Unplugged Coding Activities from Little Robot Friends

Unplugging from computers and learning the basics of coding through hands-on activities and games helps children understand abstract concepts while developing their problem-solving, creativity and metacognitive skills.

tech will save us and little robot friends coding activities for kids

Little Robot Friends have come up with some great activity ideas to teach kids coding without using a computer which we absolutely love and wanted to share with our community too!

Let’s dive into the activity guides from Little Robot Friends!

1. Binary Code Bracelets

Binary code is the simplest form of computer code. It’s a way of representing information using only two options, 1s and 0s. All letters, numbers, and characters convert into an eight-digit binary number by the computer. For example, the letter ‘a’ is represented as 01100001. Making binary name bracelets is a great unplugged activity to introduce the binary system to kids. It helps them get a sense of how computers process data.

Use the binary chart below to learn how to write your name in binary code:

Source: Little Robot Friends

How to make a binary bracelet:

  • To get started, you’ll need beads in two colours for the 1s and 0s. You’ll also need a string or a pipe cleaner.
  • Decide which colour bead represents 1s, and which colour bead represents 0s.
  • Using the chart, find the first letter of your name. You’ll use the beads to represent this letter in binary code.
  • Tie or twist a knot into the end of your string or pipe cleaner.
  • Add the beads to the string or pipe cleaner. Repeat steps 3-5 until your whole name is spelled and on your bracelet.
  • Tie the bracelet on your wrist. If you have a lot of letters in your name, it might become a necklace!

If you don’t have the materials needed to make a bracelet in the house, that’s okay! You can also turn this activity into a spy game by asking the little ones to write messages using the secret code that is the binary system and using the binary chart as a code decipher!

2. Design a Lego Maze

One of the first steps to learn to think like a programmer is understanding perspective. Creating a maze, and planning the escape route, is a fun way to develop logical thinking and a programmer’s mindset. This open-ended task lets kids follow parts of a real design process, such as brainstorming, prototyping, and testing.

  • Find a large baseplate or create one using several flat pieces. Gather a variety of Lego pieces that are standard height.
  • Use the pieces to create a wall around the perimeter of the baseplate. Leave space for a start and endpoint. The space should allow a marble to pass through.
  • Then create the maze inside the perimeter. Leave about 3-4 studs between walls to allow space for a marble.
  • Once complete, grab a marble. Pick up the baseplate. Drop the marble at one end of the maze, and tilt and move the baseplate until the marble makes its way to the end.

Tip: Ask your child to the first plan and design their Lego maze using a pen and paper for an additional challenge.

3. If/Then Exercise

Programmers write commands that prompt computers to complete an action depending on the variables that are present. The program says IF one condition exists, THEN do something. It can be as simple as a Yes or No question and answer or it can prompt an action. One of our favourite physical activities, the If-Then Game, is an age-appropriate way to teach kids about one basic of computer programming, the If/Then statement.

  • Find a large, open space.
  • Choose one person to be the Programmer. The rest of the players are the Computer.
  • Begin with a practice command. The Programmer gives the Computers a command (e.g., If I lift my right arm, then you hop on your right leg!) and the Computers follow the command.
  • Now the game begins. The Programmer gives Computers a command. They follow the command. This is a twist on Simon Says game, because the condition and the command can be different!
  • Repeat step 4 several times. Then have a new Programmer take over.

After playing the If/Then game several times, kids will internalize the concept of conditional statements and two main roles in programming through physical activity.

After your kids give these activities a try, make sure to check out Little Robot Friends for other activity ideas or check out their awesome PaperBot Kit, teaching kids about electrical circuits, how to take measurements and how resistors work!

Little Robot Friends’ mission is to empower kids to think creatively with technology.

Founded by Ann & Mark, a wife & husband duo, and based in Toronto, Canada, Little Robot Friends is a team of designers, engineers, and educators who are passionate about changing the way our kids learn. From basic introductions to code and electronics, to making robot superheroes, we are always running workshops and building products that will inspire kids’ creative imagination. Connect with them at littlerobotfriends.com.