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Coding for kids: the best free and paid lessons

Coding for kids
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

There are many reasons why you'd be looking for coding resources for kids. Right now, coding is a stable job in an unstable world. 

While most parents would hope their child becomes a Steve Jobs rather than a Twitter account hacker, they'd be happy if their child just settles on a surefire way to make money. 

There are a number of apps and websites available to help your child get a head start on a lifelong hobby or new career, so we're going to take a look at seven of the best online resources for getting your child started with coding and helping them nurture their budding interest for all things related to software engineering - and just in time for going back to school.

Coding for kids: Scratch

(Image credit: Future)

1. Scratch

Developed by the MIT Media Lab, Scratch is a block-based visual programming language and website for kids.

According to the website, the mission of Scratch is to help young people learn to "think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively". 

Users can create projects using the interface, which is divided into three sections: the stage area, block palette, and coding area. Scratch can be used to create games, animations, text, stories, music and more.

Scratch is popular with schools, museums, libraries, community centers and home users. The primary age range for Scratch is 8 to 16, but there are modules that teachers and parents can use to learn about programming too.

Cost: Free

Coding for kids: Construct

(Image credit: Scirra)

2. Construct

Create games and then market them online with Construct, an event-based game development platform. 

Using HTML5, Construct allows students to build 2D games that range from RPGs to adventure-based clickers. The website features games made by big budget teams from Netflix and Cartoon Network alongside games made by humble individual creators.

Construct 3 runs on Windows, Macs, Linux, Chromebooks, and mobile devices. Check out our best student Chromebooks for some ideas.

There are many tutorials on the website that break down the steps of game creation with HTML5. Creating games with Construct 3 has a premium monthly or yearly cost, but the website has a host of educational resources that anyone can download for free.

Cost: $99 (around £75/AU$140) a year for individual plan

Coding for kids: Unity

(Image credit: Future)

3. Unity

Help your child enter their career by getting them started with a high powered engine used by developers in the real world. Unity helps students gain experience with 3D interactive visual design and text based coding in the C# coding language. Students will learn about all the ground-level aspects of object-oriented coding.

Unity allows people to make games and publish them to a variety of platforms. Users can create 2D or 3D scenes, animations, or cinematics in the Unity Editor. 

Unity is free for students to use, and it's also free for individuals who receive less than $100k in funding over the last 12 months.

Cost: Free

Coding for kids: Roblox

(Image credit: Roblox)

4. Roblox

Roblox is a multi-player game that also has a coding environment. Kids can learn how to code and design their own games while also connecting with their friends online. The coding process is gamified as kids can earn exclusive badges and avatars after they prove their coding knowledge.

Of particular interest is the Hour of Code, which allows students to create their own stories by completing three lessons: Creating Variables, Getting Player Answers, and Telling the Story. 

Hour of Code is an initiative by Computer Science Education Week and Code.org to get students to commit to one hour of computer science and programming.

Cost: Free

Coding for kids: Tynker

(Image credit: Tynker)

5. Tynker

Another game-based coding platform, Tynker has a number of beginner and storytelling projects that are great for younger children. 

There are picture-based block coding apps, as well as text-based block coding apps available for students. It also has lessons and projects to teach children about robotics, creating Minecraft worlds, and learning Python, Javascript, HTML and CSS.

Tynker has weekly summer code jams that offer $10,000 in prizes. The site also offers free accounts for teachers that include free coding courses, unlimited student accounts, and free professional development.

Cost: Free to start, $20 (around £15/AU$30) a month

Coding for kids: codecademy

(Image credit: codecademy)

6. Codecademy

Let your kids take the sorting quiz on the site and it will help them choose which language to tackle first.

Codecademy is a comprehensive, user-friendly website that teaches kids basic code through simple exercises. The modules are easy to follow and users can try them before making a financial commitment to the site.

Once you reach the premium section of the site, you can build portfolio-ready projects from the ground up, work with other site members to collaborate on projects, and access exclusive courses, quizzes and other practice content.

Cost: Free to start, $19.99 (around £15/AU$30) a month

Coding for kids: Code.org

(Image credit: Code.org)

7. Code.org

Code.org is a nonprofit foundation stating its vision is that "every student in every school has the opportunity to learn computer science". 

The majority of Code.org students are girls or underrepresented minorities, indicating they are doing important work to diversify STEM education. All of the curriculums and software on the website are offered free of charge and licensed under a Creative Commons license.

The curriculums are broken up by age groups. Kids can learn to make their own games or build working apps using blocks, CSS, HTML, or Javascript. The Express Course is particularly helpful for older students who are new to computer science but have no trouble with reading or writing.

Cost: Free

Back to School 2020 is certainly going to be different, and we’re here to guide you through what you'll need. Whether you’re truly going back to school or remotely attending classes online, we’re rolling out a series of in-depth guides for students, teachers and parents to ensure you're buying the right technology and accessories.