At HomeAngela Stone
How to Teach Kids to Code, Even Without a Computer

Knowledge of computer science and programming will become crucial in most future careers. This justifies why more than 90% of U.S parents want their children to be taught computer science, and 40% of schools have already included programming topics in their education curriculum. It is important for students of every level to learn how to code, as it affects most careers of the 21st century. Fortunately, students can approach coding through different activities. 

In this blog, we’ll cover some of the approaches to teaching programming without the need for a screen or app. 

Real-Life Routines

Encouraging kids of all ages to repeat real-life routines is a great way of teaching them basic coding algorithms. Coding algorithms are rules that guide operations in a code. The steps or processes outlined within an algorithm determine whether the program will fail or succeed.

Therefore, familiarizing your kids with routine steps and the terminologies associated with them can help them learn the basics. Once the kids can confidently vocalize and follow the steps by themselves, introduce questions that encourage them to evaluate or rethink the steps or processes. Also, ask them for ideas to simplify the daily routines. By doing this, they will soon adapt and improvise the routines.

Simon Says

This is a simple game that makes it easy to sneak computational principles and ideas into your kids’ play time. In the game, you should give your kids a clear and simple set of instructions, just like programming algorithms. The key aspect of the game is that the term “Simon Says” should be mentioned before any command or instructions to validate them. Failing to mention the phrase makes the command invalid and not a true instruction.

Besides instilling instructional knowledge to your kids, the game engages the child in debugging, especially since they need to mention a specific phrase to validate the instructions. Other intuitive games that teach kids the basics of coding include;


You can create interesting programming games using black and white beads or any two colors. The varying colors are a good way of introducing the kid to binary, a coding algorithm that represents information using two options.

Stack Cups

This game is a good way of teaching your kids the connections between actions and symbols. For this, check out the Perkins School for the Blind idea of stacking cups.

Tangible, Hands-On Programming Tools

Tangible programming tools are also an effective way to introduce kids to coding concepts, especially sequencing, logic, and algorithms. With hands-on tools like these, you can discuss various parts and separate functionalities. However, ensure that your kid knows that instructions cannot be delivered without human input or a control board. Some of the best toys include;

Printable Scratch Blocks 

As the name suggests, they can be downloaded and printed in blocks. You can scale them from smaller to bigger blocks for your kids’ play.

CS Unplugged 

These are free learning activities that teach programming through games, puzzles, arts, and crafts. The toys come with lessons and printable activities that empower children to understand the basic ideas of computer science.

Makey Makey Operation Game 

This is another super easy game that requires a makey makey board and some imagination. While the game requires some online programs, it is a good way of demonstrating to kids how programming works in real life.

Bits and Bots 

There are a variety of educational, programmable robots and other tools that teach your kids the basics of robotics. The best part is now there are screenless coding robots for kids as young as age 4. With these types of robots and STEAM kits, kids have no limit to what they can create and design.


While it may seem obvious, cooking is another interesting way of teaching kids to code without relying on computers. For children, encouraging them to cook simple recipes, such as a toasted bagel with cream cheese, stimulates them to use logic. Begin by teaching them what they need and the steps to take when preparing the meal.

Following this, ask them using your best robot voice to repeat the instructions. If they skip a step, remind them that it is not possible to complete the full bagel-making process if all steps are not followed in a specific order. Asking them to go back to retrace the steps one by one will mimic the “debugging” process in their “code” so they can find which step was missed, correct it, and eventually achieve the finished result. Giving them a complicated recipe or algorithm will require some trials and tinkering before they get the steps right. 

Treasure Hunt

Planning and executing a treasure hunt for kids is also a fun way of teaching how to follow sets of instructions and design a program for a positive result. The main benefit of treasure hunts is that they suit children of all ages. However, designing complex hunts is best for older kids. In the treasure hunt, kids should complete a task before proceeding to the next stage with steps relying on the previous accomplishments. This enables kids to learn the importance of correctly completing a sequence and following instructions.

Bottom Line

You can incorporate coding-related exercises into everyday play in numerous ways, many of which don’t involve additional hours of screen time. These activities equip your kids with additional skills other than what they learn in standalone programming sessions. Once your kids age out from these games, you can advance them to the real world of programming by enrolling them in coding academies and schools. 

There are a host of supportive resources out there to help get kids access to computer science and STEM education, like corporate sponsorships, federal grants, and, if you are a veteran, GI Bill Benefits

Learning the principles of programming, coding, and computer science can prepare kids for future careers. Most importantly, the skills learned through coding provide them with the ability to think computationally and critically, as well as the capability to solve everyday and complex problems.

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