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4 Ways to Get Your Child Started with Coding

Computer programming isn’t just for college students and hackers. Here are four engaging ways to get your kids started with coding.

By Ashley Wang

It’s pretty clear by now that technology is a force to be reckoned with. Tech companies are ever-growing and demand for programmers has never been higher. Computers dominate our lives right now, and they will dominate the lives of our children, as well.

So it’s not unexpected that many parents are interested in coding for kids. But getting them started can be rather tricky, especially if you don’t have too much experience with programming, yourself. Here, we highlight four ways to introduce your child to code.

1. Scratch

Used by millions of children around the world, Scratch is considered by educators to be the gold standard for teaching beginner coders the basics of programming. The reason? It uses blocks-based grammar that has users drag and drop commands rather than typing code. Because Scratch doesn’t require learning any complicated programming languages, even eight-year-old kids can use it.

Using the website, you can create everything from short animations to simple games. It’s intuitive, logical, and familiarizes kids with the computational thinking behind programming without overwhelming them with abstract ideas.

And if you want to get your child started even earlier, say at five-years-old, ScratchJr is the perfect learning tool. It doesn’t even require the ability to read; instead, children only need to connect together icon-based blocks to animate their characters.

Find Scratch camps & classes>>

2. Lego Robotics

Looking for a more hands-on experience for your child? Lego robotics might just be the perfect fit. Lego Mindstorms, a hardware-software platform produced by Lego for children aged 10 and up, combines the fun of Lego-building with the intellectual challenge of programming robots to walk, talk, and even think.

Calvin Grewal, a Palo Alto High School senior who interned at a startup as a web developer over the summer, thinks it’s especially great for keeping kids motivated because of the immediate results it lets them see.

“It’s a good way to make coding not so dry,” Grewal says. “Building a physical robot is definitely a lot more interesting, especially for younger kids.”

Grewal does, however, warn against having children learn robotics and coding without the proper assistance that is provided at robotics camps and classes.

“If you’re in high school then you may be able to study code on your own and be properly self-motivated,” Grewal says. “But for kids, camps are definitely better to help facilitate learning and engagement.”

Find Lego Robotics camps & classes>>

3. Game Design

Camps that teach video game design are another great option for children. Because if your kids can’t seem to peel their eyes away from their screens — be it iPads, laptops, or TV — then why not have them learn how to make a video game, themselves?

Grewal is a major proponent of game design camps, citing them as the reason for his initial interest in coding. He started over the summer in elementary school, where he was taught basic Python to develop a simple computer game. Because he was doing something he was already interested in, Grewal viewed learning something as complicated as coding as more of a fun activity rather than a school-related task.

Game design is also becoming a rapidly-growing industry. Especially with eSports on the rise, specialized software developers are needed now more than ever to help create the next bestselling video game.

Find Game Design camps & classes>>

4. School or Online Clubs

For kids that love interacting with their peers, joining a school or online coding club may offer additional benefits. While programming is often viewed as an individual activity done in solidarity, clubs encourage students with like-minded interests in coding to help each other out with tips and advice. Students often find it beneficial to have others help them troubleshoot their issues.

“It’s a good way to talk with other people who are interested,” Grewal says. “You learn from other people, who then learn from you.”

However you plan to approach coding for kids, it’s important to always keep an open mind. Because no matter how much they may like legos or game design, it’s still possible that coding just isn’t the right activity for them. But starting by gauging your child’s interest with some of these tips wouldn’t hurt, and perhaps they might just become the next tech founder.

>> Find more coding camps & classes on ActivityHero
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Bay Area Summer Camp Guide for Kids and Teens

This summer camp guide will help you find camps that fit your kids interests and provide some tips on how to make it easier to plan your summer with the greatest ease. 

Adventure Camps | Best Bay Area Summer Camps at Activity Hero

Bay Area kids benefit from a large variety of summer camps — sports, art, coding, outdoor and specialty camps! Many parents describe the camp planning process as a jigsaw puzzle as they try to fit together multiple kids, friends, and camp schedules. 

At ActivityHero, our mission is to make finding and booking summer camps easier for parents. We’ve put together this summer camp guide to provide an overview of all the top camp categories.

Sports Camps

Sports camps are popular with kids of all ages. Summer is a great time for kids to further explore a sport that they love or try something new. Besides keeping kids active, sports camps help kids learn teamwork and perseverance. Sports camps also tend to be less expensive than other camps. 

Boys and girls love soccer camps, and even in the summer, it’s not too hot in the Bay Area to be on the soccer field. The youngest campers have fun playing games and running off all that extra summer energy. Experienced players benefit from extra instruction during the off season.

