Learning computer programming, also called coding, is becoming increasingly easy and also fun for kids and parents alike with more and more websites and apps offering opportunities to code. Coding has many benefits, including developing problem-solving and critical-thinking skills in kids, as well as helping them understand how the technology they enjoy is created. It empowers them to become creators as well.
Hour of Code is the event organized by Code.org, a non-profit dedicated to expanding participation in computer science, with the goal of having millions of students to try coding for an hour during December 8-14, 2014. Not coincidentally, that’s also Computer Science Education Week.
If you’re up for participating, here are some great coding websites and resources for kids. Not only are they kid-friendly, they are also parent-who-is-rather-tech-adverse-and-has-never-coded-in-her-life-friendly, too.
Code the Holidays
Code the Holidays, from Made with Code, allows users to light up a tree outside the White House in real life. One goal of the site is for kids to “discover how beautiful code can be.”
Other fun options on the site include coding a snowflake which allows users to animate out of different patterns. options like animating a yeti and tweens will love the accessorizer that allows them to style a selfie.
Made with Code says it inspires girls to pursue their dreams with code, but it seems quite unisex to me and would be a great way to involve family members of both genders in the coding fun. There is a section on mentors that has features on female coders and explains the myriad of ways people are using coding in their lives.
Code with Elsa and Anna
Code.org is a pretty smart group. It’s not rocket science that the movie Frozen is hugely popular and the organization is harnessing the power of Elsa and Anna to motivate kids to code learn the basics of coding while creating a winter wonderland. Code with Elsa and Anna is aimed at kids 8 and older, so its perfect for the tween set. It breaks the hour down into 20 puzzles, and the ruler of Arendelle offers hearty congratulations after completion of each.
If you’re Frozen-averse, however, fear not, there’s an Angry Birds option here.
My tween surprised me by being really pleased with the certificate of completion at the end. The option to print out several different designs they created was also a great way to show them that they can create something tangible. I sat with my tween as she did this. I could see practically hear the wheels in her mind turning and that hour flew by.
Khan Academy Hour of Code
If your tween is ready for something a bit more advanced, Khan Academy is also getting in on Hour of Code with four different options. For kids 8 and older, they offer a Blockly, a drag and drop program that is also what Code for the Holidays and Code.org use, as well as an hour of webpages using HTML.
This free app uses Blockly for fun coding activities and has a special Hour of Code Edition that includes chances to make food fight dodgeball, make a dancing turkey or make a fire-breathing monster. Who doesn’t want the power to make those things happen? Beginners can watch tutorial videos and code at the same time, which is helpful.
Kids can view programs created by other kids in or upload their own programs to the community but are told not to use their real names when doing so.
Thinkersmith’s Unplugged Hour of Code Activity
Your child may be surprised that you can program without being plugged in. The Thinkersmith’s My Robotic Friends exercise let you do just that and give instructions to a robot stacking cups using just arrows. You can find the lesson plan for it here.
Common Sense Media has a section on coding websites for kids of all ages, including ones that skew towards kids as young as 6, and some good coding apps here.
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