Thursday, 23 July 2015

Best Websites for Children to Learn to Code - Summer 2015 Edition

So your child wants to learn to code or you would like to introduce them to coding. There are lots of fantastic websites that help kids learn programming skills, but where should you start?  I've tried out lots of coding websites for children at the school where I teach, with my own children and at the CoderDojo that I volunteer at. I thought it would be useful to pull together some of my favourite resources with some guidance on ability levels, level of adult support needed, cost (many are free or offer some resources for free) and other information to help you pick the right sites for your children.

I'll focus on home use here rather than use in schools or clubs. We'll start with coding websites suitable for younger children and move up through the age groups.

You'll need a desktop computer or a laptop (Windows or Mac) to access the websites in this article. Most will run on a Chromebook or a Linux machine. Some will also work from tablets, we'll cover apps for coding in a separate article. I'll also cover websites where kids can write code to control hardware separately.

Age: 4-18 is a fabulous free set of online courses which teaches kids to code in a a step by step way. Kids are taken through a series of stages which they must solve by writing code using colourful drag and drop blocks. The first course is aimed at children as young as 4 or 5 with early reading skills. 
As well as the courses there are fun themed mini-courses with tie-ins to popular franchises including Frozen and Disney Infinity with Big Hero 6. Example Stage Example Stage

What I really like about is that parents don't have to know a lot about coding to get kids started, the structured approach means that children can independently progress through the lessons. They might ask for help if they get stuck, but parents can just read through the instructions and talk it through with them. is structured into courses for different age groups and abilities so it works well for beginners of all ages. 

A lot of schools use so you might want to try something different if your child will be using the same material at school. 

No sign up is required so is really quick to get going with (sign up is available to save progress.)


Age: 4-15

Tynker is a multimedia-rich online learning platform that teaches children to code through engaging lessons. Tynker is subscription-based so you do have to pay to access the full content. However there are some free Tynker lessons available as part of the Hour of Code initiative. These are well worth trying out.

Tyker Hour of Code example level
Tynker is great for keeping children engaged and is a good option if you've exhausted the free stuff available for your child's age range and they still want more coding. 

Tynker is quite resource heavy and we have found it to run a little slowly at times so make sure you have a good internet connection and a reasonably fast computer to run it on. 


Age: 8-16

Scratch is a very popular graphical programming language designed for children and the latest version runs in a web browser. There are some getting started tutorials available when you open Scratch but it's a environment for children to create and explore rather than a structured course.

Example Scratch starter project

Scratch is very open ended and it may be tricky for younger children to know where to start without some parental guidance. There are lots of resources available online but it can be tricky to find the right ones. 

If you are willing to site with your child then Scratch is fabulous from a very young age. I've used Scratch with my children since they were around 3 - they just told me what they wanted to happen and I dragged and dropped the blocks and then as they got older they began to take over. 

Scratch is the website that my children return to. They love to try new things but they always go back to Scratch. Remixing existing Scratch projects is a great way to learn new techniques. 

If you're not confident in helping your child and they're not ready to use Scratch on their own then try or Tynker first and come back to Scratch. The approach is similar enough that they will be building the right skills.

Code Monkey 

Age 9-14

Code Monkey is teaches children from around age 9 to code through a series of online lessons. Children must solve puzzles using a textual language that can be generated by clicking on buttons. The early levels are available for free but there's a subscription for full access.

Code Monkey example puzzle
Code Money is fully guided so it's a good option for children to work through independently. It uses cute animal characters which will appeal to girls and boys, and there's plenty of humour and character in the puzzles.


Age: 10-18

S2jS is a very cool concept. It takes children who have learned Scratch and builds on their knowledge to teach them JavaScript in an interactive way. I'm often asked what children should learn after Scratch and my answer is usually JavaScript (it depends what else they are interested in.)

S2jS Example Screen
S2jS Example Screen
S2jS explains new JavaScript concepts by comparing them to the Scratch concepts that children are already familiar with. It uses a graphical canvas to allow children to create games that can be played in a web browser (including on a phone or tablet.)

S2jS starts off by teaching the basic HTML that is needed and then introducing JavaScript concepts in a structured way. Kids write real code in a the web browser and see the results.

S2jS is a free resource. If children have an account they can store and share their work (parents should be aware of this and monitor usage.)

Code Combat

Age: 9-18+

Code Combat is a fantastic multi-player game in which kids have to code themselves through the levels defeating enemies and engaging in battles.

Kids write real code and a fantastic feature is that there's a choice of popular programming languages including JavaScript and Python. As well as teaching coding, Code Combat teaches the use of a coding environment with debugging, code completion and manuals where you can learn about features. 

Code Combat is fantastic for older kids who think that some of the options mentioned above look a bit young for them and want something more grown up, but are not yet ready to code using a full development environment. My eight year old, who has quite a bit of coding experience, managed to get through quite a lot of levels on Code Combat but really had to work at it, it does get quite hard. I've played quite a bit of it myself too. There's plenty here to challenge tween and teen coders and the skills learned will be readily transferable to a proper development environment when they are ready. 

There's lots of fantasy violence and RPG (role playing game) style gaming. This is a genre that I love and I'm happy for my kids to play the game under supervision. 

There are multi-player features and kids can join together with friends in a Clan. A good alternative to some of the online multi-player games that older children often want to play but are more suited to adults. 

Code Combat does have paid subscriptions but there's a lot of free content to get started with.

Code Monster

Age: 11-18+

Code Monster is a fabulous introduction to a real programming language. A cool monster teaches JavaScript using a graphical canvas. Children learn to make things happen in a web page using real code (there's a bit of behind the scenes scaffolding to simplify the experience.)

Code Monster provides a series of structured lessons but also encourages exploration. An excellent site for children who are ready to learn a text-based programming language in a kid-friendly environment. 

There are lots of lessons and Code Monster teaches some really advanced concepts by the end. This is a good choice for children who are really interested in coding and keen to develop real world skills.


Age 13-20+

Codecademy offers free web based training course in real modern development languages and frameworks. Their Hour of Code resources are a good way to get a taster. 

Code Academy Hour of Code

Codecademy targets university (college in the US) aged students, but younger teens with experience or an aptitude for coding will find the web-based courses accessible.  


Age: 13-18 (for scripting, 8+ for playing games)

Roblox is an online community where children can play and build games in a web browser (there are also apps.) It is possible for kids to just play games that have been written by other people. This will help them to understand the kind of games that can be made using Roblox but they will need to use other features of Roblox to learn to code. 

Roblox has tools for building 3D environments (Minecraft style) and it also has support for scripting using the Lua language. Experienced users can develop professional games that can be played by others. 

To learn code with Roblox kids will need to make the move from player to game developer. Roblox does have some resources to help with this:
Users can interact with each other in Roblox but there's a restricted communication option which is the default for under 13s and all communication is filtered and users are encourages to report inappropriate content. 

Children can use Roblox for free but there are additional features available to paid subscribers. It's even possible to make money from Roblox games.

More Ideas?

If you know of a fantastic website where children can learn to code that deserves to be on this list then let us know in the comments below or by contacting us and we'll take a look for the next edition of this guide. 

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