We all want to prepare our kids for the future, right? How do we help them be the leaders and innovators of tomorrow? By building necessary skills early. Like math. And literacy. And coding!! And coding doesn’t mean just playing on the computer or trying apps. It can also mean hands-on, creative projects, games and more. So give these 5 Screen-Free Coding Activities for Kids a try!
Get engaged with coding activities for kids
Who wants to spend all of their time sitting on a computer? Well maybe the kids, but let’s get them constructive instead!! These two activities will get them moving and thinking like a computer.
If-then ‘at home’ coding game
First up is this computer programming take on an old favorite, Simon Says. It’s based upon the If-Then Statement which is called a conditional statement in programming. The program queries if one condition exists, then it commands it to do something. It can be as basic as a True or False question and answer or it can prompt an action.
Setup: For every round, there is one Programmer and everyone else is a Computer. The Programmer stands in front of the Computers and gives them their command. If I ____ (fill in the blank), then you _____ (fill in the blank). For example, the Programmer “If I turn in a circle, Then you turn in a circle.” Set up game rounds however works best for your group of kids but be sure to take turns as Programmer.
- Difficulty Level 1 – If I Do This, Then You Do This: The Programmer commands the Computers to do the same thing they do and to stop when they stop.
- Difficulty Level 2 – If I Do This, Then You Do That: Next, add the twist that the Computers should do something different than the Programmer, but still start and stop when they do. This one works the brain because they’ll hear something different than they are seeing.
- Difficulty Level 3 – If I Do This, Then You Do That, Else You Do Something Else: Now, add If-Then-Else statements to the Programmer’s commands. For example, the Programmer commands “If I raise my right arm, Then you raise your left arm, Else raise your right foot.”
- Difficulty Level 4 – If-Then-Else Speed Round with Eliminations: To make it really challenging, have the Computers “break” and sit down when they don’t follow commands correctly. The last Computer standing wins.
We also love the Let’s Go Code Activity Set. It challenges kids to navigate through across a game board to the robot with commands like a computer would. Watch out for springs and blocks and don’t forget to pick up gears along the way. My daughter loved hopping on one foot through this coding challenge.
Get creative with coding activities for kids
Coding is a perfect chance for kids to get creative! By making and building and by writing their own secret codes.
First up, let’s make a little jewelry! Kids can learn about one of the the most common formats for text files for computers and the internet, called ASCII. It stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange and uses numbers to represent letters and special characters. The binary version uses only zeroes and ones in a 7 bit (or digit) pattern.
- Beads in 2 different colors or shapes
- Pipe cleaners, elastic or yarn
- Paper & pen
- Printable Binary Code Sheet
First, write your name and then write down the ASCII Binary codes for each letter. Then, pick one color (or shape) bead for zeroes and one color (or shape) for one’s. Tie a knot in the end of your elastic or bend the pipe cleaner so beads don’t fall off. Then start adding beads in the binary code pattern you have written down for your name. Tie off ends to finish the bracelet and wear!
Kids to young to find the code? This activity makes a great pattern recognition activity too. Just pick two colors, give them a pattern to copy, and then have them create!
Design a secret code
Now that the kids have learned how computers use code, it’s time to create a code of their own! With the included template, pick a code for each letter of the alphabet and some punctuation. Codes can be drawings or numbers or other letters or dashes like in Morse Code, whatever they want.
After they’ve designed the code, challenge them to write a note to someone (or their name for the younger kiddos) in their secret code.
Make a mouse maze
Building is a hands-on activity that kids love. Why not add a little bit of coding to the fun with the Code & Go Robot Mouse Activity Set? It gives kids the challenge of navigating their robot mouse through a maze to their beloved cheese with only coding commands to guide them. This fun set-up helps even the youngest of future programmers learn how coding works.
Hands-on STEM activities for kids
Be sure to check out these other hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math activities for kids!
Learning is Where We Play: