8 February, 2022
We all know how kids are. Every week the latest trend takes their world by storm – whether it’s a game, an app, or a TikTok dance – and they want to join in. Kids love to try something new and fun, and their learning experience is certainly more successful when it involves interactive and exciting activities. Luckily, coding for kids is continually evolving – and we’re not just talking about the coolest new app or robot toy! From hands-on science experiments to Artificial Intelligence gaming, what are some coding activities for kids that will catch their attention, awaken their creativity, and teach them to program?
Machine learning and AI are present in all of our everyday lives. If your kids use any form of social media or streaming service, then they’ll have come across the machine learning algorithms that know which photos or videos to suggest next. How else do the companies make their platforms so addictive? Kids who love playing videogames will have encountered Artificial Intelligence, which powers the nonplayer characters (NPCs or ‘bots’) and makes the gaming experience much more thrilling. While it might seem complex, AI and machine learning can be introduced to kids aged 8 and older. With knowledge of introductory concepts like augmented reality, simulated learning and functions, and AI behaviors, kids can build interactive games in coding classes!
No matter how fun on-screen activities are, some kids need a more hands-on learning experience to keep them engaged. micro:bit is perfect for them. This pocket-sized computer was developed by the BBC to teach kids how software and hardware interact, and introduce them to coding. Code for micro:bit can be written on block- or text-based platforms (like Microsoft MakeCode or Python), making this a suitable activity even for 5-year-olds. Kids can code and enjoy interactive experiments and games that make the most micro:bit’s wealth of features – including LEDs, buttons, speaker, microphone, accelerometer, magnetometer, Bluetooth and more!
Kids who love multiplayer gaming will undoubtedly have heard of Roblox. It is one of the world’s biggest social gaming platforms, where over 160 million monthly players can enjoy millions of games programmed by members of the Roblox community. Roblox is great for kids because it isn’t just about playing, but also about creating. From the age of 6, kids can start building game worlds: first they learn how to use the tools on Roblox Studio and familiarize themselves with the environment, before building their own 3D game universe. Older kids aged 9 and over can take this to the next level: they can learn the Lua programming language that is the backbone of Roblox, design characters and animations to fill their game world, and challenge themselves to program a whole game. Once their project is complete, they can publish it and share it with friends!
Another of the most popular games is Minecraft. It is a sandbox game where kids mine for blocks, then build and craft to their heart’s content. Minecraft’s appeal lies in its sheer possibilities –kids can recreate entire cities, fight fantasy monsters, or simply build a little farm and fill it with animals. If your child loves Minecraft and is interested in coding, then they’re in luck: the fabric of the game itself can be modified. ‘Modding’ in Minecraft involves learning the text-based programming language Java to edit the game’s source code and transform Minecraft’s retro game world. Mods can be as simple or challenging as they like, from changing the color of the sky to coding characters and minigames. Modding in Java is suitable for older kids and teenagers, but younger children aged 6+ can also learn to build and design on Minecraft.
If your kids are more into 2D arcade-style games, then Pygame could be the ideal coding platform for them. It is a beginner-friendly game development platform based on the Python language and is a fun way for kids to familiarize themselves with this powerful, professional-level language. Kids can write their own game code or turn to the Python Package Index to find source code created by more advanced game developers. They can fully customize their creations with mp3 files and images, and choose to play with arrow keys, mouse, or even a joystick like in a real arcade! Once they’ve become familiar with the Python language, they can carry on with game development or go on to code websites and apps instead.
As you can see, coding for kids encompasses a wealth of fun activities – children of all ages can learn to code in the most exciting way possible. If any of these ideas sounds like something your kid would enjoy, then make sure to check out Code Advantage’s online classes and after school programs!
Photos by Thomas Park, Bermix Studio and Annie Spratt on Unsplash