With the advancement in technology, the ability and skills to code is becoming increasingly important. There are so many benefits of coding for kids that go beyond the use of a computer.
Coding has become another form of literacy, like a new language but for computers. Living in the 21st-century, kids are growing up in a digital era and coding is a skill that can be used every day.
Learning to code without a computer may seem illogical, but it makes perfect sense. Unplugging the computer and teaching coding through more familiar mediums such as hands-on activities, can make coding seem less intimidating and more fun and interactive.
We have compiled a list of hands-on offline coding activities where you can have fun coding in a variety of ways with your kids at home! These unique and engaging games are perfect for your kids to play while learning beginner coder skills.
The majority of these games teach kids about algorithms, which is a group of instructions written by the programmer to tell the computer what to do. They will also learn the concept of debugging, which is how to fix a problem in a program and sequencing will teach them how to follow a list of instructions.
- Unplugged Coding with a Deck of Cards
Requirements: A deck of cards and some small toys
Coding doesn’t have to involve a computer! Kids can learn to code with something as simple as a deck of cards. This unplugged coding activity with a deck of cards is perfect for younger kids. You won’t need a computer lab and kids will still learn some of the basic concepts of coding.
In this activity, you need to create a grid by laying the cards face down. Now it’s time to add some toys to act as obstacles in this card maze. The goal of the activity is to guide a ‘robot toy’ from the start to the finish while avoiding the obstacles. Kids will need to give their instructions just like a computer, with specific and detailed commands. For an extra challenge, kids will give their instructions all in advance. Make a mistake? No problem, kids will practice the art of debugging, a critical thinking skill that makes learning to code so beneficial.
- Learn to Code with Hotwheels
Requirements: Tape, construction paper and some small toys/ Hotwheels
Simply lay out a grid on the floor using painters tape or road tape for more fun. Cut out some red construction paper to fill the grid with ‘hot lava’. Now the challenge is to get your Hotwheels car from start to finish without running into any hot lava. Students need to give instructions to their Hotwheels car in ‘code talk’. Bonus points if they can give all of the instructions in advance.
- Learn to Code outside with Chalk!
Requirements: Chalks to draw grids on the ground
In this activity, an 8×8 grid is drawn on the ground with chalk. Some squares are filled in and these are the water blaster squares. Kids need to direct their ‘robots’ (aka siblings or parents) to the water blaster squares. If they are able to give ‘coding’ instructions to get the robots to the water blaster squares, they get a chance to shoot their siblings or parents with water guns!
Kids love the opportunity to blast their friends and family with water. This is a great way to make coding super fun! No computer screens are needed for this simple activity that teaches kids all about algorithms, sequencing, and debugging.
- Feed The Mouse
Requirements: A deck of cards, a toy Mouse and few toy yummy treats
In this game, parents can design a path for the mouse using a deck of cards and place some yummy treats for him throughout the path. The objective of the game is to move the mouse through the path without missing any treats on its way.
One person acts as the Computer (who moves the mouse by listening to the programmer’s instructions ) and the other person acts as the Programmer (who gives the commands). The Programmer gives verbal instructions like ‘Move Forward’ (state how many card spaces), ‘Move Backward’ (state how many card spaces), and ‘Turn Right’ or ‘Turn Left’ to guide the computer/mouse throughout the path, without missing any of the yummy treats.
The challenge level of the game can be increased by creating a more complex maze and putting obstacles in pathways that the mouse has to escape from or manoeuvre around.
- If/Then Backyard Coding Game
Requirements: A backyard or playground and a group of friends or family members
This activity introduces kids to the conditional statements (If/ Then Statements). A conditional statement tells the computer to execute a set of actions depending on a specific event. The objective of the game is to follow the programmer’s instructions and perform a particular task that involves having lots of fun as well.
For every round, one person can be the Programmer and everyone else can be the Computers. The Programmer stands in front of the Computers and gives them commands: “If I ____ (fill in the blank), Then you _____ (fill in the blank).” For example, the Programmer gave the command “If I turn in a circle, Then you turn in a circle.” Or they can give challenging instructions like “If I touch my nose, Then you touch your legs.”
Many parents may feel that teaching coding to kids may be too complex, or maybe worried about their screen time. But with these unplugged fun activities, some of which we do in our face to face coding camps and classes, you could teach your kids the concept of coding easily without using a computer at all!
“Everybody should learn to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think.”
– Steve Jobs