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5 Easy Unplugged Coding Activities You Can Do Outside

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Are you looking to teach coding to your kids? Teaching kids to code is an amazing skill that has many benefits beyond the computer. Coding for kids teaches problem-solving, logic, and critical thinking. The skills learned in coding are applicable to many other fields.

I know with my boys, I am hyper-aware of how much time they spend looking at screens. With my background in neuroscience, I know first-hand the dangers behind too much screen time.

I think I am even more strict than others because I know just how many wonderful activities there are out there that both reinforce coding concepts and don’t involve screens. These unplugged coding activities will teach the basic concepts of coding without needing the use of a screen.

As summer starts to wind down, I have all things Fall on my mind. I love getting my boys outside to play, run, jump, and just have fun. Fall is such a perfect time to do just that, and I love that these awesome unplugged coding activities can be done in the outdoors.

5 Outdoor Unplugged Coding Activities

Hopscotch Re-imagined

What you need:

  • Chalk
  • Driveway or sidewalk to write on

Coding concepts taught:

  • Algorithms
  • Sequencing
  • Debugging
  • Loops

Instructions:

This game requires chalk, and a space to draw your creation! The goal is to get everyone through the “Hopscotch Maze” by following a sequence of directions. If someone messes up, they have to start over and debug their algorithm!

Start simply, by drawing a regular hopscotch board on the ground. Number the boxes 1-10 (less or more is fine, too!). Draw a large box next to your hopscotch board for your coder to write their instructions.

Decide who is going to be the ‘coder’, and who is going to be the ‘computer’ and let them get started! To begin with, simply have the coder draw an arrow in the direction they want their ‘computer friend’ to hop.

The goal is for the ‘computer’ to stay on the hopscotch board. The coder may program the computer to travel from numbers 1 to 10, or they may choose their own unique path.

Each time the coder draws an arrow, the friend hops in that direction. Start off by having the coder give these instructions one at a time .

Once that is established, have the coder start sequencing multiple directions at the same time, creating an algorithm.

You can also teach the concept of loops, by creating a hopscotch algorithm that can be repeated. Have your ‘computer friend’ perform your algorithm by completing the sequence of directions.

Now label this loop as the ‘hopscotch loop’. Have your friend try to repeat the same loop without looking at the directions. When we create a loop, we allow computers to be more efficient, as they can repeat the steps without needing to be told all of the individual steps more than once.

Simon Says

What you need:

  • Any fun outdoor tasks such as riding a bike, skipping a rope, or swinging on a swing

What coding concepts are taught:

  • Decomposition
  • Sequencing
  • Functions

Have your little coder practice decomposition by playing a round or two of this unique game of Simon Says! Give them a task they have to “teach” someone else to do, by breaking down the activity into small steps. This may be something like jumping rope, riding a bike, or even swinging on a swing.

The coder has to break down each step of the task (decompose), or the ‘follower’ won’t be able to perform it correctly. For the example of skipping rope, the coder might say:

  • “Simon says, pick up the rope”
  • “Simon says, put one end in each hand.”
  • “Simon says, put the rope behind your back.”
  • “Simon says, circle both hands to swing the rope over your head.”
  • “Simon says, jump with both feet over the rope.”

It helps if an adult acts as the follower so that they can insist that the instructions are VERY clear. If the coder gives the follower an instruction that doesn’t make sense in the sequence of events, the follower can’t do it.

Traditional Simon Says rules can totally apply! If the follower completes a direction that didn’t begin with “Simon says…”, the follower has to start over in their task!

If you want to make the game even better, use it as a way to talk about functions (also referred to as procedures) in coding. A function allows programmers to use one line of code to define many instructions all at once.

Once the follower has successfully completed the task from the coder, have them label the function with a name, and then recall it whenever they want! Once a function is defined, it can be used over and over and over again!

Think “Simon says, jump rope”. Once “Jump Rope” has been taught, the follower can now accomplish the entire program as a function, and the game can continue! See how many functions you can get your coder to decompose and teach effectively!

