As a computer scientist, I am passionate about exposing kids to computer programming from a young age. After posting this list of Educational Kids Apps That Don’t Require Wi-Fi (which contains a free coding app!), I got lots of requests for more coding programs for kids. My kids learned to code on free coding websites and apps before they even learned how to read fluently, so this request is right up my alley!
I remember the excitement I felt the very first time I was exposed to coding. I was in the sixth grade and my school taught us how to write very simple scripts in an Apple software program called HyperCard. This was before the World Wide Web even existed, back when we hiked 50 miles in snow to get to school each day… oh wait, no, that was my mom!
Our children are fortunate to have a plethora of fantastic, free coding websites and apps that teach kids programming skills. Before we begin, don’t forget to join our Facebook Group and follow us on Pinterest, so you won’t miss out on any of our educational fun for kids!
Why Every Child Should Learn to Code
Why should kids learn how to code? This is an important question to address before getting to the list of free coding websites and apps.
1. Coding teaches kids problem solving skills
Understanding how to code also gives kids an understanding of how computers work in general. They learn to think like engineers and use logic to solve problems.
2. Learning how to code expands creativity
There is a lot of experimentation involved in kids writing code. They often have to “think outside of the box” to create solutions. It is also a huge confidence boost when a child works on solving a problem, attempts to tackle it in multiple ways, and finally finds a solution.
3. Programming improves thinking skills
In order to write computer programs, you have to learn how to think differently. This is why coding develops your logical thinking skills. You gain an understanding of how to break a large problem down into smaller parts.
4. Coding is a fun way for kids to learn math
All of us would love for our kids to practice math outside of school, but getting kids excited to practice math is not always the easiest task. However, computer programming relies heavily on math skills. So your kids won’t even notice that they are practicing math, when they are having fun!
5. Computer coding is the future
In today’s world (and in the future), it is increasingly important that everyone learns how to read and write computer code. Gone are the days when only computer scientists write code. People who work in a variety of sectors (including health, technology or finance) may be expected to write, or at least understand, code and scripts.
Free Coding Websites for Kids
Now that we have established why your kids should learn how to code, how do we go about teaching them to write computer programs? The following is a list of free coding websites for kids of all levels. If you have other suggestions, please share them in a comment below!
MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, created this amazing, free coding platform for kids to learn computer science. Your child will use code blocks to create games, animations and interactive stories. You can even learn how to program Lego WeDo Robots and Tello drones that use Scratch!
Code.org is one of the most well-known and popular coding websites for kids. They have Hour of Code activities that can generally be done in around sixty minutes. Code.org has coding classes for Kindergarten through 5th grades, 6th though 12th grades and even higher education classes. Their coding lessons even have kid-friendly themes like Frozen’s Elsa and Anna, Star Wars and Minecraft.
Stencyl allows students to program entire video games with drag-and-drop code blocks (very similar to Scratch). There are computer coding lessons to teach kids about computer science as well. The games your kids create can even be published for free to the web, or to iPads, iPhones, Android devices, and both Mac and Windows computers for a fee (but this is not at all necessary!) There is even a certification program and exam that they offer, together with IAI (the Interactive Assessment Institute).
5. Code Monkey
Code Monkey contains over 200 free challenges to teach kids how to code, using a monkey that catches bananas. There is a paid version, if you want additional challenges, but 200 is a great start!
Free Coding Apps for Kids
Do you prefer for your child to learn how to code using an app, rather than a website? Here are some of my favorite (FREE!) kids coding apps available on Amazon, in Apple’s App Store and in Google’s Play Store.
1. Scratch Jr.
ScratchJr is a free coding app, aimed at kids who are five to seven years old. They will learn how to program games and interactive stories, using brightly colored programming blocks that snap together. They also have a kids introduction to computer programming book called The Official ScratchJr Book: Help Your Kids Learn to Code, and Coding Cards.
Lightbot (and Lightbot Jr for younger kids) is a coding app that teaches kids about recursive loops, conditionals, sequencing and procedures. You can access a free version as part of Lightbot’s Hour of Code here, but the apps have far more functionality and are worth every penny for their small price tag.
Cargo-Bot is a very simple kids coding app for kids who are six years old and up. There are 30 levels through which your child will learn the basic concepts of computer programming.
4. Daisy the Dinosaur
Daisy the Dinosaur is a free dinosaur coding app made by Hopscotch Technologies. It is only available on Apple devices though. The app is aimed at kids who are six to eight years old and they will create code using drag and drop blocks.
5. Swift Playgrounds
Swift Playgrounds is available only on Apple devices (iPhone / iPad), and is a platform for learning the Swift coding language. Your child will learn how to code loops, functions and conditional code, as well as learn how to use variables and debug issues.
Is Your Child Ready to Learn Computer Coding?
Absolutely! And then, after your kids create their computer programs… share their creations (if the website / app provides a shareable link) or post a photo / video of what they make on Facebook! Make sure to include a link to this website or to our Facebook Group and Facebook Page, so that we can see it too! I can’t wait to see the creative stories that everyone makes!