It is actually pretty crazy the amount of stuff that is available to teach kids ages 5- 9 to program (or to code if you prefer) once you really start to look. Since the topic is a little vast, we are going to try to break it down for you by finding the best languages for kids, fun websites, books, and interesting apps that will all help kids learn how to program.
*If you are looking for resources to help kids ages 10+ learn to code check out our post on programming for older kids.
For a Fun and Easy Intro to Coding try these Kid Friendly Platforms:
Kodu (ages 7 +) lets kids create games on the PC and XBox using a simple visual programming language. Young children who have no design or programming skills can use Kodu to make games. Before you get started make sure you watch the introductory videos and also check out the in game tutorials by going to ‘Lessons’ and start with the first tutorial and follow the prompts. There is also this official guide to Kodu that can help your kids work through site.
Scratch (ages 8+) is a programming language that makes it easy for kids to create their own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art and then share what they have made on the web. It was created by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT. The site has a great Getting Started pdf and also some video tutorials you can check out before you get going or check out this really good book to help your kids work through the site.
Robomind is a simple programming language designed to help kids learn the basics of computer science by programming their own robot. This gives kids an introduction to programming techniques, and helps them learn about logic and robotics.
Books to help Kids Learn Programming
Hello World! Computer Programming for Kids and Other Beginners is a great book to help teach kids how to program. This book introduces the basics of computer programming through Python, it is good for ages 9 +. This is probably the most popular and most recommended book for teaching kids to program. There are lots of great reviews around for it and it is highly recommended.
The next book we would recommend is a fiction story book called Lauren Ipsum that was written by an engineer who works for Facebook. It is a fairy tale that seeks to introduce children ages 5-12 to the concepts of computer science.
Apps that Teach Kids Programming
- Move the Turtle. Programming for kids (ages 8+) teaches children the basics of programming including the notions of loops, procedures, variables and conditional instructions. Wired’s GeekDad reviewed this app and said of it “Move the Turtle is a bargain at $2.99, and is a great introduction to programming for kids (and adults who like turtles). I highly recommend it for all kids, whether or not they want to get into programming. The kind of thinking required to solve the tasks in the app is important for everyone to learn, for every field of study.”
- Daisy the Dinosaur (ages 5-9) is a free iPad app that teaches the basics of computer programming like basics of objects, sequencing, loops and events.
- Kodable is a free educational iPad game offering a kid-friendly introduction to programming concepts and problem solving. For kids ages 5 and up.
- Cato’s Hike: A Programming and Logic Odyssey wants to teach kids and young children basic programming skills. The younger ones will obviously enjoy solving levels using simpler coding techniques but the hope is the older ones will pick up more advanced concepts like loops and branching as well as even more advanced concepts like a basic stack or memory.
photo credit: t0msk via photopin cc
You have probably seen lots of news stories about kids who are as young as seven developing iPhone and Android apps, and maybe you started wondering, “Why isn’t my kid doing that”? Unfortunately, it’s not necessarily an easy thing to make an app.
While it is super awesome if kids are interested in actually creating technology and not just playing with it, before we get going we’d like to give a little warning about how much work it actually takes to make an app. If you look closely at the stories of kids who are developing games and applications there is usually a programmer parent or at minimum, a parent who is involved in IT in some way. The kids who are doing this are generally kids who have been introduced to computer programming at an early age; so while, yes, it is possible for kids to make apps, in all likelihood if your kids are super keen to create their own programs and games they will need someone (parent, teacher, relative) who can help them with some of the more difficult parts of creating something (especially if they want to do it from scratch or are using a third-party platform).
Anyway, since there are kids out there who have done it, we thought we’d have a bit of a look to see what resources are out there that can give children some guidance.
Where to Start
There are three ways to go here, depending on what your kids know and what kind of application they are trying to create:
- If your kids have no computer programming knowledge and have no interest in trying to learn any programming, but they still want to make something cool, then they should probably start off with an app creation tool.
- If your kids know some programming and are motivated and open to learning more, then they would most likely be best trying a third-party platform.
- If your kids are really good programmers, super motivated to learn new stuff and are not afraid of a challenge, then they just might be able to create something from scratch.
Let’s start with the easy stuff first.
How Kids Can Make an App With Little or no Programming Knowledge
If your kids don’t want to learn to program, then they are going to need to find an app creation tool (aka app creator, app maker, app builder, or brochureware) that can help them make the type of product that they want. An app creation tool is basically a program or a type of software that allows non-programmers to easily create software with programming features. They are usually quite easy to use, and you can get something created quickly.
Some of the things to keep in mind if your kids are using an app creation tool: they won’t have the kind of control over the app that they would if they were building from scratch, they won’t be able to produce complex features or design, and the app may not run as quickly or as smoothly on slower devices or older phones.
There are lots of authoring tools to choose from (many more not included in this list). The following all claim to allow their users to create apps without writing any code.
- Game Salad is an app creator that lets non-programmers develop games for iPhone and Android devices using drag and drop features.
- AppMakr is a DIY platform to create content-based apps for iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone with no programming.
- Gamemaker allows you to create many types of computer games without the need to write a single line of code. It allows users to make the game in Gamemaker and then redistribute on multiple platforms including iOS and Android.
- Stencyl helps you create iOS and Flash 2D games quickly with or without coding.
- Construct2 allows users to build 2D games without any coding that is then exported or converted to iOS or Android.
- App Inventor for Android helps kids or adults create mobile applications for Android-powered devices without writing any code.