Treasure Hunt

What you need:

  • A small prize
  • Lots of outdoor space

What coding concepts are taught:

  • Decomposition
  • Sequence

Who doesn’t love an old-school treasure hunt? What better way to practice algorithms and sequences than when there’s a prize waiting for you at the end?

Have your kiddos follow the instructions (algorithms) through the backyard, front yard, or any other area to find the treasure. It’s best to be very concrete in the instructions given, as computers need very clear and concrete algorithms to execute their tasks.

An example of a treasure hunt ‘map’ could read:

  • Take 10 steps forward
  • Bunny hop 5 hops to the LEFT
  • Crab crawl 20 steps to the RIGHT
  • Somersault forward twice

Be creative with your directions. You can also use landmarks to direct your kids e.g “Bunny hop forward until you reach the mail box, skip LEFT until you reach the driveway”

Let them work through the sequence all the way to find the candy, toy, or big brother at the end of the treasure hunt! Then change it up and have them describe the steps they are taking to get back to home base. Decomposition win all around!

Follow The Leader

What you need:

  • Just yourself!

Coding concepts taught:

  • Branching / Conditional statements

This game is a great chance to practice some If-Then statements!

Start with the simplest instructions. “If I skip forward, you skip forward” or “If I spin twice, you spin twice”. The leader will perform the actions of the task and the follower will copy what the leader performs. Once your little coder has mastered the basics, then you can get harder from there.

To make this more challenging, have your coder perform a DIFFERENT action than what the leader does. For example; “If I walk sideways, you walk forwards! Or, if I walk backward, you skip!”

Start out with 3 or 4 of these ‘trickier’ instructions. Once your child has mastered them, perform them at random and see if they can remember what action to perform with each direction from the leader.

Start out as the leader (coder), then let your little one be the coder, and follow their lead. You will be astounded at what they can come up with! 

Find the Leaf

What you need:

  • Fall leaves or other multi-colored objects
  • Chalk
  • A prize for the finish line (optional)

What coding concepts are taught:

  • Algorithms
  • Branching
  • Debugging

If there’s one thing I know about Fall, it’s that there will be no shortage of leaves to find on the ground. This game could also work for eggs around Easter time.

Lay out a variety of different coloured leaves or eggs on your driveway. You will want a maximum of about 4 colors. Fill your driveway up with lots of these items scattered around.

Mark with chalk a start and a finish line at each end of the driveway. The goal of the game is to get from start to finish to reach the prize.

Now design the ‘rules’ of your program. An example of your program rules could be ‘When you reach a yellow leaf, turn right.’ ‘When you reach an orange leaf, turn left.’ ‘When you reach a green leaf, walk backwards.’ ‘When you reach a red leaf, walk forwards’. Now try your program. Begin walking forward from the starting line and see where you end up!

Didn’t make it to the finish? Time to debug the code! How can we change our rules to get to the finish line? Perhaps there we should change the green leaves to forward and the red leaves to backward. Let’s see where this takes us!

Debugging is an important skill in coding. Programmers almost never get their program right the first time! Programmers need to be able to problemsolve and fix their code when it’s not working.

Water Gun Coding Activity

coding activities for kids - chalk DIY coding

What you need:

  • Water gun
  • Chalk

Coding Concepts taught

  • Algorithms
  • Debugging

This super silly water gun coding activity is one of the most popular activities on our blog. In this activity, ‘coders’ will program their parents on a grid to reach the ‘splash zones’. If they program their parents correctly to reach the ‘splash zones’ they will get a chance to soak them with a water gun!

The full details of this activity with all the instructions can be found here.

For more fun coding activities check out our entire section of unplugged coding activities.

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These super easy coding activities for kids are a perfect way to get starting teaching kids to code. We've got 5 outdoor unplugged coding activities to teach your kids the basic concepts of coding. These programming games are easy to learn and no coding experience is required. Learn to program with this really easy introduction. #education #coding #codingunplugged

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One Comment

  1. This is such an interesting post of coding activities for kids. It would help the to learn and understand basic coding fundamentals. Thanks for sharing!

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