By Lisa B MommyPoppins
Free Coding Programs and Websites for Kids
Code.org: This nonprofit foundation's website is an excellent starting point for coding novices. It shares plenty of useful online resources, apps, and even local schools that teach coding. The creator behind the Hour of Code movement that has led many tech companies to create free tutorials and basic programs accessible to all, Code.org's own Hour of Code page for kids includes dozens of grade-level-based coding games, from Moana to Minecraft. What's especially nice is how many activity options are accessible offline for kids with spotty internet.
Code Monster: Particularly useful to quickly demonstrate the very basic nature of what code is and how it works, Code Monster presents visitors with two adjacent boxes. One displays code, the other shows what the code does. As you play with the code (with some help from a prompt, and maybe a parent to begin with), you learn what each command does. if you have an older kid or 'tween who gets the basics, try Code Maven, a sister site.
Scratch: Designed by MIT students and aimed at children ages 8 to 16, this easy-to-use programming language that is the foundation of many schools' coding programs lets kids build almost anything they can dream. There are no obscure lines of code here. Instead, arrange and snap together Scratch blocks as if they are virtual Lego (all with the help of a cheeky cat). It's more than just a coding guide; it's a vibrant online community of programmers who swap ideas and inspiration.
mBlock: Based on Scratch and its "building block" approach to code, mBlock offers a step up for older kids who want to learn Python, AI, and other skills, too. For kids who learn best by playing games, the platform is available for free on mobile apps, too.
Khan Academy: Known for its extensive and challenging math games, Khan Academy also has basic programming tutorials that teach kids how to build graphics, animations, interactive visualizations, and more. Its Hour of Code section is guided by an interactive video that guides users through a process of making a simple snowman, and links out to more advanced projects from there.
Swift Playgrounds: Designed by Apple for the iPad, Swift Playgrounds is a much more sophisticated-looking (but still simple to learn) version of Code Combat (see below), with the added benefit of being free. Best for ages 4 and up, Swift prompts kids to solve interactive puzzles in the guided "Learn to Code" lessons to master the basics of coding. Children can go on to experiment with a wide range of challenges that let users explore many unique coding lessons and experiences. It requires a Mac with an OS of 10.15.4 or higher, or an iPad with an OS of 13.4 or higher.
Learn to Code Apps for Phones and Tablets
In addition to the computer coding programs above, there are tons of great mobile apps if you're looking to teach your kids to code on the go. This is just a short list of coding apps for phones and tablets that have gotten thumbs-ups from parents; more are being released all the time.
Code the Robot. Save the Cat
Code Masters Wonderwood
Daisy the Dinosaur