Family favorites:
Coach Ken Soccer Camps: “Great staff and great experience for my son and daughter! This was our first year and my daughter who is 6 was interested in playing sports like her 8 year old brother. They both had a great time, learned a lot, and it was a great learning environment for the kids. Can’t wait to go back!”

Basketball camps are great for coordination, exercise and team-building. Campers learn the fundamentals of basketball through games and fun drills. Coaches group children by age and skill level, making it a suitable choice for beginner or advanced basketball players.

Family favorites:
Legarza Sports “My son loved his week at Basketball camp. Good instructors who care about the kids. Drop off and pick up were very easy. He’s excited to return next year.

Dance camps are a great way for artistic children to explore their creativity through a variety of different dance disciplines such as modern, jazz, ballet, hip hop, salsa or even aerial dance.

Family favorites:
Grrrl Brigade “A terrific empowering experience that exposes and teaches your child a wide range of dances, music, positive approaches to thinking and expressing themselves. The “show” at the end of the week is very inspiring and the staff is thoughtful, patient and kind in leading the girls through an impressive array of choreography.”

Multi-sport camps are a good way to give kids a variety of several different sports and outdoor games. Bald Eagle Sports Camp proudly says their multi-sport camp is “known for getting even the laziest kids up and moving…and loving it!” 

Family favorites:
Growfit “The staff at GrowFit are simply amazing. I sent both my kids here during the school break and they had an awesome time. The staff went above and beyond when my son was being called names. I really can’t say enough good things about them.”

Coding, Science, and Robotics Camps

Parents know how kids can consume technology for hours at a time on video games, YouTube videos, and social media. So it’s not a surprise that many parents are interested in directing this interest into creating video games, making movies, or coding the next social media app like TikTok. 

Summer is a great time to explore coding for kids because most schools don’t offer coding during the school year. Many coding camps use video camps as the subject matter for teaching kids how to use Scratch or Python to create their own game or learn Minecraft or Roblox mods. Teens may choose Java programming camps to prepare for high school computer science courses or App development camps to explore new app ideas. 

Science camps and STEM camps are popular for girls and boys who are naturally inquisitive. Camps that focus on science, technology, engineering and math challenges are engaging for curious children who like to explore the how and why. For middle and high school students, STEM camps can showcase a wide variety of potential career opportunities.

Family favorites:
Camp Galileo
Camp EDMO
Destination Science introduces new kid-oriented themes each year, like animals, space, or amusement parks. 

Robot summer camps are like coding camps with an extra element of competition. TV shows like BattleBots have introduced more families to the thrill of designing and battling robots. Many introductory robotics summer camps use LEGO Mindstorms, which is also used by the First Lego League in nationwide competitions for kids. 

Family favorites:
Wizbots
TechKnowHow 

Art, LEGO, and Maker Camps

Creative kids can grow their skills and express themselves in any number of art camps and maker camps. From learning to draw to learning to build, art and other maker camps can bring out the creator in every kid.

At a LEGO camp, kids build LEGO animals, spacecraft, and other creations. 

Family favorites:
KidzToPros
Brainvyne LEGO Camps 

For budding master chefs, a cooking camp like Sprouts Cooking Club or Culinary Dude offers hands-on cooking experience and a daily menu. On-demand activities include recipes and video walkthroughs for meals and desserts.

Kids and teens who want to learn to sew will find some creative sewing camps such as Camp Couture in San Mateo, owned by Project Runway finalist Alexandria von Brommson. Sewing camps like this let kids design their own fashions, accessories, and even soft toys. 

Woodworking camp is very popular, even in the high-tech age, but harder to find due to the specialized equipment and instructors. Maker Nexus in Sunnyvale has sewing camps as well as woodworking and industrial arts for kids and adults. You’ll also find woodworking at Tinkering School in San Francisco and Young Builders in Palo Alto. 

Outdoor and Nature Camps

For both boys and girls, outdoor camps are a top interest with kids ages 5-13. This is great news for parents who want their kids to spend less time with screens and more time connecting with nature and playing outside.

The Bay Area is the perfect place for kids to enjoy both water sports and mountain adventures. Kids can take a hike along creeks or try rock climbing, mountain biking, or canoeing. 

Family favorites:
Camp Galileo
Avid4 Adventure

Also popular in the Bay Area

Academic camps are a top interest for kids ages 7-10 who would like to explore a subject beyond the typical classroom curriculum in an exciting and engaging way.

Family favorites:
“My daughter loves math circle. She tells me that she’s not doing math like at school, rather she says she’s doing puzzles and games and that it’s really fun. I love that she’s having fun learning and that math circle helps her develop a positive attitude about math.”

Girls-only camps are a chance for girls to connect with other girls and get a unique perspective on topics such as leadership, teamwork and goal setting. A single gender camp can boost confidence and help girls find their voice while making friends.

