Games to teach programming to a 9-year-old?

michaeltharrington profile image Michael Tharrington (he/him) ・1 min read

Hey folks!

My nephew's birthday is almost here and I'm trying to come up with a good gift for him.

He's going to be 9 years old and I think he might dig learning about programming — he's into video games and is competing in a chess tournament today.

I was just about start looking up some options for gifts to teach kids the basics of programming, but I thought it might be more helpful to ask y'all.

Any ideas for games to teach programming to a 9-year-old?


Editor guide

I have a repo in progress for this. Anyone can PR additions!

GitHub logo syntaxseed / codingforkids

Educational coding resources and activities for kids.

Coding Resources For Kids

This list contains English resources for pre-school and elementary school aged children to learn coding either online or via native apps.

Pre-School - Grade 1

No reading or only very basic reading required.


  • Lightbot App. $3

    • By SpriteBox LLC.
    • Android & iOS.
  • Algorithm City Pro App. $2

    • By Musteren.
    • Android.
  • CodeSpark Academy & The Foos. $7.99/m

    • Android & iOS.
    • Best on tablets.


Grade 2 - 3

Light reading skills required.


  • Code.org - CS Fundamentals (grades K-5). Free.

    • Pre-Reader Courses C & D 2018.
    • Pre-Reader Courses E & F.
    • MineCraft Hour Of Code - code.org/minecraft (grades 2+).

This is awesome! I was looking for resources to introduce pre-schoolers. Do you have any experience with any of the apps in there? Any recommendations? :D

And thank you for sharing!


I have these on the list because I looked into them in depth. My kids have enjoyed Scratch, and CodeSpark and, Code.org.

And we had the LightBot & Algorithm City apps & both got a lot of use & were quite fun.

Thanks!! I'll check those out. :D


You might want to check Scratch. It's geared toward children.


Scratch is basically where I got started with programming. Couldn’t agree more about the value of it introducing kids to programming.


This may be a little advanced for a 9 year old - I'm not sure, I don't know that age range or your nephew enough to really say. Sounds like he is pretty "with it", after all... but I think pretty highly of Human Resource Machine. It's presented as a series of logic puzzles with a drag-and-drop interface for putting together components. It approximates programming in an unstructured programming paradigm (like Assembly). You start with just two commands available and work your way up to 11.

The puzzles are small in scope, so they stay fun to solve, and it's a great introduction to the sort of precise, formalized problem-solving mindset you develop when learning to code without getting too stuffy.


This game is so much fun even for adults


I like to start with hardware and see where that leads. You could build a desktop with him if you had the cash and he needed a pc or on a smaller scale, set up a raspberry pi with them. What’s cooler than programming a game that you could actually turn lights and buzzers on when you play? I think raspian even comes loaded with some basic scratch Ide these days.


I love the idea of starting with hardware, too! It makes everything more tangible and accessible, and it takes the "magic" away. 💫


No Starch Press has a bunch of books with projects for kids to teach them coding and engineering. LEGO Robotics is a popular entry point into the topic.

Endless Studios also put out a number of high-quality (but freeware) games to teach programming.


My niece is into Roblox which can be coded against. The coding element is not introductory or meant for children, but her shear interest in the game made it super appealing.

Some kids take to games meant for kids, others kind of reject them and are only interested if there is some appeal within something they already like.

Just food for thought if they don’t immediately take to a “learn to code” environment.


Such a good point, Ben!

It's so important to look at things that kids already like when trying to get them into coding. Especially, because we'd like to have every child be interested in it since understanding computers can become a superpower for their future. 💫

How old is your niece?


Kano Kits are pretty rad! I had the pleasure of reviewing their Harry Potter coding wand and, while I'm an adult, I still enjoyed the heck out of it. Their kits are less video games and more gamified programming lessons. What's neat is that you can toggle on the JavaScript view and see the code that's powering the canvas.


A Raspberry Pi with Minecraft and this book could be a good option as well.



What about Apple's take Swift Playgrounds? It's running on an iPad and seems pretty fun to be honest. Check it out here: apple.com/swift/playgrounds/


If you want to skip Scratch, perhaps Pygame Zero.


I use Scratch as well as MakeCode to teach a 10 year old, both are great.




Check out the Kano Computer. I got one for my grandson. Really cool.


I can recommend construct 2 or 3. My 10 year old loves it and it's easy to grasp although 9y might be borderline. Although it needs someone to explain the basics first.

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