Coding Games for Kids, Especially Girls, Have Come a Long Way

As a person to my kids over the past decade, I can tell you that the push-to-parent movement can sometimes make me feel like I’m failing my kids because they can’t code. I’ve always been a bit skeptical about coding and small kids, as well WIRED’s Adrienne So: Do they really need a life skill if they are capable of the ingenious habit of cleanliness, or have enough sense to give to share a toy with a sibling, is already difficult?

I had a change of heart about coding a few months ago, when a friend said that my girls should try a coding game she had discovered: Wipe All Kittens (EAK). A Mario-style adventure plot designed for kids 8 and up, it combines a gamified, story-driven narrative and cute characters with the unexpected: GIF kittens popping all over gameplay. Plus, now it’s free to play, a real joy when the cost of some coding platforms can be felt and unstoppable.

My older two daughters, ages 8 and 10, were the right target demographic for the game, and they immediately hung up. (I don’t-although I also find myself playing.) Instead of pulling them off the computer, I encourage them to play more, knowing that this is a much greater use of their time than they used to have an option: watch endless sponcon videos on YouTube.

EAK more than fun: We learn practical skills as we play. It uses real syntax-the same one used by professional developers-to teach coding. This is different from most coding options available today for children, such as rubbing or block, which teaches the basics of computational thinking using drag-and-drop coding.

“We know it has created a huge gap-between kids who know simple coding concepts, and know the professional skills that can be applied in a creative, real world context, ”explains EAK cofounder Dee Saigal.

The Coding Games for Girls are finally Here

While there is no shortage of coding platforms and resources for children (thought, Code Monkey and Codable.

Is it a management? Look. Also, a big problem: Studies have shown that the tween period is an even more critical time when it comes to engaging girls with STEM. The research from School Inspectorate in Sweden found that women are just like you are interested in technology as boys up to age 11 (86 percent); at age 15, many fell (37 percent).

But things are starting to change. Hopscotch, a coding platform for kids founded by Samantha John, was born not part of how John felt as a child that the program wasn’t made for people like me. The platform allows management to allow children to play other people’s games and provide them with tools to create on their own. The girls were asked to pursue different projects than the boys on the platform, program games related to music, story, or plot.

The different activities of girls are reflected in their interests in playing without coding: They are half as likely as boys to play action games Roblox (which saw a 100 percent growth in female Roblox Studio players from March 2020 to March 2021, both under age and over 16). They are also 2.5 times more likely to spend time on gaming experiences, compared to men under 16, according to figures provided by the platform.

It’s no coincidence that female developers make new coding games female-friendly. They know how to think girls.

When Saigal and his group seek EAK, they chat with hundreds of 8- to 13-year-olds, parents, and computing teachers. By replacing dry instructional text with game storyline and humorous dialogue, by adapting coding mechanics to teach each skill to avoid constant repetition, and by encourage kids to “instant results” coding, everyone, especially girls, feel more confident and interested while playing the game (cat GIF is a fun add-on for of some positive progress).

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