If-Then Backyard Coding Game for Kids

Today we’re talking coding and I had one goal in mind. Help kids learn to code with no expensive equipment. No computer, no tablet, no apps, just their bodies and their mind. So we’re starting with one of the most basic parts of computer programming, the If-Then statement, and turning it into a fun and active game.  It’s an If-Then Backyard Coding Game for Kids. This post contains affiliate links.

Teach kids to be a programmer with a fun coding game for kids. They'll learn about a basic building blocks of code, the If Then statement. STEM fun!

Teach kids to be a programmer with a fun coding game for kids. They'll learn about a basic building blocks of code, the If Then statement. STEM fun!

The If-Then Statement

If-Then is what’s called a conditional statement in programming.  The program queries if one condition exists, 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.

If-Then Coding Game Rules

For every round, there is one Programmer and everyone else is a Computer.  The Programmer stands in front of the Computers and gives them his command.  If I ____ (fill in the blank), then you _____ (fill in the blank).  For example, the Programmer below gave the command “If I turn in a circle, Then you turn in a circle.”

The Programmer Left Brain Craft Brain

The Computers Left Brain Craft Brain

You can set up your rounds however works best for your group of kids.  We did three rounds per Programmer and then switched.  Because you know kids love giving commands to other kids so everyone wants a turn as a Programmer!!!

Printable If-Then Coding Game Rules

We know that popping back to this blog post in the middle of playtime is hard (umm… impossible!), so we created a helpful printable rules sheet for you. It’s perfect for substitute plans, scouts, babysitters, and more. To have the printable emailed to you, simply fill out the form below.

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A Coding Game for All Ages

In order to test out (and photograph!) the If-Then Game, I invited The Babe’s preschool crew to come and join me at the park.  And they brought some of their older siblings, too.  So first, thank you to everyone for coming to play (you know who you are)!!  But what was really interesting for this mama of an only child, was seeing how kids ages 3-8 could play this game to their best abilities at varying levels of difficulty.  So here are some variations, depending upon the developmental age of your kiddos.

Group Twist and Spin Left Brain Craft Brain 2

Difficulty Level 1 – If I Do This, Then You Do This

This one’s perfect for the preschoolers.  It’s basically just monkey see, monkey do with some coding language thrown in. The Programmer commands the Computers to do the same thing she does and to stop when she stops.

Difficulty Level 2 – If I Do This, Then You Do That

Now for the kindergartners, you can add the twist that the Computers should do something different than the Programmer, but still start and stop when they do.  This one works the brain because they’ll hear something different than they are seeing.

Jump Coding Game for Kids Left Brain Craft Brain

Difficulty Level 3 – If I Do This, Then You Do That, Else You Do Something Else

Moving on up the grade levels, you can move on up the coding complexity too with If-Then-Else statements.  For example, the Programmer commands “If I raise my right arm, Then you raise your left arm, Else raise your right foot.”  So if he just stands there and does nothing, the Computers should all be raising their right foot.  This gets pretty funny, pretty fast.

Difficulty Level 4 – If-Then-Else Speed Round with Eliminations

Want to make it really challenging?  Have the Computers “break” and sit down when they don’t follow commands correctly.  The last Computer standing wins.

Listening to the Programmer Left Brain Craft Brain

P.S.: So many thanks to my programmer husband for fact-checking this activity and for being my biggest blog supporter, tech, promotional, emotional and otherwise :)

If-Then, Check. What’s Next?

So your kiddos are interested in computers.  There are so many ways for them to explore!

Check out my Coding for Kids post or this mega round-up of 20+ Technology Projects Your Kids Will Love.

Coding for Kids 25+ Ways to Learn the Language of the Future

20+ Technology Projects Your Kids Will Love


For the older kids (or younger ones with your help), check out Scratch.  Scratch is a programming language and an online community where children can program and share interactive media such as stories, games, and animation with people from all over the world. It’s a project from the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab and is free.  Need a little help getting started with Scratch? There’s a great guide on Amazon {affiliate}…

Giving Kids the Power to Create

STEAM Power Yellow

This post is week 4 in a 5 week series with some of my favorite bloggers who all love STEAM. Because learning with Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math gives kids the power to do almost anything they can dream up. Like make a train move or colors change.  This week is all about ways to Compute.

PVC Pipe Xylophone  //  Frugal Fun for Boys

Secret Code Activity // What Do We Do All Day?

Spring Garden Glyph // Meri Cherry

Easy Math Trick for Kids // All For the Boys

Patterned Multiplication Circles  //  Lemon Lime Adventures

Paper Toys: Flextangles // Babble Dabble Do

Did you see last week’s Spring Play or the rest of the Harness posts? Or Maybe you caught my Color Changing Chemistry Clock.  Or the week before where we all learned to Fly.  Be sure to follow along for our final week while we Grow, all with the power of STEAM.

Even More STEAM Fun for Kids!

Looking for some more STEAM inspiration that you can use right now? Instant gratification style? Check out STEAM Explorers!! The coolest creative experience for kids is here! It's a digital book of the month club filled with tons of fun stuff for the kids to do and learn. All engineer, teacher, and mom-approved. And most definitely KID APPROVED!⁣

What’s included?⁣

  • A monthly digital magazine with cool themes that are fun to read
  • Hands-on, exciting projects the kids will love.⁣
  • Science, tech, engineering, art, and math learning YOU’LL love.⁣
  • Delicious recipes the kids can make.⁣
  • Fun printables and games⁣

Join us as we explore water in all its forms and uses in the month of June! The kids will love building a working submarine, recreating the ocean deep with art, lighting up an angler fish with circuits, making and eating delicious water-themed snacks, and so much more. You’ll love the helpful standards-based learning, printables, and tools that make STEAM exploration easy!

We’ve split the issue into four weekly themes:

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32 thoughts on “If-Then Backyard Coding Game for Kids”

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  3. Love the idea of teaching them basic commands with a movement activity when they are young and adding the levels is perfect (I could totally see level 4 being done in the MS PE hours here). And I would venture that my kids would be making those ‘bleep, bloop’ computer sounds once I told them they were the computers ;)

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