Candy Cane Coding STEAM Activity for Kids

Looking for educational activities this time of year that aren’t holiday specific? Check out this Candy Cane Coding STEAM activity for kids! It teaches kids the basics of computer programming in a fun and festive craft. The kids can design their very own patterned candy cane in beads with their name coded in binary. Sweet learning without all the added sugar :)

This Candy Cane Coding STEAM activity for kids! It teaches kids the basics of computer programming in a fun and festive craft. Christmas STEM & STEAM!

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What is Coding?

There’s a lot of talk today about coding being the language of the future. But what exactly is it and why is it important? Coding makes it possible for us to tell computers how to do stuff, like run our phone, play a video game, and make a website. Any app you use on your phone or computer is possible because of code.

Computers speak the languages of zeroes and ones, essentially on and off signals to computer parts called transistors. These zeroes and ones have been translated into codes called the ASCII Binary code where every letter, number and character has an 8 digit combination of zeroes and ones. ASCII is the most common format for text files for computers and the internet. It stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange and uses numbers to represent letters and special characters. The binary version uses only zeros and ones in a 8 bit (or digit) pattern.

But it would take FOREVER to do anything if we had to anything in just zeroes and ones, so computers use other languages now, that are all based upon binary. But for today’s activity, we’re going to design with where it all started, binary.

What do the kids get out of Candy Cane Coding?

I had the chance to do this activity with my daughter’s first grade class (thanks Ms. B!!!). I loved how this wasn’t just a coding activity. Each phase brought a new challenge. First, figuring out the code from the letters. Then translating it to the bead patterns. The challenging spots were figuring out the original code and getting it written down, keeping track of where they were in the pattern, and remembering which color was zero and which was one. The combo of physical creating with mental codes was really cool to watch in action. Lots of deep focus, a little frustration, and a lot of pride when they finished.


Candy Cane Coding Supplies Needed

How to Code Your Candy Cane

  1. First up, you’ll need to download the free printable.
  2. Write your name and then write down the ASCII Binary codes for each letter using the code list on the next page.
  3. Pick one color bead for zeros and one color for ones.
  4. Grab a pipe cleaner and bend the end so beads don’t fall off. Then start adding beads in the binary code pattern you have written down for your name.
  5. Twist the end to lock the beads on. Then bend one end to make it look like a candy cane.
  6. Is your name really long? You can twist two pipe cleaners together to make a giant candy cane.


More Winter Coding Projects

Looking for more ways to get kids coding this month? Every December, Hour of Code hosts a week of activities that encourages kids to learn to code. The Hour of Code is a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. and free, one-hour tutorials are available in over 45 languages. No experience needed. Ages 4 to 104. It’s an amazing event for kids, teachers, families, etc.

Or check out this round-up of Coding for Kids activities. Apps, screen-free games, and more!

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