The modern world is powered by technology, and technology is powered by code. It’s often described as a ‘new literacy’, because so many businesses value coding as highly as reading and writing. By the time our children are ready to enter the world of work, coding will be all but essential.
And it’s never too soon to start learning. There are so many brilliant resources out there, many of them targeted specifically at kids. These online classes are fun and flexible, and a great way to turn your child’s screen time into something more productive — a starter pack for the modern, code-driven world.
Here are some of our favorites: the 10 best online coding classes for kids.
We have to start with CodeMonkey. Yes, we’re probably biased, but we’re not the only ones who like it. Just ask the Mom’s Choice Awards. Or our 32 million users.
With CodeMonkey, children write code to help a monkey gather as many bananas as possible, saving the world along the way. These interactive stories are fun and engaging, and a great example of stealth learning: children pick up the principles of coding without even realizing they’re doing it.
Everything is taught from the ground up, which makes it perfect for beginners. Our courses start with block-based code, before moving on to real programming languages like CoffeeScript and Python. We offer lessons to a wide range of age groups, all the way from 5 to 14, and it’s all self-paced, so you don’t need to worry about falling behind.
Basically, if your kid loves stories (and monkeys) then CodeMonkey is a good place to start. After all: those bananas won’t gather themselves.
Next up, we have Scratch — the world’s largest coding resource for kids. Back in 2007, they pioneered a revolutionary approach to children’s coding, and they continue to operate at the cutting edge of the coding-for-kids arena.
Scratch specializes in block-based coding. Kids can build executable scripts using visual blocks instead of text-based phrases and symbols. This is an excellent way to learn the principles of coding (loops, sequences, debugging etc.) without having to worry about typos, or the position of brackets, or other finicky details which can otherwise get in the way.
Scratch is designed for 8 to 16-year-olds, while ScratchJr, a simplified version, is available for 5 to 6-year-olds. Just like CodeMonkey, it’s perfect for beginners and doesn’t require any previous knowledge of coding and computer science.
There’s one drawback. Scratch only teaches the general principles of coding, and never gets into the specific details of a real-life text-based programming language. But this shouldn’t put you off. After learning the general principles on Scratch, there’s nothing stopping you from moving on to a different platform for a specific, text-based language.
#3. Khan Academy
According to the Khan Academy website, this non-profit organization wants to provide “free, world-class education.” They teach a wide range of subjects, from biology to history, from grammar to math — and they also have lessons on coding, computing, and computer programming.
Khan Academy is targeted at students in the 14-18 age group. The material is drier and more technical than some of the other options on this list, and might not appeal to someone younger. These free coding classes work best when a student has already mastered the basics using a program like Scratch, and are ready to graduate to something more advanced.
#4. Code Monster
In every interactive lesson, Code Monster gives a series of step-by-step instructions. As the user completes these instructions, their coding ability improves. It’s a linear process, with the student unable to progress to the next lesson until they’ve managed to complete the Code Monster’s previous instruction.
This linear approach isn’t right for everyone. It isn’t as creative as something like Scratch, which lets its users play around with code in a looser, less prescriptive style. But many children love Code Monster, and find the linear approach reassuringly straightforward. Give it a go (it’s totally free) and decide if it’s right for you.
Blockly is a lot like a jigsaw puzzle, only the pieces are blocks of code. Kids need to drag and drop the blocks into position, learning the principles of coding along the way. It’s free, simple, and easy to set up. You just need to visit the Blockly website, where the jigsaw blocks are waiting.
Just like Scratch, Blockly is mainly for younger learners, and it’s limited by a lack of text-based programming. These puzzle pieces will only get you so far before you need to move on to something else. But it’s a really good starting point for kids who have never coded before. After learning to code using block-based language, the transition to text-based should be easy.
CodaKid takes a different approach from other coding classes. It teaches code through the medium of game development. Kids are given interesting tasks, like designing a Minecraft monster, or programming a roller coaster, and eventually coding a fully interactive game.
The opportunity to create such a tangible output can be really inspiring — a real-life game to show to your family and friends. At CodaKid, the children barely notice that they’re learning to code, because they’re too excited about their ever-developing game.
CodaKid is less casual than some of the other options on this list. Each course takes an average of 30-60 hours, which is a significant chunk of commitment. But if a child is serious about their coding journey, CodaKid is an excellent option. They run summer camps too.
CodeWizardsHQ hosts live classes with real-life coding instructors. Every single week, children will attend an hour-long lesson via video link, almost like an after-school club.
As exciting as that sounds, it can feel daunting too. Can you really commit to a class every week? Luckily, CodeWizardsHQ has a solution. All of the classes are recorded, so even if a child can’t make it, they can catch up on the lesson afterward. Students also have access to a suite of resources outside of class, and can contact their teachers via a secure messaging system if there’s something they urgently need help with.
The main drawback with CodeWizardsHQ is the price. At several hundred dollars per course, a lot of people stick to Scratch, or Khan Academy, which are completely free. Others say that CodeWizardsHQ is worth every cent. Quality products often come at a price.
Codecademy is beginner friendly, but probably not suitable for children under the age of 13. Its lessons require a lot of reading, and younger children might find that daunting. They’d be better to play on Scratch or CodeMonkey, before graduating to Codecademy when they’re older.
Codecademy is mostly free, but it also offers a PRO track for anyone willing to pay a fee. With a PRO account, Codecademy students can get live support from coding experts when they’re struggling with a part of the course.
The Kodable app is jam-packed with activities, all of them starring bright-colored fluffballs with wide, round eyes. The app is targeted at 4-11 years old, and offers a learning path that takes a beginner coder all the way up to advanced programming.
It really is an excellent app, with a really solid reputation. Some of its content is free to access, but most of the course is only accessible after paying a monthly subscription fee. This is another example of quality coming at a price.
LightBot is a coding class disguised as a puzzle game. On each level, the player needs to guide an adorable robot past a series of challenges. At the same time, they will stealth-learn important principles like loops, procedures and conditionals. This is a great option for children who want to learn coding without feeling like they’re taking a class.
Like some of the other options on this list, LightBot can only take a kid so far. It teaches the principles of coding, rather than a specific programming language, and the content is relatively basic. Ideally, after completing LightBot’s fifty levels, the player would move onto something more advanced, like Code Monster or Codecademy.
This is a paid app, but it does come with a free trial. The trial is a good way to test whether LightBot is worth the money. There are always the free alternatives of Blockly and Scratch, which teach the basic principles of coding and programming at a similar level to LightBot.
There are plenty of brilliant options out there, and each online coding class has different strengths and weaknesses. Scratch, Blockly and LightBot are excellent starting points, but they can only take a student so far. Khan Academy and Codecademy are a lot more advanced, but some students will find their content dry. There are price points to consider too: is it worth breaking the bank for Kodable when Code Monster is completely free?
If you still can’t decide which option is best, it might be helpful to show them to your kid. See whether anything catches their eye. At the end of the day, the best online coding class will always be the one that excites your child the most.