Summer Planning Made Easy

Are you juggling a summer camp schedule with multiple children? Or, are you trying to coordinate camps and carpool with friends? ActivityHero has launched a new tool to make inviting friends and teammates even easier. You can now add your favorite summer camps to a saved list, invite friends and share as a group. Parents are able to RSVP that they are interested, registered or unavailable for that camp all in one convenient location. Save time and plan the ultimate summer experience with your child’s classmates, teammates, neighbors and more!

How many camps should my child attend?

It really depends on your child. Some kids can be single-minded and want to enjoy one camp for the summer and focus on their favorite activity, other kids want to take several classes in different areas throughout the season.

You can find these Bay Area summer camps and many more camps near you on ActivityHero or download our iPhone app for faster and easier searching!

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Coding for Kids: a Guide to Choosing a Coding Camp

Find various coding schools and programming courses that teach kids python, java during summer or all year-round. Get expert tips on picking the right coding camp to fit your child.

Coding Camps for Kids | Bay Area | Activity Hero Summer Camps

Technology continues to impact our world at an incredibly rapid pace. As a parent, you may be looking for a way to prepare your child for the future. Introducing a child to programming languages could be either a building block for a career or an entertaining option for your young gamer. If your child has an interest in technology or gaming, a coding camp for kids could be a great option. There are also online coding classes and camps that allow your kids to learn from home.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself when choosing a coding summer camp:

  • What is the age and skill level of my child? 
  • Can my child type easily?
  • Who are the instructors?
  • What is the camp schedule?
  • What will my child be learning?

One important note is that coding for kids is not something that can be mastered in a week. It is a process that your child can build on for years, if they are willing and excited to continue learning.  

“My son is at the point where he can envision a problem he wants to solve and begin to develop the code to get there. It reminds me of student development in math and languages–it starts slowly but over time you see real progress and suddenly the child is bursting with ideas,” said a parent review.

Scratch Coding Camps

Scratch is a beginner level program that can be introduced to children in early elementary school. The Scratch coding camps focus on making sure children understand the foundational computer programming concepts. The drag-and-drop format of Scratch does not require a lot of typing skills and is suited for children who have never been introduced to coding. Games and animations are designed through ready-made blocks of code to help students build scripts. Scratch projects will encourage creativity, reasoning and problem-solving skills. More advanced Scratch coding camps will build on previous experience and children can develop more realistic and customized games. 

If a child leaves camp excited to learn more, parents can visit the Scratch website at http://scratch.mit.edu. Scratch can be accessed free online or it can be downloaded for offline usage. 

Minecraft Camps and Java Camps

Does your child love playing Minecraft or spend hours watching Minecraft YouTube videos? If they are curious about how to advance their gaming, Minecraft camps might be a fun opportunity. Introductory Minecraft camps are available starting in elementary grades and are focused on learning the fundamentals of creating fun mods. One important note is that some camps require a Minecraft account, so we recommend checking with your camp director prior to the first class.

Campers will often learn core computer science skills as well as 3D modeling and texture mapping techniques. If your child is an experienced Minecraft user, they may be interested in a more advanced camp where they can create a custom game experience using Java. Java is a widely used programming language, making it a great foundation for students interested in learning more about app development. Java camps are often paired with other coding topics such as Minecraft and Python.

Since Minecraft camps range from beginner to advanced, it is recommended to review class curriculums before selecting a camp. 

Python Coding Camps

Python is a very popular, all-purpose language. The lines of code are shorter and simpler than in other languages, making it easier to learn Python for kids. Python is a great language to learn after Scratch. However, you do not need previous experience if a child wants to skip to an introductory Python camp. While there are some Python camps available for children starting in 4th grade, many are designed for middle school children. The ability to type can be helpful for those starting to learn coding. 

If a child expresses interest in building on their camp experience, intermediate and advanced Python camps are available to take coding skills to the next level. One of the advantages of learning Python is that it is used in real-world applications such as web and software development. 

Web Design Camps

At web design camps for advanced students, Java will be used along with other programming languages such as HTML and CSS. At some camps, students will even learn to program a functional website during the week.  

Video Game Design Camps

If you have a young gamer, they may be interested in specific video game design camps or app development camps. Students will start to learn basic app development principles, including UI/UX design and advanced programming techniques using Javascript, HTML and CSS. Programmers use JavaScript to create interactive features that run on websites, such as games. It is the leading client-side programming language on the web today, making it a valuable learning experience for young coders. 

Roblox Camp

Roblox is an online gaming system where users create avatars and play games in user-generated 3D worlds. According to Roblox,”the types of gameplay on Roblox are just as limitless as the imagination of the creators themselves.”

Roblox camps can appeal to a wide age range of children because users do not have to have a strong foundation in coding to build a game. Younger campers use the built-in Roblox Studio to create 3D worlds without the need for text-based code. More advanced users can use the popular LUA coding language to create game actions, elements and mechanics. At the end of the week, campers can learn how to publish and share their game to the Roblox community.

