Looking for good screentime ideas for the kids? Nothing beats kids’ coding classes online – and we’ve rounded up the best ones to check out now
They’ll also agree there’s the good kind of screentime – seeing a child’s happy face as they recount their weekend adventures to a grandparent, making dessert for the family after a particularly inspiring online cooking class – and the not-so-good kind – when your child goes a bit wild-eyed and keeps snatching your phone off you because they’ve used it so often they now think it belongs to them.
Coding has so many benefits for kids: problem-solving, creative skills, logic and reasoning – to name a few. Plus, it appeals to kids because it feels more like computer gaming than purely academic homeschooling. From apps to classes to coding essentials, here’s everything you need to know to turn your mini me into a coder.
Coding camps and classes
Coding classes and camps are ongoing, although you’re likely to find more options over half terms and summer holidays. Here are some names to know:
Inventors & Makers: Parents keen to get their little ones into STEM from a young age will love Little STEAMers’ online classes, part of Inventors & Makers, set up by a London mum and ex-primary teacher in 2019.
The selection of virtual coding and STEM classes includes Little STEAMers for the 2-4-year-old set, as well as makers classes for Reception and Y1 kids, and Entrepreneur Academy classes for older primary kids. You can also purchase past classes on demand (like Mini Architects and Potions), to do at your leisure with the kids, for £4. Happy experimenting!
Cypher: Cypher is a favourite for anyone with a child aged 5-12 who’s looking for kids’ coding camps. Their May half-term camp is Harry Potter and all things magic inspired, so kids will spend 1.5 hours a day using Scratch and designing holograms, creating fantasy animations, mythical creatures, virtual potions and magical maps.
Parents will like that camp sessions run four times throughout the day, so it’s easy enough to find a time to suit your schedule. Kids also get to practice their Touch Typing and Tynker-ing. You can also sign up to free online learning sessions each Thursday at 5pm on Cypher’s Insta page.
Udemy: You may have already discovered Udemy during the homeschool process – it’s one of the leading providers of online courses for kids of all ages, across all topics, including university courses and career-focused classes. They’re hot on programming and coding, too, with a selection of affordable coding for beginners classes including how to build games in Scratch and learn Python programming, via a combination of on-demand videos and downloadable resources.
Firetech: From half term camps to year-round remote tech courses and self-guided classes, Firetech has a ton classes for kids which cover a range of topics they’ll love, from video game design to perfecting those YouTube vids and creating immersive VR environments. New classes start weekly, and they’re suitable for children 9 and older – plus, there’s 20% off all online tech courses at the moment.
iD Tech: With a plethora of virtual weeklong courses with a maximum of five students per class, iD Tech combines coding with community and might just be the answer for lockdown kids looking for some socialisation. With camps centred on Minecraft, Roblox, Adobe, Python and Unity, there’s plenty to excite kids (while also teaching them essential life skills).
The Golden Circle: Looking for a 1:1 coding experience to complement your child’s home learning? The Golden Circle won’t just help them prep for the 11+ and brush up on their Spanish – they also have a range of coding and computer science courses tailored to each child (these are suitable for students specialising in computer science as a GCSE/A Level, as well as those keen for some extra-curricular coding).
Kids from 9 are taught the essentials to create their own video games, design and code a range of VR and AR experiences, customise their Minecraft environment, use basic programming languages like Scratch and Java and – much to the relief of any parent who’s seen their child pounding away on their laptop – how to touch type.
The Francis Crick Institute: From May 25-May 30th, aka Discodery Week, you can tune in to The Francis Crick Institute’s webpage at 11am daily for a new science-themed activity, like making a blood cell inspired key ring, speaking to a scientist working on COVID-19 testing and creating a chemical reaction at home. Everything is free, and the website has a range of at-home activities like making a lava lamp and learning about the different parts of a cell through cupcakes.
Royal Museums Greenwich: Coder Dojo is a free coding club for 7-17 year olds that unites young coders around the world – and has weekly sessions at the RMG. While the museum is shut, kids can take on the Coder Dojo challenge, which asks them to create a sailing race inspired animation or video game (you can use Scratch to create these free online). Entrants must reference Tracey Edwards MBE’s all-female crew, the first all-female team to travel the world in the Whitbread race in 1989, in their submissions.
Roblox: Roblox is the social gaming platform beloved by the 8-12 set, and kids curious about how those games are made can try to create their own, thanks to Roblox’s Learn & Explore platform, which aims to empower kids to be creators as well as gamers, with instructions on how to design buildings, create environments and learn the basics of coding a game.
Stemettes: Know any teen girl coders – or want to become one yourself? Stemettes is your go-to for virtual workshops and classes, where you can listen to inspiring female engineers and mathematicians via Zoom, YouTube Live and Instagram. In addition to ideas for cool projects to try at home, older teens can expect mentorship and career advice.
Open Learn: While not designed for kids specifically, Open Learn has a selection of free coding courses online. Parents, this may be your chance to upskill – with your 10-year-old by your side.
Code.org: With weekly code breaks on Wednesdays at 6pm, as well as hour-long coding tutorials that kids can dip into – from coding a dance party with Katy Perry songs to exploring a new Minecraft world – Code.org has plenty to educate and inspire. Also, we think the kids will love this Star Wars coding game, with blocks or Java.
Scratch: Both a programming language and a coding community, Scratch is an online space where kids can programme their own stories and games, teaching themselves the basics of coding for free.
At-home science kits and apps to try now
Want your little one to get into the coding spirit, minus the screen time? Or perhaps you’d like try a coding app before committing to a course? Here are a few options to check out now…
MEL Science: Science experiments delivered to your door, with a selection of experiments each month? This sounds like fun. MEL Science offers at-home science kits covering topics from chemistry to aerodynamics, which can then be brought to life via an AR app. Perfect for adding a bit of oomph to distance learning.
KiwiCo: A hands-on intro to science for youngsters, KiwiCo is a subscription service with science- (or art-) based projects for children 5 and up. Tinker Crates are suitable for engineers aged 9 and older and Eureka crates encourage children to complete design challenges.
Tynker: This coding platform has three top-ranked coding apps for kids from the age of 4. Tynker also gives kids access to 20 free coding games, all Minecraft skins and mods and project-based gaming if you register on the site.
Raspberry Pi: A Raspberry Pi board is a must for any coders-in-training – the possibilities for creation are endless. Check out the Raspberry Pi site for project inspo and ideas.
Osmo: This educational toy combines hands-on learning with technology and is great for teaching toddlers the basics of spelling and writing, as well as maths and coding. The Little Genius Starter Kit has saved many parents trying to work with no childcare.
Wonder Workshop: Has your little one been pestering you for a pet? They might be happy with Dash to start – he’s a robot that kids can program with new behaviours. Kids can also transform him with Lego, turn him into a musical instrument or make him a projectile launcher.