great starting point, with lots of free content to pickup afterwards, or a pro subscription starting at $19.99 per month.
All core levels free – $9.99 a month for extras
CodeCombat is hands down the best looking platform when it comes to teaching kids coding. It feels like a highly polished game, with character customisation, rewarding progression, and even the ability to join clans with friends.
The ‘core’ levels are free, but to unlock later content it costs $9.99 per month.
Free – Further courses for $20 per month
Code Avenger’s ‘JR’ section preps kids for later on in life with engaging courses around programming, problem-solving, mathematics and computer skills. The ages range from 5 to 16, starting off with visual drag and drop block based code, before progressing to full languages.
It’s free to try, with membership starting at $20 per month.
Code Club (UK Focus)
Code Club is a UK based initiative where volunteers across the country host free coding clubs for children. Ages range from 9-13 and it’s completely free to join, with volunteers being thoroughly background checked before their approved.
If you’re an adult and interested in becoming a volunteer or starting a club near you, only very basic programming knowledge is required, and you’ll learn plenty alongside your younger club members! More information is available here.
Free to try – $29 one off payment for all content
Pricing is incredibly accessible, with a simple one off payment of $29 to unlock all the content, forever!
Hopscotch (Apple only)
Free – Paid content through in-app purchases
Geared specifically for Apple products, Hopscotch gets kids making games for their phones and tablets right off of the bat. The tools are incredibly kid-friendly, with the ability to share creations in a safe and moderated environment. The tool is very open-ended, meaning if a child wants to focus solely on the art side of things, they can.
The app is free to download, with additional content accessed through in-app purchases.
Subscription box service – From $24.95 a month
Bitsbox is great because it marries great looking physical products, and productive screen time. Each month, the child will receive a collection of Supercards with new projects, and a binder to store them in. Bitsbox teaches real code, from simple apps to full scale games, and it’s refreshing to receive something physical through the post each month.
Pricing starts $24.95 per month, with a ‘deluxe’ box containing lots more goodies for $44.95 per month.
So, what’s the best coding site for kids?
Based on our experience with the sites mentioned, CodeCombat is the best full-featured coding platform. It’s amazing aesthetics and heavy ramification will keep children engaged for longer, with very reasonable pricing.