May 29, 2017

Kacey Templin

5 Offline Games That Teach Kids Coding Skills

Topics: STEM Education / Play, Kids & Coding, Girls & STEM, STEM


You’ve probably seen an article or two about how coding is the “it” skill for children these days. Organizations like Girls Who Code and Hour of Code are developing coding programs designed to prepare children for career success later in life. Schools around the country are recognizing the need for computer science classes, and nearly 40% of schools around the U.S. now teach programming. While technology continues to evolve, computer science job openings continue to grow.

 Today there are nearly 500,000 open computing jobs in the United States but only 8% of STEM graduates have a computer science degree. Even if a child is not interested in pursuing a job in information technology or computer science, coding lessons can help teach a variety of valuable skills including metacognition, strategic problem solving, and abstracting thinking. Demand for coding and computer skills are on the rise and it’s up to us to prepare the newest generation for a future filled with technological opportunities. Today, we’re looking at board games that teach coding skills in an offline setting.



The abstract game of Qwirkle consists of 108 wooden blocks with six different shapes in six different colors. Players begin the game with six blocks. The start player places blocks of a single matching attribute (color or shape but not both) on the table. Thereafter, a player adds blocks adjacent to at least one previously played block. The blocks must all be played in a line and match, without duplicates, either the color or shape of the previous block. Players score one point for each block played plus all blocks adjacent. It is possible for a block to score in more than one direction. If a player completes a line containing all six shapes or colors, an additional six points are scored. The player then refills his hand to six blocks.

While it’s not a straightforward coding game, Qwuirkle does teach the fundamentals of computer programming logic, including pattern recognition and strategy. It’s a great starter game to get kids excited about coding.

Robot Turtles


This game is designed for the youngest programmers but can be enjoyed by the whole family. Every player takes a turtle and a matching deck of cards. Stack the cards face up on the table in piles, then build a maze for each player out of walls and a jewel. The youngest turtle master goes first, placing his first card down, then moving (or having his parent move) the turtle accordingly. As players progress, they build their program on the table; if they make a mistake, they can shout "Undo!" and debug it.

Code Monkey Island


Like the title suggests, this game incorporates both coding and monkeys! Designed for families with children ages 8 and up, this game exposes kids to fundamental programming concepts like control structures, data structures, Boolean logic and operators, and assignment and mathematical operations.  Each player chooses their favorite tribe of monkeys, and sets them down in the corresponding Start Circle. Everyone is then dealt 3 Rule cards. On each player’s turn, they draw 1 Rule card, and play another card from their hand to move their monkeys forward. The first player to get all 3 of their monkeys around the island and into the banana grove wins!

Code Master


Code Master is a programming logic game designed for ages 8 and up. It is a single player game that encourages planning, sequential reasoning, and problem solving skills. At the same time, the player is also learning coding concepts like loops and conditional branching. In Code Master, your avatar travels to an exotic world in search of power crystals. Along the way, you use programming logic to navigate the map. Think carefully, in each level, only one specific sequence of actions will lead to success. Once you collect all the crystals and land at the portal, you win!



codingFarmers is a board game that teaches kids the concepts of programming and introduces them to Java programming. Players must make their way to the farmhouse by navigating their tractors past rushing streams and dangerous rocks while recharging at windmills and relaxing at rest stops. Children play the game with action cards, which describe an action, like "move forward by two spaces" in two ways: regular English, and Java code. By playing the game several times, kids learn to connect their actions with written code. They become programming literate all while having a blast - rolling a dice, maneuvering around obstacles and chatting with their friends and family.

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