Coding, although it’s a skill that may seem niche at first, is actually incredibly useful in many areas. Of course, the fast-growing tech sector is the most popular place for coders to work, but coding can help in completely unrelated industries as well. Coding knowledge can let you automate mundane parts of your job, create fun programs as a hobby, and fix computer bugs and the like without having to call IT.
But coding doesn’t have to be all about a career. For kids, learning to code can be a great learning experience that aids them in all parts of their education. The key here is to make it fun and enjoyable. In that spirit, here are five of the top games that can teach coding for people of all ages!
The first toy on our list, Fisher-Price’s “Code-a-Pillar” is ideal for the youngest among us. Code-a-Pillar is an adorable caterpillar toy with eight body segments that each contain instructions and can be reordered to perform them in order. These instructions range from playing sounds to wiggling to moving in a specific direction. This concept of sequential commands is key to all aspects of coding, and instilling this sense of control and chronology into small children can give them a great leg up later on. Without having to look at a screen, type, or edit, Code-a-Pillar gives a hands-on approach to coding basics. This colorful coding creature sells for less than $50 and is great even for toddlers. For more complexity, expansion packs of different kinds are available for purchase, but the basic set is great for the youngest in the family to start exploring.
- Code Monkey
CodaKid is an online coding school that encompasses a wide variety of coding types, from video game and app design to websites and other modules. CodaKid has bought into the fun, game-based learning that has been shown to be effective when teaching both kids and adults, and sports one of the most popular game coding platforms: Roblox coding. Roblox is a Minecraft-esque gaming platform that allows you to make your own games, whether simple or complex. A great aspect of Roblox is the interconnected community of game programmers; if users choose, they can make their games available for others to play and test out. This feature is great not only for having others test to see if your games are fun and playable, but also shows you what other people have come up with and can expand your idea of what’s possible in the platform. In addition to Roblox, CodaKid also provides resources for other coding games for kids and adults alike.
- Lego Mindstorms
Lego Mindstorms is one of the most popular coding toys for kids but has also been embraced by people of any age who’ve grown up loving Legos. Mindstorms provides both hardware aspects and software aspects in this sense. Just like all Lego creations, the Mindstorms kits must be built, but once set up they can perform extremely intricate tasks and achieve objectives. Mindstorms programming is based on C, a programming language very much active in the professional world and one thought to be one of the fundamental coding languages that others are derived from. But getting started with Mindstorms programming doesn’t feel intimidating or difficult and is a nice way to delve into the world of professional-level coding. Many of the Mindstorms kits come with various iterations of sensors that respond to light, touch, sound, and other inputs, which makes the system extremely dynamic and fun to work with.
The littleBits systems are perhaps the most hands-on and hardware-focused out of any of the items on this list. These small electronic modules that can be snapped together physically and operate much like commercial computers do represent an extremely visual and fascinating look at sequential coding and physical computer systems, without any soldering involved. littleBits has developed coding-focused packages that contain more or less of the hardware elements, and all their kits are based on Arduino, the open-source electronics platform excellent for work at a small hands-on scale. In addition, littleBits also focuses on STEAM (STEM education combined with the Arts), having developed a synth and electronic music kit in collaboration with music company Korg. Being able to snap and detach a bunch of different modules together makes experimentation a breeze, and enables a world of possibilities to play with.
Of course, there are plenty of other coding games out there to explore; the internet has made it possible for anyone with a computer to learn how to code in a fun way, oftentimes for free. These five examples represent standouts that have proven reliable intros to coding for thousands of people, as evidenced in their reviews and their intrinsic innovative technology. Whether the physical aspects of littleBits or Lego Mindstorms appeal to you, or the digital game frameworks of Code Monkey and Roblox are more your thing, there is no wrong or right way to start learning to code. Delving into the world of programming is an all-round beneficial experience, regardless of whether the goal is a job in the tech industry or a fun hobby to enjoy on the weekends. Most importantly, coding should always be fun, and coding games make that a reality.