So Your Kids Want to Learn How to Code: A Non-Techie Parent’s Guide

Side profile of a girl using a laptop

14 Dec

Hour of Code was last week and your kids loved it!  So, now what?  I don’t know about you, but my kids came home from school last week with a renewed interest in coding.   Now, I want to harness that interest and keep the momentum going at at home.  But, I’m not a developer – far from it.  The 4th and 6th graders in my house are already more advanced coders than I am, so I needed to find a way to help them learn.  Enter the world of amazing websites.

The great news is that:

  1. Hour of Code really did get my kids excited about coding

 

and

 

  1. There are awesome developers, companies and organizations that have built fantastic sites that will teach anyone to code – for free.  

 

Here is my list of several great websites to get your kids started when they want to learn to code, no parental skill required.  We have used all of these at my house and it is amazing how much my children have learned.

Code.Org

This is probably what most students used during Hour of Code.   But there is so much more than one hour’s worth of tutorials.  Most likely, your students did not do every lesson on this site, so if they are beginners, I would suggest starting here. Students learn simple block coding (think drag and drop – anyone can do this!) with lessons themed around fun topics like Star Wars, Minecraft and Frozen.   

Scratch

My kids describe this as advanced block coding.  Try this site once your kids master the tutorials on Code.Org.  Tutorials include building interactive stories and video games.  It’s a great site for beginners and can be used by younger students.

Khan Academy

If you are not familiar with Khan Academy, you should be.  It is a website dedicated to offering free global instruction on just about every topic you can think of (need a math tutor, anyone?)

I was lucky enough to hear Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, speak this spring at a Marketo conference.  After deciding that it would be awkward to rush the stage and ask for a job (sorry, Bandwidth team – he was talking about helping the entire world), I decided the next best thing was to return home and register my children for Khan Academy.  By the end of the summer, they both had a pretty solid understanding of Java. Khan Academy has free coding classes on many levels and for many programming languages.

CodeCombat

My son says this is the hardest site he has tried and that’s a good thing.  He’s learning Python on this site and they also offer Java tutorials.  The idea with this site is that you play an uncompleted video game and have to complete the code to finish building the levels.  Pretty much the perfect challenge for a budding video game developer.

Cord.Org assembled an even more comprehensive list of Code tutorials and it can be found here.  We haven’t explored all of these sites yet at my house, but we plan to!

This past Friday, I noticed a poster on the wall at my son’s school with a picture of Mark Zuckerberg and this quote: “In fifteen years we’ll be teaching programming just like reading and writing… and wondering why we didn’t do it sooner.”  I agree.  But in the meantime, we’ll keep learning at home and be ready for what’s next.

Happy coding, everyone!

Annie Steur
Annie Steur
asteur@bandwidth.com

Annie Steur is a Marketing Consultant and graduate of Wake Forest University. Go Deacs! She has experience in event planning, project management, developing lead generation campaigns, and social media. She’ll update with what she likes to do in her free time as soon as she has some.

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