13 Fun and Free Coding Activities for Hour of Code Week

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The Hour of Code is a global movement with students participating in 180 different countries.  The Hour of Code takes place each year during Computer Science Education Week. The 2018 Computer Science Education Week will be December 3-9, but you can host an Hour of Code all year-round. The purpose of the ‘hour of code’ is to get students learning computer science for one hour. A variety of fun and completely free activities are available for students to enjoy. The hour of code is all about showing kids that anyone can code! 

If you are looking for ways to celebrate the hour of code this year, we have got you covered! We’ve compiled a list of some of the best hour of code activities currently available on the net. These unique and engaging games are perfect for your students to play while learning beginner coder skills like programming, loops, and the art of debugging.

Hour of coding is upcoming! This year we will be celebrating Hour of Code during Computer Science week Dec 3-9, 2018. Check out our curated list of hour of code activities. These activities are perfect for the home or classroom. These free coding activities will get students learning the basics of computer programming in no time.

Minecraft Hour of Code

What’s the Activity?

Take a journey through the world of Minecraft one hour of coding at a time. Students will love playing a game with characters they are already familiar with and learning skills in a fun and exciting environment.

Code.org offers three Minecraft activities that help to teach students the principles of coding. These three modules include Minecraft Designer, Minecraft Adventurer, and Hero’s Journey.  Each activity consists of several challenges that get students using block coding to program their Minecraft characters. Students will learn about important coding concepts like loops, variables, and functions by participating in these mini challenges.

In this activity, kids will get hands-on coding experience in the world of Minecraft. Program a chicken to keep moving randomly through a maze, or take Steve on a Journey through the Minecraft world. There are lots of fun challenges that kids will love.

Level: Beginner coders

Requirements: Connected internet browser on a computer or tablet

Skills: Blocks

Ages: Grade 2+

Unplugged Coding with a Deck of Cards

Coding Unplugged Activity

What’s the Activity?

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 the kindergarten or primary classroom. You won’t need a computer lab and kids will still learn some of the basic concepts of coding.

In this activity, you will create a grid by laying down 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. Students will need to give their instructions just like a computer, with specific and detailed commands. For an extra challenge, students 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.

Level: Pre-coder

Requirements: A deck of cards and some small toys

Skills: Algorithms, sequence, debugging

Ages: Age 4+

Create Your Own Google Logo

What’s the Activity?

Create your Own Google Logo and bring it to life using code. Make the Google letters dance, tell a story or create a game. In this activity, students will use a popular programming language designed for kids called Scratch. Scratch was created by MIT and its block-based interface is easy for beginners to understand. 

Students will have a chance to modify the Google Logo and program each letter with a variety of animations and special effects to create their own unique logo. Students can unleash their creativity and also learn the basics of coding with this simple activity that is perfect for beginners.

Google provides a lot of awesome resources for teachers running this activity in their classroom. They have an extensive lesson plan available and also include extra materials like students certificates to give on completion of the task.

Level: Beginner coders

Skills: With Scratch and Block

Ages: Age 10+

Learn to Code with Hotwheels

Screen Free Coding with Hotwheels Grid

What’s the Activity?

Another unplugged coding activity that is perfect for the kindergarten classroom involves learning to code with 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.

You can see the full details for this activity here. We have also included a bonus set of printable coding cards to use in the classroom.

Level: Pre-Coding

Skills: Algorithms, debugging, sequence

Ages: 4+

CodeSpark Academy with the Foos

What’s the Activity?

CodeSpark Academy teaches young learners to code the adorable Foos characters to solve puzzles that teach concepts like sequencing and loops. Little coders will be challenged to take their characters through some obstacles by choosing 

Codespark has developed a popular app to teach kids to code in the Codespark Academy. This app offers a membership subscription, however, the hour of code resources are free for educators for the hour of code activities! 

What I love about CodeSpark is that they cater their app to pre-readers. You do not need to be able to read in order to use the app, and its really intuitive for kids (and adults) to understand. This is great for the younger crowd since coding concepts can be developed even before reading is established.

Level: Beginner coders

Skills: Blocks

Ages: Pre-readers to Grade 5

Learn to Code outside with Chalk! 

Teach kids code - chalk coding activity

What’s the activity?

Another great unplugged coding activity that is a lot of fun for kids! 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 teachers 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 teachers or parents with water guns!

This activity is so much fun! Kids love the opportunity to blast their friends and family with water. This is a great way to make coding fun! No computer screens are needed for this simple activity that teaches kids all about algorithms, sequencing, and debugging.

Level: Pre-coding

Skills: sequencing, algorithms, debugging

Ages: 4+

Play that Tune App

What’s the Activity?

