Coding for Kids [Updated 2021]

The Ultimate Guide for Parents in 2021

What is coding?

Coding is the method of giving a computer instructions to perform a specific task. You may also hear coding referred to as software programming or computer programming.

These instructions are communicated using a language that computers can understand, like visual blocks, JavaScript, Python, HTML, and CSS.

Code fuels our world’s technology, from microprocessors in everyday items like refrigerators and water heaters to sophisticated programs that operate our cars and buildings.

Learning to code has become an essential element of a child’s education and a great way for them to express their creativity.

Table of Contents

1. What is coding for kids?

Learning to code at a young age is a great opportunity for kids and teens to develop their problem-solving and critical thinking skills, while building the necessary focus and organization to see projects through to completion.

Coding usually begins with drag-and-drop visual programming in which kids connect blocks together to make programs. Visual programming teaches the fundamental concepts without typing or syntax by placing the focus on the logic behind the code.

Once they’ve learned the basics, kids can transition to real-world programming languages like Python, JavaScript, and C.

From online coding courses and games to offline learning, from in-person coding instruction to live online instruction, there are endless coding resources available.

The best coding platforms and programs give kids of all ages and experience levels the ability to code while making the process fun and engaging.

2. Why should kids learn to code?

As technology becomes more prevalent in our lives, coding is becoming a valuable if not necessary 21st century skill, revolutionizing every aspect of today’s world – think self-driving cars, robot-assisted surgery, social media, banking, the environment, and more.

Coding empowers kids of all ages to become makers of technology by tapping into their ability to bring their imagination to life.

Kids and teens who code excel at school in math and science, even reading, while developing a skill that will prepare them for future job opportunities.

3. Is it hard for kids to learn code?

With so many great services available, learning to code has never been easier! For example, Scratch and Tynker provide innovative visual coding languages that make coding fun.

Tynker’s award-winning platform captivates young coders because its story-driven strategy motivates them to complete more and more lessons to find out what happens next.

4. How do kids learn to code?

Kids of all ages – from pre-readers through high-schoolers – can learn to code. The same fundamental concepts such as sequencing, abstraction, repetition, conditional statements, loops, and functions can be introduced to kids of any age or experience level.

The range of coding education solutions spans far and wide! There are apps, websites, camps, live online classes, and personal tutors, so it’s important to choose the method that works best for your child.

Websites like Scratch have development environments, allowing kids to make amazing creations by learning from the community.

Kids who’d like more guidance can benefit from the structured and scaffolded coding curriculum offered by Tynker and Code.org. Those who prefer to learn with a tutor can learn to code at an after-school program at school, a Sylvan learning center, a summer camp, or live online.

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5. What are the best programming languages for kids?

There are many popular programming languages available to kids. Your child can select one based on their age and experience level. Visual programming languages are a great place to start!

We recommend kids begin to learn to code with a block coding language like those offered by Tynker and Scratch. Once they’ve learned the basics, they can transition to text-based coding. It should be noted that Tynker supports all coding languages.

Tynker’s Game-Based Courses Make Learning to Code Fun and Engaging!

6. Kids can learn to code apps and games

These days there’s an app for everything — including coding for kids — catering to both pre-readers and teenagers. Apps offer coding adventures and games to younger kids, as well as providing the opportunity for older kids to build their own apps and games.

  • Picture-based block coding apps (Ages 5-7) - Play coding games and challenges or build simple apps in Tynker Junior and ScratchJr.
  • Text-based block coding apps (Ages 8-11) - Download Hopscotch or Tynker from the app store and learn to code by creating apps, games, and projects with text-based coding blocks.
Explore Tynkers’ Award-Winning Coding Courses

7. Learning to code online

Enrolling in an online website that teaches code is an excellent starting point for independent learners. We recommend solutions focused on making learning to code fun and easy.

  • Game-based learning - Game-based platforms such as Tynker and the challenges on Code.org motivate kids to use code to complete game levels.
  • Independent learning with Scratch - Scratch from MIT is a great way of getting started with code. Although they don’t have courses, there’s a vibrant community to learn from.
  • Online courses - Enroll in a Python or JavaScript course on Codecademy or Tynker or learn to code with Processing on Khan Academy.
  • Build an app - Learn to build your own iOS app using Swift. Start with these Swift resources and get the Swift Playgrounds app by Apple.
  • Use a book - Learn by following along with books like Mission Python, Super Scratch Programming Adventure, or Coding with Minecraft.
  • Code with toys - You can learn to code with toys such as a Parrot Mambo Drone, LEGO Mindstorms, or the Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit.
    • At Tynker, your child can Learn to code with a drone! Tynker and Parrot have joined forces to teach kids Computer Science fundamentals through hands-on experimentation.

8. Where can my child learn to code with an instructor?

If you prefer live instruction for your child, explore camp and tutoring options. Some schools offer opportunities for elementary and middle-schoolers to learn to code through in-class instruction or after-school coding classes.

  • Schools - Take advantage of your school’s coding programs. It’s a great way to get kids involved in computer science and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) at a young age.
  • Tutoring Centers - Enroll your child in an after-school coding class at your school or nearest Sylvan learning center.
  • Camps - Participate in a summer camp such as IDTech, Camp Galileo, or a Tynker CodeMaker Camp.
  • Tutoring Services - Hire a personal tutor from services such as Wyzant or Juni Learning.

9. Can my child learn code with an instructor online?

Definitely. iD Tech has year-round online tutoring to help create a completely personalized project—all from the comfort of home.

And Galileo offers online Break Camps. Whether you have a free day or week, their programs are ready to inspire your Pre-K - 8th grade innovator to imagine big ideas and turn them into reality.

