A few weeks ago CODE.org had its hour of code event. It’s a great program to introduce young kids into computer science and I was really happy to see it take off this year. From my own 5 year old son Connor all the way up to President Obama everyone was learning a bit of Comp Sci.
Ever since the hour of code event Connor has continued his interest in doing the code.org website lessons. The activities are great, combining games like Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies with the blockly visual programming editor. This weekend though I had the idea of bringing the code.org lessons into the real world. Connor and I had a great time making a real world equivalent to the Plants vs. Zombies game and I wanted to share how we did it.
To start off we needed the programming blocks. In our game we needed to instruct the zombie to move forward, turn left and turn right. We also had a ‘repeat x times’ block to allow some instructions to be repeated to the zombie. We used colored construction paper, sharpies and scissors to cut out programming blocks using the same colors and shapes used by the blockly editor for the code.org activities.
For the repeat block we also needed some numbered cutouts to specify how many times a block’s instruction would be repeated.
Next we needed a place to set up a maze for our zombie to navigate, with a sunflower to eat at the end. We used a twister mat for this which worked great, but any large surface that you can use to define a play ‘grid’ will do.
Looking for another game to teach programming skills to kids? Check out Robot Turtles!
We then got out some Lego Quattro blocks to build our sunflower and some obstacles for the zombie to navigate around. Connor is more into the real Lego blocks these days, but we still had the Quattro blocks from his toddler years.
At this point we had everything we needed to start some IRL coding games! We would take turns setting up the maze, being the ‘zombie’ and writing the program. Connor wanted to do both, but I would definitely try to steer your son or daughter into being the programmer and let you be the zombie. They’ll learn more that way, and they’ll have fun giving their parents orders!
We really had a great time with this activity and Connor learned some logic skills, which will help him later in life whether he winds up in a STEM field or not. And now that we have all of our programming block cutouts we can play this game again without as much setup.
Looking for other geeky and fun things to do with your son or daughter? I’d definitely recommend the book GeekDad, I just got this book myself for Christmas and it’s filled with a lot of fun activities. This activity wasn’t pulled directly from the book, but it definitely provided some inspiration to me.