In Play That Tune a blocks language is used to solving musical puzzles by writing code to match tunes played on a piano keyboard. Sequence, selection, and repetition algorithms are needed to solve the puzzles.

Students have to match the tune on the keyboard using their block-based coding skills. This is a great introduction to block-based coding, that is commonly used in beginner programming languages like Scratch.

A fun way to add some creativity to your coding lesson with music!

Level: Beginner coders to advanced. After the 9th level, users can create their own tune and download it as an app for an Android device. Students can also modify the app by following a link to the App Inventor source code.

Skills: Blocks

Ages: Grades 6+

Star Wars Building a Galaxy with Code

What’s the Activity?

Learn to program droids, and create your own Star Wars game in a galaxy far, far away. This Star Wars game is both fun and teaches skills that are different than other games on this list.

This activity from Code.org has two levels. Beginners can use a block-based programming language and more advanced coders can try their hand with Javascript.

Students will work through levels and challenges to direct their character BB-8 on a variety of tasks. This game is similar to some of the unplugged coding activities but with adding the element of an on-screen code. Star wars fans will be sure to love this game!

Level: Beginner coders

Skills: Blocks, JavaScript

Ages: Grade 2+

Make a Flappy Game

What’s the Activity?

Use drag-and-drop programming to make your own Flappy Bird game, and customize it to look different (Flappy Shark, Flappy Santa, etc). Students will love learning how to program there own video game. 

What I love about this activity is that the game itself is also a lot of fun! With each step in coding their flappy video game, students will also get to have fun playing the game they have created. Although flappy bird looks simple, the game gets challenging quick! Students will try to earn points as they take flappy through a variety of obstacles and try to avoid ending their game early.

Level: Beginner coders

Skills: Blocks

Ages: Grade 2+

Switch and Glitch Robot Adventure

What’s the Activity?

Switch & Glitch lets your kids program adorable robots and use them to help save the day. This activity teaches children as young as 3 programming basics like algorithms and loops in a fun superhero adventure. 

In the game, students will need to program their robots to complete tasks. Students will need to give their instructions in advance, using visual coding blocks. A really nice feature of this program is that teachers will be able to log into their classroom hub and see the progress of their students.

Level: Two modules for beginners and more intermediate coders

Skills: Basics of programming, loops, and debugging

Ages: Ages 3-7 and ages 7+

Gumball Coding Adventure

What’s the Activity?

In the Amazing World of Gumball episode “The Signal,” a glitch affects how the characters relate to each other. In this activity, continue the story by making your own glitch and imagining how Gumball and his friends would react to it.

Kids will get a chance to try their hand at scratch, an awesome beginner programming language. This activity allows kids to show off their creativity in programming their characters in their own animated story.

Level: Beginner coders

Skills: Blocks, Scratch

Ages: Grades 6-8

Box Island

What’s the Activity?

Collect all the stars on Box Island. Box Island is a mobile coding game that takes kids on an exciting adventure on the charming island. Using block cards, students will direct their boxes along small mazes. Students will need to choose their directions in advance and run their program when they have selected the correct sequence of movements. This fun game is easy in intuitive for even the youngest coders. 

Level: Beginner Coders

Skills: Basics of algorithms, sequences, loops, and conditionals!

Ages: 6+

Code with Anna and Elsa

What’s the Activity?

Frozen fans will love this creative program to learn about coding. In this activity, students will use code to create snowflakes and patterns. Coding becomes art in this fun activity that teaches kids all about patterns, sequencing, loops, and algorithms. 

This is a perfect winter themed coding activity that fits well with the timing of hour of code during computer science week. One of my favorite activities on this list!

Level: Beginner Coders

Skills: Blocks

Ages: Grade 2+

Join my facebook page!

If you are looking for more fun coding activities that are perfect for the classroom join my facebook page ‘Teach Your Kids Code‘. We have tons of great resources for making coding fun for kids. You will be programming with your kids in no time!

Pin for later!

Free Hour of Code Activities for the classroom! Pin this list of curated coding content for the hour of code week. Hour of code is happening Dec 3-9 2018. Get your students engaged with computer programming basics in these short one hour tutorials designed to help kids learn the basic concepts of coding. Your kids will love these fun activities that bring coding to life with some of their favorite characters and games. These free coding activities are a lot of fun!

Katie is mom of two rambunctious boys and a self-proclaimed super nerd. With a background in neuroscience, she is passionate about sharing her love of all things STEM with her kids. She loves to find creative ways to teach kids computer science and geek out about coding and math.  You can find her blogging at Teach Your Kids Code and in her spare time, documenting her families travels at Tear Free Travel.

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