Tynker also has live online classes to accelerate your child’s progress from a beginner to an advanced level coder.

And, for children who are already coding, Tynker has intermediate and advanced courses in real-world text languages like Python and JavaScript. Check out Tynker’s courses here:

  • Game Design Track [3 Courses]: Perfect for ages 7+ who love to play video games. Courses start with simple block coding games and progress through more advanced game design, including augmented reality. New coders should start with Intro Game Design.
  • Creative Coding Track [4 Courses]: This set of courses is great for ages 7+ who love music, art, and animation and are ready to code their own. Courses cover a vast selection of creativity and progress each week to more advanced code.
  • Intro to Programming Track [3 Courses]: This is a fun course to learn the fundamentals of programming while immersed in a virtual game-like environment. Students will learn all the key coding concepts as they advance each week. New coders should start with Intro to Programming.
  • Minecraft Modding Track [4 Courses]: If they love Minecraft, they’ll love this track! Minecraft for JavaScript is required. They can mod Minecraft and advance their creativity each week. More advanced coders can start with Minecraft Game Studio.
  • Advanced Coding Track [4 Courses]: Students ages 12+ who have coding experience can really expand their knowledge with text coding language courses in JavaScript and Python Game Design.

10. What offline resources can help my child learn to code?

Kids can learn computing concepts without a computer or tablet. Hands-on activities using crayons, playing cards, and board games are excellent options to teach coding to kids.

  • Unplugged learning - Activities found via CS Unplugged teach kids computing concepts offline.
  • Board games - Preschoolers can learn to code using fun board games such as Robot Turtles!

11. My child is more artistic. What can coding do for them?

With Scratch, your child can create animations and they can use Code.org for drawing projects.

Whether they're interested in art, animation, character creation, story-telling, or even music, Tynker has powerful creativity tools:

  • The Animation Tool: Does your child love writing stories and drawing characters? Well, now they can make their projects even better by creating their own animated artwork using still images called frames to create movement.
  • The Onion Skin Tool: Drawing your own animation by hand? You can use the Onion Skin tool to show how nearby frames of animation look. This tool is like digital tracing paper!
  • The Pen Blocks: Did you know that you can use Tynker to create colorful, original drawings with just a handful of code blocks using Tynker’s Pen.
  • The Sound Blocks: Play music with code! Add custom sound effects, too. Tynker’s brand new music tool supports MIDI and MP3. Choose from over 100 new instruments with slick new interface keys. Then set the tempo in beats-per-minute with the all-new set tempo block. Plus, you can add pedal effects like Echo, Distortion, and Reverb.

Tynker also has interest-based learning paths. Your child can select a programming level and course track from their dashboard to match their activities and interests. Currently, kids and teens can choose from 6 amazing tracks, including Art & Music and Game Design.

  • Art & Music: Perfect for art and music lovers, this track offers a creative way to pursue interests in art, drawing, storytelling, animation, and music while reinforcing problem-solving, critical thinking, and STEM skills. In this track, coders will:
    • Design animated characters
    • Experiment with geometric math art
    • Learn to compose music with code
    • Create animated birthday cards and comics
    • Recreate popular physics-based games
  • Game Design: Coders learn what it takes to make their own video game worlds as they play immersive adventures, layout 2D game worlds, design heroes and villains, program motion, music, and game controls. In this track, they’ll:
    • Build their own versions of classic arcade games
    • Harness physics to simulate bouncing balls and realistic jumps
    • Handle user input using touch, mouse and keyboard events
    • Program fluid motion along x- and y-axes
    • Keep score using variables and lists

12. How can learning to code benefit my child?

Learning to code has endless benefits! From developing your child’s soft skills and academic skills to preparing them for future job opportunities, the ability to code will transform your child from consumer to creator.

Coding increases kids’ ability to focus on tasks for long periods of time and see projects through to completion while developing their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Coding is the blueprint to the 21st century. Whether making the next big video game, designing a life-saving app, or developing a formula to recycle plastic, coding is a catalyst to having a positive impact on the world through technology.

And, thanks to the growing awareness of the importance of learning to code, kids have plenty of options to choose from. Just find the best solution for your child and get them coding!

13. Do any coding companies have an in-depth standards curriculum for high school students?

Code.org has a year-long course in Computer Science Principles that introduces students to the foundational concepts of computer science and challenges them to explore how computing and technology can impact the world.

Tynker has courses that align with subject standards like CCSS-ELA, CCSS-Math, NGSS and CS standards such as CSTA, ISTE, CA CS, UK National Curriculum, and several state-level standards like TEKS.

Additionally, Tynker’s AP courses align with AP Curriculum Framework Standards: AP Computer Science Principles Curriculum Framework 2020-2021 and AP Computer Science A Course and Exam Description, Effective 2020.

Tynker AP Courses:

  • AP Computer Science A (grades 9+) - This is Tynker’s year-long course designed to introduce students to the Java programming language and prepare them for the AP CS A Exam.
    • AP Computer Science A is an introductory college-level course taught in Java, a programming language for professional programmers. Tynker recommends that any academically prepared student take this introductory programming course. The only prerequisite is Algebra 1.
  • AP Computer Science Principles (grades 9+) - An advanced year-long high school course designed to introduce students to the central ideas of computer science and prepare them for the AP CS Principles Exam.
    • This course aligns with the College Board’s new 2020 Computer Science Principles framework covering Creative Development, Data, Computing Systems and Networks, Algorithms and Programming, and Computing's Impact on Society.
Click here to get your child on the fast track with a coding education from Tynker!