Now, you may have heard that, starting next year, coding will be part of the national school syllabus. Reception has been mixed, with many asking questions like “what will they be coding on?” and “who is going to pay for the computers?” as well as my favourite, “who’s going to teach these kids to code?”.
It’s amazing how we’ve been independent for nearly sixty years, yet we still have so much British pessimism in us.
Well, as it turns out, coding doesn’t have too be too complicated, especially for those who are starting out. Coding is basically problem solving, and there are many existing applications, games and toys that have the basic principles of coding baked in.
When I was doing research for this story, what truly surprised me was how many, and how simple, some of these beginner-level coding programs can be. And honestly, you really don’t really need a computer to learn coding. You can very well do it with a pen and paper.
Now, with how accessible technology has become, you have even more options to get started with the fundamentals of coding. Here are five great tools to get you, or your kids, a head start with coding before the new year
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1. Lightbot (ages 4+)
Lightbot is a cool little game where the objective is to instruct the little robot on your screen to move, turn or hop to a specific tile and lite them up. It’s really simple to play, really easy to learn and forces you to exercise your problem solving skills. You have a choice of either playing it in your browser or you can download the app which is available on Android, iOS, Kindle and Windows platforms. For a full list of download sources as well as the browser game, head on over to their website.
2. Code.org’s Hour of Code (ages 4+)
Code.org is a popular website that teaches people how to code. They’ve got a whole bunch of applications that will teach you to code, ranging from the standard Hour of Code where you can choose from programs designed in the Minecraft universe, Star Wars universe or Frozen. If you want to get more invested, you can check out their Beyond section that gives you more hands-on and more complex courses to really get you down and dirty with coding.
3. CodeMonkey (ages 9+)
If dragging command boxes or pushing buttons doesn’t quite cut it for you, and you want to type out some actual code, CodeMonkey will give you that. This quirky game puts you in control of a monkey (duh) who is on a quest to recover all his bananas which were stolen by a mean gorilla and scattered across multiple levels.
In addition to having buttons that you can click, CodeMonkey actually encourages you to type in actual code when you want to issue instructions. This adds another level of complexity but also gives you a more authentic coding experience. CodeMonkey has a bunch of free challenges that you can play with on their website, but you can also buy the full game with over 300 challenges from USD69/year (RM296.91). Check out their website for more information.
4. Lego Mindstorms EV3 (ages 10+)
Want something more physical? Check out Lego Mindstorms EV3, a Lego set that lets you build and command your own robot. Lego Mindstorms EV3 works like, well, Legos, where you can build a bunch of different robots with the smorgasbord of parts that come with each set. Included in the box you also get a programmable brick, a bunch of sensors, and several motors to move your bot around.
You can get cracking and programming instructions for the EV3 once you’ve built the robot up via an app that’s available for Android, iOS and PC/MAC systems. For more information, you can head on over to the official Lego Mindstorms EV3 site.
5. Swifty (ages 4+)
If you’re more interested in learning how to code in Swift, then Swifty may be the app for you. The application features a bunch of simple bite-sized tutorials that will get you started with coding in Swift. It’s available in the App Store for free, but there are in-app purchases that you can pick up further down the road.
The UI looks really clean and cute (come on, that’s a cute little bird) and has different categories for different levels of difficulty when coding. Swifty has received glowing reviews from customers that have downloaded this application and tech sites, so you can definitely check it out if you, or your kid, wants to code in Swift.