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STEAM Saturday: Coding Without Screens

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When scientists do experiments, they are always asking questions and wondering, “If I do this, then what will happen?” If/Then is an important part of coding. If/Then is what’s called a conditional statement in programming. The program queries if one condition exists, and then it commands it to do something. It can be as basic as a True or False question and answer or it can prompt an action.

Explore the If/Then concept with these fun games!

boys playing outside

Backyard Coding Game


This game is sort of like Simon Says. For every round, there is one Programmer and everyone else is a Computer. The Programmer stands in front of the Computers and gives them a command. If I ____ (fill in the blank), then you _____ (fill in the blank). For example, the Programmer can give the command “If I turn stand on one foot, Then you stand on one foot.” Or, “If I stomp my foot, Then you do a jumping jack.” You can set up your rounds however works best for your group of kids. Kids love giving commands, so they will enjoy taking turns as a Programmer.

coding with cards, national geographic cards

Coding with a Deck of Cards


Coding involves giving instructions to a computer to make something happen. In this activity, you can practice giving instructions to a toy to navigate through a card maze. This activity can be adapted for different age levels.


First, create a grid with the deck of cards. Use some tape to hold them in place if you wish. Then, place a few toys as obstacles in the grid to create a sort of maze. Determine the Start and Finish line of the maze. Choose another toy, such as a robot or car, to move through the maze.

To Play (Beginner):

  • One player gives ‘coding instructions’ one at a time to direct the robot to the finish line. For example: “Move forward 3 cards” or “Turn.”
  • Another player follows the instructions and moves the robot until it reaches the finish line.
  • It’s fun to switch roles!

To Play (Advanced):

  • Kids need to think ahead and problem-solve by writing all the steps to get the robot from Start to Finish before moving the robot.
  • Then another player follows the code to move the robot. If there is a mistake, the first player will need to ‘debug’ the code.

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