Learning Through Fun – 5 Amazing Games That Teach Coding
It’s almost impossible to get my 5 year old interested in good old building blocks and yet, he can spend over 2 hours doing nothing but constructing castles and bridges in Minecraft. Let’s face it: videogames have become the toys of our kids’ generation, whether we like it or not. While it might be impossible to make them play games we’d like them to, there are more and more products that manage to be both fun and educational. Here’s the list of our favorite picks.
Let’s start with something simple and accessible. And which kid doesn’t like cute toys racing each other? To play Code Karts all you’ll need is a phone or a tablet. The game is available for both iOS and Android devices.
Code Karts is aimed at the youngest audiences. Children 4 and up will be able to enjoy it, and it serves as a neat introduction to coding. The goal of the game is simple: make the toy car reach the finish line. Players have to carefully choose a series of commands, which tell the vehicle where to go and how to avoid obstacles. Courses get more challenging as they go, and each introduces more and more coding related topics like the “if-then” statements.
Kids can personalize the automobiles, change their colors and shapes, which makes the game much more immersive and attractive. There’s also a Competition mode included, where you race against a second car controlled by AI.
If you’re looking for something more complex for your kid, Sprite Box by Danny Yaroslavsky is worth checking out. At first the game feels like a regular platformer with lots of jumping and breaking blocks. That is until you reach first point that cannot be climbed. And here’s where coding comes into play.
You play as a kid with a magical sidekick called Sprite, who can alter the environment according to commands you input. Unreachable places become accessible as you tell the little guy to move in certain ways, copy and paste blocks and create ladders. To complete levels, you have to code their new elements straight into them. The difficulty grows with each area visited.
As the time goes by, children get introduced to the concepts of loops, parameters, debugging and sequencing commands. Later on, when the player gets a good hang on the game, it’s possible to ditch the building block interface for actual Swift/Java syntax. Despite all the complex ideas, Sprite Box manages to stay fun and satisfying, and maintains the feeling of a proper video game.
Games by Code.org
If you want educational games to feel extra engaging and familiar, I’d recommend checking out what code.org has to offer. The site hosts a series of coding courses aimed at children and the main hook is the recent inclusion of games with beloved cartoon characters. Thanks to that, the games become more attractive to their little fans.
All lessons consist of video tutorials and a number of block based coding challenges to complete. The videos use simple language that’s easily understood by the younger audience. The only requirement will be the ability to read, as the interface has plenty of text.
Characters used in the games include both heroines of Disney’s Frozen (carving pictures into ice by skating over it), Star Wars droids (delivering messages to pilots or scavenging for valuable materials), Ice Age (making animal characters meet and interact), Angry Birds, Plants & Zombies and more. It’s worth noting that all games are completely free and work under the Creative Commons license.
If you want your kid to try some more traditional type of game, the designers at Codomo, have invented something that both of you could enjoy. Traditional board and card games are undergoing a true renaissance right now, and are also a great way to bond with your child and have some quality time together.
Potato Pirates were crowdfunded last year and managed to convince over 5000 backers on Kickstarter to help making them into a reality. The game tells a tale of potatoes, who also happen to be pirates. The goal is to free the potato king by collecting all 7 Potato King Cards.
So where’s the coding, you may ask? Most cards gamify fundamental concepts of programming (functions, loops, conditionals, checking for bugs) and make the players use them to increase their chances at winning. Children not only get valuable knowledge, but also gain more interest in coding and have plenty of fun. The box comes with educational resources for both parents and teachers.
After classic style video games and physically touchable traditional games, Photon is something that meshes both ideas into one. The method consists of a smartphone/tablet game app, and an educational robot that makes heavy use of said device.
The robot develops along with the progress in the game. Players grant it more functionalities by clearing stages that introduce them to concepts of programming: from most basic to the advanced ones. The coding robot is aimed at preschoolers and elementary school kids and includes RPG and multiplayer elements to keep them motivated and invested in the learning process.
The biggest advantage is seeing actual proof of gaining programming related skills as well as the basics of robotics education. As kids learn more they can witness their robot learning to speak, see, move and distinguish between light and dark.