14 of the Best Coding Lessons for Kids

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The activity of learning to code is changing - and has been for a while - but the landscape is shifting more rapidly as of late, as online coding lessons are becoming easier to find, and more valuable to complete.

Before now, though, think about the state of coding for years and years. Mostly an advanced course reserved for university life, right? 

But then came the introduction of coding for kids, as in breaking down complex text-based coding into more consumable means for the young mind. 

This opened the doors for more and more schools to either offer their own coding courses, or at least host more coding clubs

After that, the floodgates really gave way with the need for alternative learning programs, simply because of the fact that, while coding was gaining traction, many schools still weren’t able to offer courses to interested parties. 

So, students and their parents were left to look elsewhere for instruction, and with that, summer coding camps became a valuable option—where kids could blend a week of coding instruction together with summer camp fun. 

Now, and in the midst of these latter stages, coding lessons are everywhere, and mainly online—which like all things “on the web” opens itself to all corners of the world. 

To reach the many different families who want and need coding experience, you have an abundance of online coding lessons and offering, with each putting their own spin on things.

How to tell them apart? Which one is right for my child?

That’s exactly what we are here to discuss today! 

We’ll take a look at not only which coding lessons are available, but the different types in general, their importance, the pros and cons of each, and how to choose the best option for your child. 

1. Scratch Coding

Ages: 7-19
Concepts: Coding, Game Dev, Creative
Learn more: How to Make a Game on Scratch

Scratch is a visual, block-based programming. It’s also free to use on your own, engaging, and has a wealth of learning resources due to its popularity. Of course, the experience will be limited in terms of what kids will actually be able to create, but that’s where a Scratch coding lesson comes in. All in all, Scratch has colorful blocks, can produce fun projects, and has an active community for support and added inspiration. 

2. Minecraft Modding with Java

Ages: 10-19
Concepts: Coding, Game Dev
Learn more: What are Mods in Minecraft?

Yes, Minecraft is a game, but through Java, kids can implement unique concepts into their own Minecraft worlds—that is, by using functions, variables, and control structures to not only create Minecraft mods but to develop logical thinking and problem-solving while doing it. 

Why Minecraft? There's an entire community built around Minecraft, with hundreds of texture packs, game modifications, custom maps, skins—just about anything a player could want to customize the game. Sites are devoted to everything from free gameplay servers to streams of people currently playing the game.

Point being, it's universal and still wildly-popular; it's supported, and can provide an engaging gateway for kids into coding. 

3. Minecraft Server Development

Ages: 7-19
Concepts: Coding, Game Dev, Creative
Learn more: How to Create a Minecraft Server

We have covered the benefits of Minecraft as a player and a Java coder, but what about combining it all as a server developer? Any child knows that Minecraft is simply better when playing with friends, and while survival mode is such a joy, hopping on a server to connect with others takes the game to a new level. 

In this lesson, students can learn to host a Minecraft server, upload maps to that server, play new and exciting types of games, and then use redstone or command blocks to build features inspired by those new adventures. 

4. Roblox and Lua

Ages: 7-19
Concepts: Coding, Game Dev, Creative
Learn more: How to Code Lua

And in the same breath that we mention Minecraft and everything great that it is known for, we have Roblox, in which kids can learn to work with Lua scripts to design and develop their own Obby (obstacle course) and create and publish their very own games. 

5. JavaScript

Ages: 10-19
Concepts: Coding, Game Dev
Learn more: JavaScript for Kids

To clarify, there is Java, which we described above in connection to Minecraft, and there is JavaScript, which is a different coding language for kids. If you've ever engaged with an interactive website, you probably were experiencing JavaScript without even knowing it. JavaScript is popular beyond websites too, as the driving force behind robotics, game design, and many other fields. 

6. Hacking with JavaScript

Ages: 10-19
Concepts: Coding, Game Dev
Learn more: What is a Hackathon?

One of the many uses for JavaScript is hacking! But before you exit this page and close your computer for fear of being associated with such a word, we are talking about hacking in the sense of finding innovative solutions with tech! Thus, in this coding lesson, students will explore JavaScript and HTML (more on HTML below) to "remix" and learn best practices with existing web code from other developers.  

7. HTML for Web Design

Ages: 10-19
Concepts: Coding, Creative
Learn more: Web Design for Kids

We talked about JavaScript above, which is one main element to any website, but other elements include HTML - the structure that holds everything into place - and CSS. In this lesson, students learn to edit HTML tags to build the solid foundation a website needs before JavaScript or CSS Styling can be applied. 

8. Web Development

Ages: 10-19
Concepts: Coding, Game Dev, Creative
Learn more: Web Development for Kids

Following the progression from above, once students have familiarized themselves with JavaScript and then HTML, it's time for all-encompassing web development! Bringing together coding, design, and UI/UX, students can learn to create websites like those powering today's shopping and sharing world. 

9. Python

Ages: 7-19
Concepts: Coding, Game Dev
Learn more: Best Python Learning Games

Back to coding—Python is another popular coding language for kids that can be used to create entertaining arcade-style video games along with complex machine learning models, and more. It's a great option for young learners thanks to its clear syntax and ability to be written and debugged relatively quickly. 

10. Java

Ages: 10-19
Concepts: Coding, Game Dev
Learn more: How to Practice Java Online

And yes, Java does more than connect students to the worlds of Minecraft. In fact, it's an industry-standard programming language that has been used to create games (like Minecraft), but also mobile apps and other creative projects. In the educational setting, it's the language of the AP Computer Science exam, meaning an understanding of Java can help in the near and distant future, from school to careers. 

11. C++

Ages: 10-19
Concepts: Coding
Learn more: Guide to C++ for Kids

Did you ever realize just how many coding languages there were? If anything, it's a testament to just how widespread, popular, and useful the field has become. C++ is another option, and could be a great option for those wanting to learn about variables, strings, and characters, solving challenges with code, and using graphics libraries for game visuals. 

12. Cybersecurity

Ages: 13-19
Concepts: Coding
Learn more: What Does /n Mean in Python?

While the coding lessons presented above and below this one are all incredibly valuable, perhaps none more so in the greater scheme of things than cybersecurity. In this lesson, students will learn how Python can be used to encrypt and decrypt messages while developing the analytical skills needed to fully understand how information travels.

13. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

Ages: 13-19
Concepts: Coding
Learn more: Machine Learning for Kids

Perhaps you've heard a bit about ChatGPT and the "AI revolution" of late? In this machine learning and artificial intelligence lesson, Python is the name, and neural networks is the game. Students will learn about what it means for machines to access and learn from data to enhance their performance (without even being explicitly programmed to do so). 

Types of Coding Lessons

Now that we have covered the different coding lessons available to aspiring coders, it’s important to understand the different types of coding lessons available. That is, from one-on-one learning to group lessons, free versus paid, and more, there are a number of factors to consider. 

1. Point and click, self-paced coding lessons

What they are: Any online site or portal where a child can sit down at a computer or with a mobile device and more or less immediately begin coding on their own. Students can determine their own pace, and they can put in as much or as little time in a given session.

These lessons are typically gamified, which allow students to build points or status levels as they progress through the learning experience. 

Pros and cons: Gamification is a key piece to engagement, and it encourages kids to really buy into the entire process. 

But while getting started with such options is a breeze, it might be more difficult to keep kids engaged when roadblocks are encountered given the absence of a live instructor on the other end. 

And, while it might be easy to get going, there might not be enough formal structure in place to get kids to really commit to an hour or two of activity time.

2. One-on-one coding lessons and tutors

What they are: You can think of this as a private coding lesson, or a coding tutor, where your child is sitting down with a live instructor, and learning from them. The general idea isn’t much different than the traditional math tutor or other similar experience. 

That said, coding is different from math in many ways, with one of those being output and end result. Meaning, a child learns their multiplication tables with the end goal of knowing exactly what eight times five equals. If they need assistance, a tutor can help them arrive at that conclusion. 

But with learning to code, what’s the output? What’s the goal? Or going back to step one, what’s the starting point? There are a lot of unknowns which require more upfront structure. It’s not so much “Help, my child is having trouble learning this coding concept” and more, “My child is interested in learning to code—can you make it fun for them to do so?”

So, with coding lessons or tutoring, you might be able to select an actual project-based course on which your student can be instructed. For example, designing an arcade game in Python with the help of an instructor gives students a concrete product to work towards, plus encouragement along the way.  

Pros and cons: As you might expect, one big advantage here is the availability of a knowledgeable instructor on the other end; someone not only who can roll out curriculum and pace the class, but someone who can answer questions and potentially even personalize curriculum given each specific student's unique skills and experience level.

A potential con or downside is that success might greatly depend on the instructor or tutor, where the right or wrong one can make all of the difference in the world. 

Small group coding classes

What they are: Even when school is in session, most don’t offer coding classes. So, if kids want to experience the benefits that come along with learning alongside other students, they need to look beyond the classroom. A coding summer camp has long been an option, but now with many summer camps canceled or postponed, that opportunity is moving online and to include year-round options. 

And yes, that means with the small group. To compare and contrast with the one-on-one learning session mentioned above, both of these options typically involve live instructors and structured curriculum. 

The only difference with the small group is that instead of having interaction only take place between student and instructor, young minds can now work together - and importantly - socialize with others, too, as is the case with an STEM summer camp for kids and teens

Pros and cons: Potential drawbacks depend on your student and their goals. If they want a personally-dedicated deep dive into learning how to code, then one-on-one might be better. On the other hand, if your child wants a deep dive but also craves or needs social time with other students, the small group option might be best. 

With all of the above, you should have a great launching point for getting your child started in coding!

A photo of Ryan

Ryan has been in EdTech and with iD Tech for 13 years—building experience, expertise, and knowledge in all things coding, game development, college prep, STEM, and more. He earned his MBA from Santa Clara University after obtaining his Bachelor’s degree from Arizona State. Connect on LinkedIn

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