- Buzztouch allows anyone to create an iPhone app in a few minutes without special knowledge or software. These are mostly aimed at small business owners, but if kids want to create a non-game based application, they can give it a try.
- iBuildApp is a site that lets you make iPhone, iPad, Android, or HTML5 mobile apps for free.
Search on YouTube for tutorials for the app creation tool your kids might want to use. There are lots of video resources for each of the sites.
If your kids are non-programmers but are interested in learning a bit more about the whole mobile applications process, check out Book 1: Diving In – iOS App Development for Non-Programmers Series.
How to Teach Kids who have Some Programming Skills to Build Apps
If your kids have a fair amount of programming knowledge but aren’t hard-core programmers, there are several third-party platforms or frameworks that are an excellent option for kids to try out if they are trying to create something new. Most of the kids who have created apps have used these platforms in one way or another. Your kids won’t have the kind of control that they would if they were building from scratch, but realistically they are the best option for kids.
Some of the Third Party Platforms to consider:
- Corona SDK is a mobile 2d game development framework that uses Lua as its programming language. Lua is considered by many programmers to be an easy programming language to learn and in some cases ideal for kids to use. Here is a great list of tutorials on how to use Corona.
- Unity 3d helps its users create interactive 3D games that can be converted to different platforms. Unity 3D would be a good choice for a kid who is very advanced with programming but not wanting to build a game from scratch. Have a look at tutorials to help get started.
There are a number of really good online tutorials that can be helpful if kids are looking to improve their coding skills. Try Code Academy, or Code School HTML/CSS.
How to Help Kids Make an iOS app From Scratch
We would not recommend kids actually trying to create a mobile application from scratch since it is pretty hard for even seasoned programmers, but who knows what some kids might be able to accomplish, so we thought why not put in some info just in case.
There isn’t much point in us trying to explain exactly how to make an app from scratch since it is such a big undertaking. There are lots of sites that can give you much better information on that than we can. Instead, here are some things to consider if your kids really want to develop something from scratch:
- They need to have a good understanding of Object-Oriented Programming (OOP); knowledge of a programming language like Java or C++ is highly recommended.
- They will need a Mac computer.
- They will have to pay to join Apple’s iOS developer program before you can submit an app to the App Store.
- They will need to download XCode Apple’s Software Development Kit (this is free).
- They will need to learn the Cocoa framework, which is an Apple-specific development environment.
- They will need to learn Objective C
Learning to use xCode, Cocoa, and Objective C is not easy, luckily there are a lot of resources kids can reference to try and get going.
How Kids Can Make an Android App from Scratch
Points to keep in mind before beginning to program for Android devices:
- As with IOS programming, your child or student should have a strong programming background; knowledge of a programming language such as C++, Java, or PHP is highly recommended.
- They can use a Windows, Mac, or Linux computer.
- They will need to download the Android software development kit (free).
- They will need to learn Java.
Hopefully, if your kids are curious about making apps, you were able to find something here. If you have any thoughts on kids doing app development or any tips for kids, please leave a comment.
Read More: Simple Electronics and Circuitry for Kids
Not surprisingly, there is no shortage of resources to teach HTML online. What is a little harder to find are resources to teach kids HTML (and CSS) that are simple and appealing. Since it is a relatively easy thing to learn and a good way to get kids interested in programming in general, we’ve found some really great websites, books and a few free online games that are perfect for teaching kids will get them building websites in no time at all.
Best Websites to Help Teach Kids HTML
There are lots of great websites available that are perfect for beginners; the hard part is narrowing it down. Some of the following sites have really good video lessons and tutorials that are okay for kids (younger kids will probably need parental assistance going through the material on these sites).
- IPL2 for Kids has some easy and fun lessons to teach your kids HTML. This would be a good place to start as it talks about what HTML is and what are the rules, lots of stuff about different tags, how to link, CSS, and more.
- Learning HTML for Kids has 12 easy lessons designed specifically for kids ages 10 and up. It is a step by step tutorial that is very well done.
- HTML Goodies has another set of tutorials that is a great place to start. It goes into much more detail than Learning HTML for Kids but the information is laid out very clearly and this is a great resource.
- Another option is Code School. Code School is an online learning platform that teaches a variety of programming and web design skills. Courses range from beginner to advanced levels and you get to earn rewards and badges as you learn. The courses use screencasts and interactive exercises and each course has at least five levels.
- Code Pupil has an interactive HTML tutorial that is free and easy to do. You do a few lessons and then watch a video and are then asked to do another bit of code. It’s pretty good but if a younger child is doing this tutorial they will probably need a bit of adult guidance.
- Code Academy (not to be confused with Code School or Code Pupil) is a very cool site that lets you learn coding interactively along with other people. It is very easy to get going on it and it is super fun as well.
- W3Schools is a very good HTML resource. It’s simple it looks good and is very clear and easy to use.
HTML Books for Kids
There are a number of books that are aimed at kids to help them make websites, but the ones that we found are a bit old and out of date. If you do want to get an HTML book we think your best bet would be to get a general beginner HTML book that you can work through with your kids. There are lots of choices as far as HTML books go and a lot of them have great reviews, but you want to get something that is geared to the beginner where the writing style isn’t too confusing for kids. The books that we have gone through the reviews of and had a look at ourselves and think would be a great choice for kids are:
Free HTML Games
We found a couple of online games around to help teach kids a bit of HTML. If you know of any others let us know and we would love to add them to our list.