Coding Activities for Young Learners

Teaching students the concepts of coding is such an important skill in today’s world. Teaching even our youngest learners these concepts is easier than one might think. To put it in the most simple of terms, coding is instructions given in order to complete a task. We use coding concepts in our daily lives without even thinking about it! We create daily schedules for students to follow, we lay out steps in projects, and we break down problems into smaller pieces, which is the skill of computational thinking.

I love the Code and Go Mouse from Learning Resources because of it’s simplistic design and ease of use. Kids love using the mouse and it’s fun to think of a variety of ways to integrate content curriculum with the mouse. I purchased mine on Amazon. You can’t beat that price, especially if you are low on technology resources.

One really fun way to use the mice is to build mazes on your floors with painter’s tape and build in obstacles that would block the mouse from moving further, which allows students to have to think about how they will get around that particular barrier. In this case, I created coding mats using Keynote on my Mac and then blew them up on our school poster maker. It’s important to make the squares 5″x5″ because the mouse travels a total of 5″ when it moves. Creating the squares to go the same distance really helps students visually understand how many forward spaces they need to travel.

Getting Started

To get started, talk to the students about what they know about coding. Talk about how coding is basically following a set of instructions (algorithm). They use these computational thinking skills when they get dressed in the morning, when they get ready for bed, when they make a sandwich, etc. Next, show students the coding cards (these come with the mouse). Those cards are the code they will follow when they program the mouse. Finally, introduce the mouse. We named our mouse Jack. Talk about how the buttons work and how they function. I usually show with a partner how the mouse works and I write an incorrect code so that we can demonstrate the process of de-bugging to find out where we might have made a mistake and then we try again.

Some additional tips:

  • I put students in groups of 4. Each student has a role for one round and then they pass the necklace with their role title to the right. This ensures each child has a turn to do each job. That being said, this is a collaborative project and they need to work together to create the code to get the mouse to where they want to go. They have to break down the problem with the coding cards (these come with the mouse). The roles: Object Chooser, Code Writer (programmer), Code Tester (button pusher), and Code De-Bugger. I put the cards on lanyards and have the students wear these. This really is a must because all of the kids want to push the buttons. 🙂
  • Rotate the mats so each group has a chance to use all 4 mats.
  • Use some type of marker (blocks work great here) to designate what object they are coding to get to.
Coding roles so each child has a job during the process.

Download Resources:

Happy Coding!

How We’re Kicking Off the Hour of Code


I love the Hour of Code project and I think it’s fabulous to get students as early as kindergarten thinking about how things work and how that might shape their future goals and career path. How cool would it be to create your own game rather than consume a game someone else made? How cool would it be to make other people’s lives easier as a result of something you created by becoming a computer programmer? Those are just some of the questions I am asking my students. This week, along with millions worldwide, my students are participating in the Hour of Code in each of my classes. I set up nine stations around the room and had the students interacting with robots, iPad apps, and resources, which allowed students the opportunity to experience writing computer programs. Here is a website I put together to have my students experience the Hour of Code websites, which encourages students to begin writing and creating blocks of code.


I had been wanting robots to teach my students programming for a few years now, so I wrote a grant, created a talent show video and sold the DVDs, and won a video contest to purchase the robots for my students to use. We have the Osmo, Sphero, Sphero Sprk, Ollie, and Dash and Dot. Additionally, there are great iPad apps where students can learn to program objects on their screens. Today, we used Hopscotch, Daisy the Dinosaur, and Scratch Jr. also has so many fabulous resources! I know my students will be trying those out as soon as they get home from school! Another fun thing I did was creating mazes out of painters tape–it was a hit today! The students loved trying to program the robots to stay within the lines and follow the course, but it definitely is harder than it looks and requires much perseverance! Today was critical thinking at its best!

If you’re looking for inspiration to put together your own Hour of Code, here are the stations I set up in the computer lab:

One more thing, if you are interested in learning a non-traditional way to teach coding, check out my iTunes U course, which is called The Key(note) to Coding. It is all about using Keynote for the Mac to create Tangram shapes while noting the size, placement, and rotation of the shapes to then write the code for someone to re-create!

Happy Coding!