Some of the most valuable skills your child can learn nowadays are in technology. The next generation of kids will grow up using digital learning technologies and resources at an incredible scale—a trend that accelerated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said in an interview:

I think everyone should learn programming before they graduate from high school, and I actually think it should be taught in elementary school. It’s the most important language you can learn.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook

Computer programming will tap into your child’s imagination and give them the power to express it through their own video games, websites, art, music, robotics, and more.

Just learning how to code will help them find new ways to solve problems by developing their critical thinking and time management skills, which will help them in school, as well as when it comes time to choose a career.

Today, there are tools online to help your child learn how to code in fun, innovative ways and many of them are free or require minimal investment. In addition, quite a few coding programs are self-guided, which means that parents can step aside and let kids learn on their own.

Here are some of our top picks:

Minecraft: Education Edition has a lot to offer kids in computer programming. It’s incredible to see a child’s interest in a game grow when they realize they can use the knowledge they already have and apply it in the context of a game they already can’t get enough of.

“The real key to teaching a child coding is finding the right motivation. Minecraft offers that as it combines a fun game they love, with a gentle introduction to coding functionality.”

Kids who play Minecraft not only become accustomed to the workings of a computer but also to the fundamentals of game development and the art of coding. The “Hour of Code” tutorials included in this exciting game give children a chance to make their own unique gameplay experiences.

Scratch is a fantastic tool for learning to code virtually anything that your child can imagine. The system involves block programming, allowing children to “snap” together coding blocks to make engaging visual stories.

Kids can use Scratch to code games, animations, and interactive stories, which they can share with others in an online community. The program’s goal is to challenge children’s creativity and teach them the value of teamwork.

Kids can try Alice, a free 3D programming tool, to make their own animations for online storytelling, games, and video projects. Alice’s primary goal is to introduce young children to the fundamentals of object-oriented programming. They can make simple video games and animated shorts, complete with characters and moving vehicles.

Hopscotch is an app that helps children ages 10 to 16 learn how to code by having them make their own games, animated stories, and works of art. Aside from that, this app instills an early appreciation for entrepreneurship. Seeds are a type of in-app currency that lets players “tip” creators for their work, encouraging developers to make even more apps.

By using block programming to solve puzzles, Blockly familiarizes novice coders with the fundamentals of computer science. It’s an easy-to-use tool that introduces kids to traditional text-based coding languages. There are eight different puzzles that kids need to work through by rearranging code blocks. To solve the puzzles without help from an adult, kids should be able to read on their own.

When it comes to coding for kids, Kodable is another popular option. Users can learn everything there is to know about Kodable with the help of the included tutorials. Various programming languages are featured; including HTML, Javascript, Python, CSS, and more. With the ability to pick a character and advance through levels, this game-like concept keeps young people interested while they learn.

Tynker’s award-winning platform has powered the creativity of over 60 million students and serves thousands of schools and educators worldwide. Their coding platform teaches children of all ages and skill levels how to be successful computer programmers through self-paced courses, interactive tutorials, creativity tools, and on-the-go mobile apps.

Tynker uses distinct pathways to coding excellence—tailored to the individual learner—with 300 lessons featuring six mastery levels. Kids can take interest-based electives such as Modding with Minecraft, Robotics & AR, and Game Design. And for more advanced students, Tynker offers courses in Image Processing and Art, AP prep with Java, and Data Science.

No matter which platform you choose, it’s important to foster an environment where your child can explore their curiosity and understand how technology shapes the world around them.

This article first appeared on TYNKER

Author

Lomit Patel is the Chief Growth Officer of Tynker, with 20 years of experience helping startups grow into successful businesses. Lomit has previously played a critical role in scaling growth at startups, including Roku (IPO), TrustedID (acquired by Equifax), Texture (acquired. by Apple), and IMVU (#2 top-grossing gaming app). Lomit is a public speaker, author, and advisor, with numerous accolades and awards throughout his career, including being recognized as a Mobile Hero by Liftoff. Lomit's book Lean AI is part of Eric Ries' best-selling "The Lean Startup" series.