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Minecraft Coding for Kids

Minecraft is a 3D sandbox game video game originally developed by Mojang and later acquired by Microsoft. The game was originally released in 2009 and now has millions of users worldwide.
A “sandbox game” means that there are no fixed goals or objectives and players are free to create and destroy structures and adapt the game to their own modes of play. Minecraft provides players tools to create complex structures and a large palette of materials with which to build environments.
The game features a “blockly” 3D world where players harvest materials, build structures like buildings and homes, fined off hostile mobs. The game has multiple modes of gameplay, such as “survival” where players must accumulate resources and maintain life and health. The “creative” mode of survival gives players unlimited resources and do not have to worry about losing lives. Today Minecraft can be played on many computing platforms as well as devices such as Xbox 360.

Does Minecraft teach kids coding?

Minecraft is a gameplay environment and does not teach coding by itself. But there are many interfaces to Minecraft that enable kids to write code to create “mods” (short for modifications) that modify the basic gaming environment and experience. This makes Minecraft a familiar and compelling environment to introduce kids to coding. As a result many parents and schools have begun using Minecraft as an environment to explore coding.

What languages are used to code in Minecraft?

You can use Java, Javascript, Python, and even MakeCode (the block-based programming language) to code in Minecraft and create your own mods.

What are examples of Minecraft Coding?

Excellent examples of Minecraft coding can be seen in the portal maintained by Microsoft (https://minecraft.makecode.com/).
This site gives a lot of tutorials, agent programs, mob programs, and even mods that give you superpowers! Click on each one of them and it will open up a coding environment. For instance, one of the popular programs here is to build a Pyramid using the agent model.
Clicking on this program takes you into the Microsoft MakeCode programming environment. Here you can see how you can build a Pyramid using blocks:
The same program can be coded in textual languages such as Python:
And here is a Javascript version of the same program:
The advantage of this environment is that students are able to immediately see the mappings between the programming languages by seeing how equivalent functionality is built in different languages.

Is Minecraft coding free?

Microsoft’s MakeCode environment is free but not available for all Minecraft platforms. If you have access to Minecraft Education Edition it comes available by default. Minecraft Education Edition is available to school systems all across the US.

How does Minecraft coding in MakeCode work?

When you login to Minecraft, use Creative Mode and set Cheats to be on and launch your new world. Press C to launch the code builder. You should see an environment as shown above. Note that blocks are organized into groups on the left. You can drag and drop blocks into the workspace and compose them to build your program logic.
Using drag and drop programming kids can see their creations come to life immediately and the visual programming environment does not get the kid bogged down in syntax errors and compilation problems. Students are able to become creators and explore their passion for the game and learning. They bring their imagination to life!

How does Minecraft coding in other languages work?

Like the above, you login to Minecraft, use Creative Mode, and set Cheats to be on. When the code builder is launched (by pressing “C”), you should use the language pull down menu to choose your favorite language and write code directly in the code editor. Once your program is complete, you can go back to your Minecraft environment and invoke the command you just wrote to test and improve it.
An alternative way to do minecraft modding is to not use the MakeCode programming environment at all and instead write code in Java which is then interfaced with Minecraft in versions like Minecraft: Java Edition. This requires greater skills in programming and a better proficiency and fluency with both Minecraft Modding skills and with the Java programming language.

What is Minecraft Redstone?

Minecraft Redstone is not a programming language but a specific type of material that allows players to build electrical and mechanical contraptions. Because players are building “circuits” working with Redstone also imparts programming skills like problem decomposition. Redstone also allows users to invoke console commands and thus the complexity of mods one can create with Redstone is pretty large.
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