Coding for Kids: Free and Cheap Websites That Teach Kids Programming

Basic programming has become an essential skill for grown-ups and children alike. And the benefits of picking up this skill, especially for kids, are huge: Learning how to build simple websites and games helps kids refine their design, logic, and problem-solving abilities. It also allows them to express ideas and creativity in unique ways.

There are a number of FREE and low-cost websites that teach children how to play around with code. We've rounded up a dozen of our favorites below.

Sign up for our FREE newsletters to get posts like this delivered to your inbox, and find even more educational tech posts for kids in our STEAM Guide.


Students celebrate completing their coding challenges. Photo courtesy of Code.org.

Code.org
FREE
This nonprofit foundation website is a great starting point for coding novices. It shares plenty of useful online resources, apps, and even local schools that teach coding. Be sure to watch the inspirational video on the main page. Updated periodically, the current iteration features some of the biggest names in tech talking about how they got started in coding.

CodeAcademy
FREE Basic class, then $19.99/month
This interactive website is user-friendly and teaches kids basic code through fun, simple exercises that feel like games. To progress, though, or go beyond the basics, you'll need to subscribe.

Code Avengers
FREE Trial, then $20-$29/month
While Code Avengers lacks the eye-catching graphics of other options, it does offer a series of free intro classes in building web pages, apps, and games. Get started with the seven-day free trial, which grants access to the first five lessons in each course, ranging from Python, to web development, JavaScript, and more. If you like what you see, register for a membership plan that costs $29/month and requires no long-term commitment. A six-month plan costs $150.

RELATED: 50 Easy Science Experiments Kids Can Do at Home


Kids learn how to program their own games. Photo courtesy of Code Combat

Code Combat
FREE Trial. Unlock levels for $9.99/mo
Best for older kids, Code Combat uses an interactive, competitive gameplay mode to stimulate learning. Kids can be online, playing in seconds; advanced skills do come with a cost. The game itself looks quite antiquated and might not thrill kids raised with games more sophisticated than Donkey Kong.

Codemoji
$7/mo, $20/4 mo, $55/yr. Multiple users allowed
Put those ubiquitous emojis to work in an educational way with this website that eschews complex codes for user-friendly expressions, quite literally. Kids learn to code by using emojis to substitute for html or css codes. They'll have so much fun, they won't realize the work they're putting in. The initial lesson is free.

Code Monster
FREE
Particularly good for kids, Code Monster features two adjacent boxes. One displays code, the other shows what the code does. As you play with the code (with some help from a prompt), you learn what each command does.

Khan Academy
FREE
Known for its extensive and challenging math games, Khan Academy also has basic programming tutorials that teach kids how to build graphics, animations, interactive visualizations, and more. Its latest addition is a partnership with Pixar, which gives users a chance to learn how Pixar artists do their jobs.

RELATED: Tekkie Uni Brings Online Coding, Robotics, and Digital Art to Kids Everywhere

Kodable
7 Day FREE Trial, then $6.99/mo or $59.88/yr
Kodable has built a full-fledged coding curriculum for kids ages 4-10. Kindergartners can learn basic programming logic and build from there so that by the time they're in fifth grade, they're writing JavaScript code. Widely used in schools, Kodable is also available on iOS devices.

Lightbot
$2.99
Predominantly an app-based program, Lightbot's low-cost programming apps are all-ages friendly. Available for iOS, Android, and Amazon devices.

Scratch
FREE
Designed by MIT students and aimed at children ages 8 to 16, this easy-to-use programming language lets kids build almost anything they can dream. There are no obscure lines of code here. Instead, arrange and snap together Scratch blocks as if they were virtual Legos. But it's more than just a coding guide, it's a vibrant online community of programmers who swap ideas and inspiration.

Stencyl
FREE starter programing, then $99-$199/yr
Inspired by Scratch's snapping blocks system, this software allows users to create simple games for iOS, Android, Flash, Windows, Linux, and Mac systems. If your child is serious about it, there are paid pro plans that come with advanced functionality. Best for kids ages 12 and up.

RELATED: High-Tech Family Fun: 5 Ways Technology Can Be Family Time


Kids work together to create code. Photo courtesy of Tynker

Swift Playgrounds
FREE
Designed by Apple for the iPad, Swift Playgrounds is a much more sophisticated-looking version of CodeCombat, with the added benefit of being free. Kids solve interactive puzzles in the guided “Learn to Code” lessons to master the basics of coding, or experiment with a wide range of challenges that let users explore many unique coding experiences. It requires iPad with IOS of 12.0 of higher.

Tynker
$20/mo or $120/yr
Like many popular coding programs, Tynker works with interlocking blocks of code, making coding language accessible to beginners. Classes are broken down into recommended-age categories for easy entry points. Each child needs their own account, but multi-child discounts are available and there are occasional sales, too. 

Bonus
There are tons of great coding apps if you're looking to teach your kids code on the go (and more being released all the time!). Try Daisy the Dinosaur, Hopscotch, Grasshopper, Space Coders, Code Masters Wonderwood, Code Karts and CodeSpark Academy, for starters!

Photo courtesy code.org

This article first published in September 2013 but is regularly updated. Prices listed are as of December 2018.​ Jody Mercier and Drew Kristofik contributed additional reporting.