Tynker have release Minecraft modding courses that allow kids to create mods and deploy them on a Tynker Minecraft server. Mods are customizations and extensions to Minecraft that change the way it looks and behaves. Kids who love Minecraft will know what this means!
My kids, aged 7 and 9, tried it out. They are definitely Minecraft fanatics and watch videos where they have learned about modding. We install mods written by other people and my older son has tried a few things for creating mods. They love the idea of creating their own mods.
How it Works
Tynker have created a block-based editor that allows kids to create Minecraft mods. The editor will feel familiar to kids who have tried any of Tynker's other courses.
There are step-by-step tutorials for doing things like making a trail of flowers when you walk or creating flaming arrows. Once kids have the idea they can create their own mods using the editor.
When kids have made a mod they can deploy it to their Tynker Minecraft server. This gets linked to their Minecraft account (they must have a desktop Minecraft license) and then they can connect to the server to play.
There's a free version which limits server time to 60 minutes. With a paid Tynker subscription kids get 480 minutes of server time per month, more Minecraft course material and access to Tynkers other (non-Minecraft) coding courses.
Access to the coding tools isn't time-limited. It's just the server time to test them and use them.
Kids can even invite others to join their server.
There's a bit of account setup to get started but this is straightforward. The kids were quickly up and running.
My 7 year old tried the Path of Petals mod tutorial which is one of the easier ones and was very pleased to get it working. Then he found the skins and resources editor. He has loved creating custom items, blocks and mobs. He hasn't needed any input at all. He loves it. The skins are a bit different as they need to be uploaded to your Minecraft profile (which will have an effect beyond Tynker.)
My 9 year old worked through the mod tutorials. The main problem he had was that many of the blocks in the tutorials and editor are just too small to read. For the tutorial he just dragged them onto the canvas where they become bigger. For creating custom mods the tiny text made it difficult to work out what's available and impossible for me to help when looking over his shoulder. Hopefully this will get fixed in future.
The 9 year old enjoyed the process but was put off when he realised that he can't get the mods out of Tynker to use in his own worlds. He has already started using MCreator and he does a lot with commands and Command Blocks in Minecraft, this means he's less willing to put up with the limitations of Tynker than he might have been if he had used Tynker Minecraft first.
The 7 year old returned to Minecraft Tynker the next morning to continue working on his custom resources. He's definitely impressed. He's nearly 8, the recommended age for the first Minecraft Tynker course.
More Kids at Coder Dojo
We also had a Coder Dojo meetup at the weekend and we have lots of kids who are Minecraft fans. We introduced some more children to Tynker Minecraft and it went down really well. The kids already understood all the Minecraft concepts so they got the idea quickly.
Not all parents want to be installing and managing mods and mod creation tools. Tynker's tool was just what they needed to help their kids take Minecraft to the next level without a lot of work on their part.
We had families going away saying their child would continue at home.
The Tynker Minecraft modding courses are great for kids who are just getting started with the idea of resources packs and modding. It's a really accessible way to be able to create very cool stuff without having to install mods or complex tools on your computer.
Personally I think there's a lot to be said for exploring what can be done with 'Vanilla' Minecraft using redstone, commands and Command Blocks. A lot of neat stuff can be done without needing mods. But it can be really hard for kids to get started with that stuff.
The block language is pretty powerful and allows kids to build some complex behaviours in Minecraft. The modding tutorials take kids through examples to build their skills and then they can work on their own ideas.
There's also a planned Minecraft Game Design course which looks fantastic. My kids are always watching videos of their favourite YouTubers playing mini games and would love to be able to create them.
The subscription plan of 8 hours a month isn't a lot of time for a Minecraft-crazy child or tween. But this is just the server time. Kids who are working on a complex mod will spend a lot of time coding which doesn't count towards the server time. I think you would just need to come up with a plan for how kids use the time so that they don't use it all too quickly and then lose interest because they can't carry on. Kids also get access to all the other Tynker courses so it would be a shame not to take advantage of those too.
Tynker Minecraft looks great for kids who want to customize Minecraft but don't know where to get started. And also as a way to encourage Minecraft-crazy kids to learn to code. Making cool stuff happen in Minecraft is a major motivation.