Code Kingdoms is a paid subscription service aimed at helping kids learn how to code by using the worldwide hit Minecraft as a learning tool to ‘learn, code then play’. With more and more schools around the world making computer science education mandatory, finding a fun and creative way to teach the subject is what drew both of the founders Ross Targett and Hugh Collins to create the company. With help from the UK’s leading venture fund, Blenheim Chalcot, Hugh and Ross turned their vision into reality and launched the first version of Code Kingdoms for schools in 2015.
Since then the company has grown its offerings significantly and now has around five thousand schools in the UK using its microbit service and 1,200 using its original game. After raising over US$1.4 million in funding in 2015, Code Kingdoms launched its learn code online Minecraft modding subscription service. Just as Minecraft is primarily aimed towards kids upwards of nine years of age due to its complexity, Code Kingdoms subscription service is best suited to children between nine and fourteen years of age. While it’s possible for younger kids who enjoy playing Minecraft to use Code Kingdoms, the course’s contents and instructions are likely too difficult to understand for any child without a decent understanding of simple math and reading.
How Kids Learn
In order to understand how kids learn with Code Kingdoms, knowing what Minecraft is the first step. One of the most sought after games in the last decade, Minecraft is a pixel based sandbox video game. After being purchased by Microsoft for US$2.5 billion in 2014, Minecraft has sold more 106 million copies and is often considered to be one of the most popular games of all time. Gameplay revolves around custom user created characters exploring a generated 3D world to find resources to survive. One of the reasons Minecraft is so popular is that it provides kids with the ability to customise and modify (‘mod’) almost all of aspects of the game. Modding Minecraft is the primary method of learning in Code Kingdoms.
Code Kingdoms requires users to have an active Minecraft account and a Minecraft license that typically costs around US$25. Getting a Minecraft account or license shouldn’t be a problem if your child already owns the game, but it is something to consider before purchasing or investing in any of Code Kingdom’s services. After purchasing a license and installing the game, children must launch Minecraft and connect the game to a Minecraft server provided by Code Kingdoms. This server is where the learning happens.
After connecting to Code Kingdom’s server and launching the application, kids are presented with video content and instructions to learn how to customise the environment via code. Using Minecraft as a platform for kids to code makes it much more accessible to kids who wouldn’t find general code interesting or exciting. Kids can lift ideas from Code Kingdom’s mod blog or create anything they want in Minecraft via their coding skills.
The downside of using Minecraft for teach coding for kids is that children can get easily distracted and play around in the Minecraft server instead of coding. While Code Kingdoms prevents children from playing with their friends in their custom server, they are still able to enter and exit the server as they please, meaning that significant parental supervision is required to ensure that kids learn instead of spending all of their time playing.
Minecraft has sold more 106 million copies and is often considered to be one of the most popular games of all time.
Unlike other coding learning tools for kids, Code Kingdoms doesn’t just limit teaching kids via lessons. While Code Kingdoms includes over 80 hours’ worth of teacher designed video courses covering both basic and advanced content, it also includes a private Minecraft server for kids to test their creations. Available twenty four seven, the always online server provided by Code Kingdoms has daily backups and can support 25 active players at once. More advanced details about the custom Minecraft server provided by Code Kingdoms are available on their website.
One of the key features of Code Kingdoms compared to other online learning computer science courses is the choice. With numerous hours of video programmed computer science courses, children may find some courses more attractive than others. Code Kingdoms does a great job accommodating kid’s choice by highlighting their progress in a simple to understand manner. Regardless of which course a child selects, Code Kingdoms will represent their advancement in coding by highlighting the appropriate part of the curriculum that course targets. By marking each course to the right part of the curriculum, finding what concepts or path your child is learning about is rather simple and does not require much parental help. Besides helping kids easily see what concepts they are learning, Code Kingdoms features badges and ‘locked’ rewards as an incentive for children to complete their courses and refine their knowledge. Being based around Minecraft, the courses are structured around using code to create objects or items in the game. For instance, the Blocky Races course teaches kids about algorithms, strings, variables and much more by instructing kids to create their own racing game. Naturally, this course wouldn’t make much sense for a beginner in computer science, and Code Kingdoms accommodates for that by offering other courses better suited to novices.
Another reason why Code Kingdoms is simple to use and one of the best coding courses for kids is its interface. Launching the code editor for the first time will reveal a very simple and sleek interface. Just like with the video courses, children can personalise the code editor to their liking. If your child is a beginner, he or she can use a simple drag and drop interface and advance to using simple text commands or even Java code when they are more advanced.
By providing kids with the ability to switch between different input types and enter their code in a method they are comfortable with, Code Kingdoms makes coding for kids simple and effective. Just like the rest of Code Kingdom’s features, the code editor is entirely online based and does not require any particular requirements besides a copy of Minecraft so kids can test their creations in the game.
If your child has any problems with any of the content in Code Kingdoms, their subscription comes with a 24/7 live chat and automatic error detection feature to ensure they have as little confusion as possible. After failing to solve a question while testing the platform, Code Kingdoms presented me with a skip button that would allow me to skip over the problem at the cost of badge points. Instead of wasting the points I decided to wait fifteen minutes for a live chat agent to help me solve the question. While a fifteen-minute wait wasn’t unreasonable, at least you have the option to wait or skip to proceed. Still despite the long waiting times, having dedicated support does make Code Kingdoms one of the best coding course for kids.
Besides the cost of having a copy of Minecraft, Code Kingdoms offers its service via different subscription plans. The cheapest option starts at $15 for a month and requires no commitment. While the monthly is more expensive, it is an excellent idea to test out the site for a month before purchasing a longer plan. For users who are more comfortable with the service, six months of access costs US$70, and yearly access is US$90 which boils down to only US$7.5 per month.
Overall, Code Kingdoms is an excellent way to introduce a kid who loves Minecraft into the world of computer science. Code Kingdoms offers a lot of video courses, and the integration with Minecraft, together with its code editor offers kids an amazing platform to learn to code. If your child is a fan of Minecraft and eager to learn about computer science, this is a no brainer – at least starting with a one month subscription.
Well designed interface and code editor
Learning through Minecraft will appeal to any of the game's fans
Tonnes of levels and 24/7 support
Kids can spend more time playing than coding so something to watch for