Summer Explorations

Regardless of your child’s age or prior programming experience, there is a coding summer camp that is the right fit for your family. There are a wide variety of options available, whether your child just wants to continue their gaming or explore a future career interest. Kids can take a free trial class to make sure they like it before signing up for a longer camp.

You can find all these Bay Area coding camps on ActivityHero or download our iPhone app. You can search by location, category, age, and other criteria to help you find the best summer camps. Early bird discounts could save parents up to $200 a week on summer camp.

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Is Your Kid Addicted to Minecraft? Here’s Why You Should Learn to Play Too






My 12 year old son loves Minecraft and plays almost every day online either solo or with friends. And when he’s not building or adventuring, he’s watching YouTube videos of others playing and building. Seems like an addiction, right? That depends on your perspective. I have to say that I thought his hours of Minecraft screen time were verging on unhealthy until my husband and I tried it for ourselves.

My husband was the first to give it a go, playing on our PS3 with our son. It seemed to be a great bonding experience but I was even more surprised when I would wander in on my hubby playing the game when my son was nowhere in sight. He took to the game like a fish in water. I held out longer, but when my son gifted me with a Minecraft download for my birthday, I could no longer resist.

Let’s be frank – I’m bad at the game. My son and his friends laughingly call me a “noob” and I have to admit that I’m less into building than chasing virtual bunnies around, but my tween is just thrilled that I’m online with him. He’s even taken to recording our sessions and editing them into his own Minecraft YouTube series he plans to publish about teaching your clueless parents how to play.

But it was more than curiosity about the game that got me to log in and play online with squares of dirt and trees – it was wanting to be closer to a kid that puberty is turning into a “don’t hug me in public” hormonal creature. Here are four reasons to consider investing the $30 and a couple of hours of your time each week to play Minecraft with your kids.

#1 It gets your tween to willingly spend time with you

My sweet little son is growing a pubescent fuzz-stache and is migrating to that stage where he needs me less and less. Logging on gets me dedicated time where I have all his attention. My lack of skill in the game allows him to step into the position of authority and instruct me on how to mine, build and protect myself. He’s proved himself a patient and generous instructor. I sit down with a pledge to play for half an hour and then suddenly realize we’ve been at it for an hour or two. Offline, I get monosyllables. Online, I get quality time. Think of it as a relationship tool.

#2 It’s a great way to stay in touch online when you’re traveling

If you have to travel for work regularly, playing Minecraft is a great way to thoroughly engage with your kids when you can’t be physically present. Minecraft can be played in a variety of way – as a single player, you can play alone on your computer or on a public server with other players. You can even set up your own server and make it invitation only. From wherever you are, you can log on and play with your kids while simultaneously chatting on Skype so it’s a genuine hangout. This can ease the separation pangs that both you and your kids suffer when you have to travel.

#3 You can see who your kids are spending time with online

In addition to playing as a solo player, my son plays on public servers, sometimes with people he doesn’t know and sometimes with a handful of school friends. He and his buddies also Skype chat while playing so it’s like a virtual play date. Minecraft also has a text chat function where you can talk to other players, but my tween sticks to audio chat so he has hands free to build. It’s easy to monitor Skype activity, confirm that your kid is chatting only with friends and family and isn’t in stranger danger. Sometimes players on public servers may start an argument, but mostly it’s pleasant interaction.


#4 It’s fun

I’ll just say it – I don’t care for today’s video games in general. When I was my son’s age, video games came in increments of what a quarter could buy at an arcade. Saga adventure games on the Xbox or PlayStation have never held allure for me. But Minecraft, I have to admit, is fun. I chop down trees, dig holes, chase pigs around and build shacks. My son, by comparison, builds castles and sophisticated machines. But we laugh and he encourages me to evolve my skills. I even invested in a set of Minecraft Essential Handbooks with all the recipes for crafting (two sticks plus three wood planks = one wooden axe) that my adult brain can’t retain without reference material. You can even book your tween a Minecraft birthday party or camp!

What’s infectious about Minecraft is that, no matter how inexperienced you are, you can play and have fun. If you die, you respawn immediately. You can also turn on creative mode (rather than adventure mode) while you’re learning so you can play without worrying about running out of virtual food, being attacked by zombies or running short of building resources.

Even for the least computer game savvy parent, Minecraft is learnable. I highly recommend not only buying it and playing with your kids, but letting them take the lead to teach you the game. This will let you experience an aspect of your child’s personality you may have never seen because they’re in the driver’s seat and you’re the one with the virtual training wheels. Flipping the dynamic can deepen your relationship and bring you closer to kids that are growing up and away from you far too fast.