Have you ever wondered how your electronics work? Maybe you’ve thought about how text messages are sent and received, or how the game you are playing understands what you want it to do. Every day, we download and play games and music, check class schedules, and keep in touch with our friends and family using social media applications, and without computer science, none of it would be possible. Computer science is more than building computers. A computer scientist specializes in making sure the software that runs on our computers and smartphones works. Computer scientists also make sure that their programs work together and communicate well.

Getting into computer science might take a lot of learning, but there are many resources available to help kids of all ages, even toddlers, get a head start on learning key concepts and about the math and logic behind the science! For true beginners or very small children, the first step will be helping them get familiar with typing, since most online programs and games need you to type in provided codes. Even with a lot of practice typing, inputting advanced code can be difficult. To get around this issue many games and programs use a method called blocking that allows you to grasp the basic concept of programming without worrying over syntax.

Before getting into the basics of programming, it is important to start training your brain to think like a computer, which means learning to think logically. Logic is key to computer science and programming, which is why programs that help you understand logic lay a good foundation for when you start learning code. Once you’ve a good understanding of how computers deal with commands and logic, you should advance to how they think – in binary code. Binary is important because it is the way computers store data.

Programming Languages

Established programming languages can be a bit overwhelming, especially for beginners. That’s why programmers created Logo, a programming language designed specifically for those just starting out. In the same line of simplified programming languages is Quorum, a language that attempts to simplify commands so they are easy to remember. Another good first programming language is Karel. The Karel programming language is user-friendly and accessible for programmers of all levels. Like Logo, the language was created to ease learners into understanding how commands generate actions.

Once you’ve gotten used to the easier programming languages, it’s time to move on to the more complex. HTML and CSS are perhaps the most widely used programming languages when it comes to web development. HTML (hypertext markup language) is often used to give web pages their initial framework, while CSS (cascading style sheets) create the visual and auditory sections of the webpage. To put it in different terms, HTML is used to build a house, while CSS designs the interior and exterior. Another programming language important to website development is JavaScript. This language interacts with both HTML and CSS and is considered by many to be the most popular programming language out there. JavaScript is a versatile language and has the benefit of being easy to learn.

Learn More About Computer Science Through These Games:

Improve your typing skills with Dance Mat Typing – Dance Mat Typing is a program geared towards helping young children learn how to type. This interactive game teaches the mechanics of typing, as well as the keys they will be using. While the game itself is very slow, it is the perfect place to start or hone skills learned in school.

Understanding Blocks with Star Wars – Code.org’s Star Wars Block game helps students understand how commands flow in programming. The player controls BB-8 by attaching the block commands so they flow into one another to help the droid move and collect scrap.

Learn Blocking with Blockly – Though not as fully realized as Star Wars, it is a clean, simple game that teaches both logic and blocking by asking the user to connect blocks to group objects. As the play advances, Blockly shows how the block commands would look if written in JavaScript to help reinforce the concept and get you started using real code. With over a dozen languages to choose from, Blockly is a good starting place for young kids or those more comfortable learning in a second language.

LightBot – Lightbot is a fun, interactive game that teaches kids how to think logically by solving puzzles. The commands in Lightbot are simple and given by clicking on the correct icons in the proper order to make Lightbot walk, glow, turn, and jump. This game is geared towards younger students but is a useful tool to help older kids learn to think critically and logically.

Coding and Pattern Recognition with Manufactoria – If you want something more advanced you can challenge yourself with Manufactoria, a game that combines logic, and pattern recognition, two things essential to computer science. Manufactoria places students on a factory floor where the robots are running wild and challenges them to build testing machines to make sure only good robots leave the factory.

Binary Routing with Internet Mail Girl – Binary Routing with Internet Mail Girl is a good game for those just starting out learning about computer science and coding. Binary Routing teaches young coders how to translate numbers and letters into the binary language of ones and zeroes.

Code Avengers Data Representation – Code Avengers and use the Dr. DJ device to learn how to represent data using numerical values. The game, while easy to follow, gives players a solid grounding in logic and helps show how information is stored and recalled, an important concept for programming.

Turtle Academy – Using Logo, you can create complex designs by typing commands that control the cursor, or ‘turtle’. Turtle Academy helps children learn Logo by starting them off with simple commands that grow in complexity as they advance.

Quorum Computer Language – Astronomy Hour of Code helps you learn Quorum by typing increasingly complex commands into the prompt. Once enough language has been learned, the program guides you to build a virtual telescope based on images taken from the Skynet Robotic Telescope Network. A great game for those interested in learning a programming language as well as astronomy!

Karel – Karel uses simple commands like go, left, right, and get to help Karel the robot complete simple tasks.

CodePupil Introduction to HTML and CSS – CodePupil is a great game for helping young webpage developers learn the strengths of both HTML and CSS by starting players out with understanding the difference between the two languages, and how they work together to create web pages.

Learn Basic JavaScript with Code Maven – Code Maven from Crunchzilla is a simple, straightforward game that teaches users JavaScript hands-on by having them manipulate objects.

Code Combat! – Code Combat is a fully realized 2D game designed to help kids learn how programming language effects gameplay. The player can choose between four different programming languages – Python, Lua, CoffeeScript, and JavaScript – to control their avatar as it runs through mazes, collects gems, and avoids obstacles. Essential commands are always visible unless you want to hide them for an extra challenge. Code Combat’s greatest strength is in teaching the language while allowing you to see how it affects your character in real-time, and how small changes in the code can have large consequences.

Code Hunter – Students who have experience with coding in Java – not to be confused with JavaScript – and C# languages should try Code Hunter. Code Hunter teaches several concepts involved in coding, including strings, nested loops, arrays, and conditionals by relying on your ability to spot and manipulate damaged code. As Code Hunter relies heavily on algebra and equations, it should be used by students who are familiar with these concepts.