10 Online Coding Resources for Kids

by Tim Whitaker

I distinctly remember as a child having my parents chasing me away from technology in the early 80's.  Computer use, video games in particular, was considered a waste of time.  I would literally sit for hours programming a video game from code published in a magazine, only to


I distinctly remember as a child having my parents chasing me away from technology in the early 80's. Computer use, video games in particular, was considered a waste of time. I would literally sit for hours programming a video game from code published in a magazine, only to have the power blink that resulted in losing all my code because computers were all RAM back then and storage devices (e.g. tape drives, floppy drives, etc.) were unaffordable in the early days.


Over 35 years later, things have changed dramatically. Technology has not only become an everyday part of life, but having the skills to navigate and manipulate technology are becoming increasingly more important each day. As an entrepreneur by day, and a coder by night, I often encounter other parents who express their interest in embracing their child's passion for technology, but don't know where to start as it can be an intimidating space. Parents often feel paralyzed when their child knows as much if not more than them. Equally as challenging is the sheer number of learning options available when looking online or locally. Where does one begin? What resources are paid vs. free? Do I need special software? What is the right resource by age?


Good news! We are here to help make this transition easier. Unlike days of old when coding meant staring at text on a green screen, today there are many platforms that teach children the basics of coding through video games where they are learning and having fun at the same time.


Below, we will address each of the following categories and explain to you what is (or is not) needed for each. We will also identify what resources are appropriate for what age ranges:


Younger ages generally focus on visual games that children find fun while also teaching them coding concepts. As children get older, they will move into more traditional coding and more advanced software.


Online Resources (sorted by appropriate minimum age):

  1. Code.org
    • Ages: 4+
    • Summary: Code.org is a great place to start with children as they have a few different areas where kids can learn, along with partnerships with your child's favorite Disney characters. Two particular areas are the "Hour of Code" series and "Code Studio." In both of these, your child can watch short videos and then proceed to play the games that teach them coding concepts.
    • Cost: FREE
    • Parental Investment: Code.org is a site for all ages, and although they have a lot to do for younger children, you will likely have to help your child navigate the menu structure to get going. Computer with an internet connection is required.

  2. Lightbot
    • Ages: 5+
    • Summary: Lightbot is a free flash game (also available for mobile) that asks the student to make a robot move, light up squares, and solve puzzles. There is no actually coding in this game, however it reinforces coding principles such as loops. This is a very simple game to get started with, but can be difficult at higher levels.
    • Cost: FREE
    • Parental Investment: Minimal, computer with internet access.

  3. Scratch
    • Ages: 8+
    • Summary: Scratch was developed by MIT as a visual programming application. Student drag and drop blocks to create games. Games can go from super simple to very advanced. They can even play other people's games and share their development with others.
    • Cost: FREE
    • Parental Investment: Minimal, computer with internet access.

  4. Stencyl
    • Ages: 8+
    • Summary: Stencyl is similar to Scratch in the way you program (drag and drop blocks) however can get much more advanced. Stencyl's free version allows students to publish games to the web. They also offer paid options is students get serious about publishing game to desktop or mobile.
    • Cost: Web version is free. Publishing to desktop or making mobile apps cost up to $199 per year.
    • Parental Investment: Stencyl requires you download a program to your local computer. Although it is not hard, parents may need to manage that process for younger children.

  5. Code Academy
    • Ages: 10+
    • Summary: Code Academy is a great place to learn the more formal concept of programming. They don't really use games to learn, so this is more text based window where children can see the results of their code on screen with no special software required. For kids with a passion to work as coders and developers, this is a good place to start.
    • Cost: FREE basic lessons. If you want to take intermediate and advanced courses they can cost $30+ per
    • Parental Investment: Computer with internet connection, will have to create a free account to use the site.

  6. Code Avengers
    • Ages: 10+
    • Summary: Code Avengers is a great place to learn the more formal concept of programming while also having fun. They use text based screen where your child can create a game, an app, or various other projects. Their main focus is around tons of courses that go from basic to advanced. I recommend starting children with Python or Javascript.
    • Cost: FREE 7-day trial. $29 per month per month ongoing.
    • Parental Investment: Computer with internet connection, will have to create a free account to use the site.

  7. Code Combat
    • Ages: 10+
    • Summary: Code Combat takes a very unique approach to programming as children play an adventure game. The way they move their character, fight, and interact with the game environment requires they code their way through the game in a screen on the right side. At the beginning, you can choose Python, Javascript, etc. to play the game. Kids can be up and playing in a matter of seconds as playing the game requires no login.
    • Cost: Free to play. More advanced courses require registration.
    • Parental Investment: Minimal, computer with internet access.

  8. Khan Academy
    • Ages: 10+ (for coding - although Kahn Academy can be used by young children for other subjects).
    • Summary: Khan Academy is one of the most amazing stories. What started with one man tutoring his niece online, has tranformed into a massive non-profit organization backed by some of the biggest business names in the world. If you haven't seen Mr. Khan's original TED Speech, I highly recommend it as he presents a very different teaching curriculm than our current schools use. Although Khan originally focused on traditional educational subjects, they now cover a wide variety of topics from pre-k through college. Khan now has a robust programming curriculm. Khan's coding classes consist of their standard videos and challenges that have a split screen so you the student can code on one side and see the results on the other.
    • Cost: FREE
    • Parental Investment: Moderate, need a computer with internet access and will need to register (so will need a valid email address). Parents can setup accounts for their children so they can monitor their progress.

  9. Tech Rocket
    • Ages: 10+
    • Summary: Tech Rocket is a hybrid site, where students can learn code but can also take gaming design courses that address other software (specifically Minecraft mods, Unity games, and Stencyl games).
    • Cost: Free for 5 basic courses. After that, $20-30 per month.
    • Parental Investment: Moderate, computer with internet access and sign-in which requires a valid email.

  10. Unity
    • Ages: 14+
    • Summary: Short of coding a game from a blank file, Unity is the next best option. There are numerous large and commercialized games making millions that developed using Unity. Unity is a game engine where students can customize pre-developed modules to create their own games. A solid grasp of coding knowledge will be required to excel. However, for most teenagers who love gaming and love coding, this will be their utopian software platform.
    • Cost: Free to do the basics. $35 per month and up for advanced game development and publishing.
    • Parental Investment: If you child is on the younger side, parental involvement can be substantial. At this age however, most kids that would pursue Unity to create games should be proficient with computers and have their own email.

For a full list of places to learn coding, including local establishments and camps around Northwest Arkansas, please visit our directory that is being updated daily.


Tim Whitaker is a retail executive, entreprenuer, and managing partner of Firefly Marketing. He has been coding since the 1980's and is current CEO of Firefly Marketing (the creators of www.supplierlife.com & www.familylifenwa.com)



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