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Learn to Code (for Free!)

7 free online tools to get kids coding and have fun while they’re at it

Code is everywhere. Every time you click a link, strike a key, or swipe a card, it’s code that helps the machine you’re using process the information and do what you need it to do. Because code is so ubiquitous these days, it’s becoming more and more important to understand how and why it works.

Experts have said that skills that are taught in coding – sequencing, pattern recognition, and conditional (“if x, then y”) logic – are essential to a child’s development. Some even think coding should be taught starting in pre-k.

We’ve compiled some of our favorite resources for learning how to code on your own. From kids to adults, it’s never too late to get your Java on!

1. Code.org

A mission-based organization, Code.org advocates for access to computer science for students across the country. They offer opportunities for teachers and community organizers to bring an Hour of Code to local students, and online, they have coding resources that look so much like games that your young programmer won’t know the difference! With Angry Birds imagery, coders use blocks similar to those shown in Tynker to direct the bird to the evil pig. When you want to see exactly what it is that you’re doing, you can also click the “Show Code” button to see what the Javascript actually looks like.

2. GoldieBlox: Adventures in Coding

We can’t resist a shameless plug for our own awesome (and free!) iOS app, “GoldieBlox: Adventures in Coding.” It teaches the fundamental concepts of coding in a story-based adventure where kids code a solution to deliver cupcakes all over town. Designed for ages 4 and up, the app has endless puzzles that increase in complexity as users level up. It’s packed with mini-games, stickers and allows kids to code their own puzzles.

3. Code Monster

Code Monster is an interactive coding game that shows you the fruits of your labor immediately. By following the monster’s instructions, users adjust the Javascript on the left and see the results on the right. Variables, loops, conditionals, expressions, and functions are all introduced step by step. It’s a perfect introduction to what code looks like and what it does, and one of its differentiators is that it teaches a specific language: Java!

4. Tynker

Tynker looks more like a game than it does a coding tool, but trust us – there’s a lot to learn here. By piecing together blocks of code that have actions and values attached, kids develop the sequencing and logic skills that code is based on. Just in case you don’t know what a certain skill or action is (Animations? Lists? Functions? Ah!), there’s also a huge glossary of terms for parents and kids alike.

5. Vidcode

Vidcode uses teen-friendly tech to get girls into coding. What 15-year-old wouldn’t want to design her own Instagram filter?! Vidcode offers that instant gratification of seeing your code in action, and you can even upload your own videos to test your creations. They offer an extensive index of Java terms and resources for students as well as educators, too.

6. Codecademy

This one’s for the older kids and adults who want to pick up some new skills. Codecademy offers online courses in programming, coding languages, and even fun projects like animation and visual world building. This means you can develop the base of your skill set with a language and move on to creating projects as you feel comfortable. Step-by-step instructions and a simple interface make the process easy to digest, too.

7. Khan Academy

From macroeconomics to art history, Khan Academy has lessons and tutorials on everything you’d ever want to learn. A completely free resource that provides world-class digital programming, Khan Academy makes learning code look and feel very easy. “Talk-throughs” guide you along the building process so you can focus on manipulating the visuals in front of you, and like Code Monster, you see the results of your work in real time. And because they offer so many different classes, you can finish your CSS and move on to cosmology ASAP.

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