5 FREE Tools to Help Kids Learn to Code

Knowing how to code computer software is rapidly becoming a basic skill for the workforce. It will give you more opportunities and increase your salary. Even outside of traditional IT roles, coding is in demand. Even so, many schools do not offer comprehensive coding classes, meaning many students will not be fully prepared to take advantage of the new, emerging workforce need.

The good news is that there are plenty of free online resources your child can use to learn how to code. I have a sampling of five different resources (several of which I regularly use to brush up on my skills) which target different age groups of kids.

We will start with resources for elementary students and work our way up to college level.

1. CodeMonkey

CodeMonkey is a fun way to introduce young children to basic coding. The concept is pretty simple. You give instructions to a monkey to navigate him to a banana. There are many levels and challenges that you must pass. Each level introduces a new concept and requires creativity in coding. CodeMoney is based in CoffeeScript, so the language is a real-world example of coding. There is a paid versions that get you access to more levels, but the free levels should be able to give your child a taste of what coding is like. According to CodeMonkey, their software is designed for ages 9 and up, but many users are younger than 9.

Next is individual or group learning from Google.

2. Google’s CS First

Google has developed tools and resources to help kids learn called Computer Science First, or just Google CS First. They’ve targeted their material for 4th to 8th graders. Here you can take multiple paths to learn coding and computer science material including such topic areas as Storytelling, Art, Fashion & Design, Social Media, and Game Design. Each activity has easy to follow educational videos and a space to code. CS First uses primarily the programming language Scratch. Google encourages these courses to be done in groups such as with a computer science club or a classroom, however being in a group is not required. Teachers can also find full curriculum materials to help teach their students technology and coding.

Want something a bit more formal for a professional setting? Try the next resource.

3. Codecademy

Codecademy provides educational resources targeting individuals who want to add coding as a career skill. This is a great place for high schoolers and adults (yes this is also a great resource for you too!). Here you will learn skills that employers will expect to see on a resume. This include basic HTML & CSS, AngularJS, Git, SQL, Java, jQuery, APIs, and PHP. Courses have step-by-step instructions and are meant to be taken individually at your own pace. Each course is broken down into units which include tests to measure your skills. Codecademy will have you writing a lot of functioning code in real-life environments.

Next: Use the tool real developers use themselves.

4. W3Schools


W3Schools’ “Try It Yourself” coding simulator.

W3Schools contains a number of self-guided lessons on different aspects of coding. This is the site I first used when I taught myself coding in my college years. You will find key concepts such as HTML, JavaScript, and ASP.NET. You can also learn about other tools for web development such as web statistics, Google Maps, and HTML graphics. W3Schools is organized more like a book, with linear chapters that include “Try it Yourself” portions. W3Schools is also a great resource for looking up specific functions. I know a lot of professional web developers who use W3Schools as a “coding encyclopedia” of sorts.

Finally, actual college courses for learning to code.

5. MIT OpenCourseWare

Want to take a real college course from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology? Well, you can—just not for credit…and you won’t have professor who gives you a grade. MIT, like many other major universities, has opened up its courses to the wider public. You will be able to follow through the course with the actual syllabus, readings, exams and other course material. Some of the courses even have audio or video of the actual lectures. If you have high schoolers who want to get ahead of their upcoming college coursework, give them a leg up on their peers and have them do a course or two from MIT.

There are many more free online tools to learn how to code, everything from classes to games. If you want your children to have a good background in IT and programming languages, there is no time like today to get them started. Once they are out in the workforce and get their first paycheck, they will no doubt thank you.