codeSpark Academy Review

kids learn to code symbol

With rich graphics, smooth animations, hundreds of puzzles and minigames and a ton of creativity-inspiring features, if you’re looking for a way to teach coding concepts to a child ages 5-8 codeSpark is one of the better options out there, and it won’t break the bank doing it.

System Requirements

codeSpark isn’t too demanding, running on most mobile devices and through most web browsers.

Desktops & Laptops

  • Chrome or Firefox

Android Devices (Tablet & Phone)

  • Android 4.4 KitKat or higher with 1 GB of RAM or more

iOS Devices

  • iOS 11 or higher with 2 GB of RAM or more

Kindle Fire

  • Amazon FireOS with 1 GB of RAM or more

What We Like

Free Trial
Introduces kids as young as 5 to coding concepts
Teaches important foundational concepts in coding, like boolean logic, variables, sequencing, conditionals and more
COPPA-compliant – ad free, no in-game purchases, private data not collected
Highly engaging for kids- Impressive graphics and animation, lots of silly humor 
Gamified – Kids earn badges and points to encourage them to keep learning
Tons of content, including puzzles, minigames and game/story creation
Game and story creation modes encourage kids to get creative with code
Multisensory, writing-free instructions – Great for kids still learning to read

But Be Careful…

Lack of written instruction means kids may need more parent help to prevent getting lost and connecting the game to the coding concepts
Game creation and story mode may be a little tough for younger kids, causing frustration without parental help
Subscriptions auto renew

What is codeSpark Academy 

Founded in 2014, codeSpark Academy is a game-based app designed to teach kids ages 5-9 the fundamental principles of coding in a conceptual, highly visual way. 

Alongside a cast of colorful cartoon characters known as the Foos, kids use drag and drop code to solve puzzles and challenges, play minigames, or build their very own videogames and animated stories, 

codeSpark Academy is available through web browsers, as well as iOS, Android and Amazon Fire mobile devices. 

codeSpark Age Range

Officially, the recommended age range for codeSpark Academy is 5-9.

That said, we think the program is best for kids ages 5-8. 

Its colorful, game-like world, engaging characters, expansive game creation opportunities, and multisensory, word-free interface make it an attractive coding program for younger kids.

While we’re sure that kids 9+ can enjoy codeSpark, particularly the creative game and story building aspects, once they’ve developed a stronger ability to read, follow instructions  and can handle more complex sequential thinking and logic problems (around the age of 9 or so), they can usually take advantage of more former and sophisticated learn-to-code programs for kid, like Scratch (or Scratch- like block coding) or even begin using written coding.

codeSpark Price

Free 7 day trial (requires payment information)

There are two methods for signing up to codeSpark – you can sign up for codeSpark either as a subscription or purchase it as a gift.

As a subscription, codeSpark costs $9.99 per month (or $6.67 per month if you choose an annual plan), which makes it quite a bit more affordable than most other coding programs out there, as these can start at around $20 per month.

Parents should know that these subscriptions renew automatically so you’ll have to cancel them before your subscription ends or you’ll be billed again, which can annoy some users. 

If you want a more time-limited plan or want to give codeSpark to someone else, you can also buy codeSpark as a gift, with either 6 month, 12 month or lifetime plans. 

While gift plans are a little more expensive per month than a subscription, and don’t offer the flexibility of a month to month plan, they also don’t auto-renew.

6 month12 monthLifetime

How codeSpark Works

codeSpark is a little cartoon world filled with a cast of fun cartoon characters, called the Foos (the full name of the program is codeSpark Academy with the Foos) that kids will interact with. There are boy and girl characters doing all sorts of odd jobs, making it welcoming and inviting to all kids.  

Once they are set up with their own account, kids can create their own unique Foo and give themselves a quirky name. After that, they’re free to enter the world of codeSpark Academy.

screenshot of codeSpark Academy Foo character creation

From the main menu, kids can choose to play puzzles (which is where they’ll earn points, badges and learn key concepts, play minigames, or create their own stories and games.


The puzzles section is where most kids should begin their coding journey in codeSpark.

This is where kids are introduced to the coding fundamentals and begin to get the hang of how the program’s controls and interface work. 

The puzzles section is very much like a video game, with the learning divided up into stages and levels that progress in difficulty and learning material. 

Each stage is centered around a particular concept in coding (events, loops, sequencing, conditionals, advanced sequencing and more), which are helpfully captioned under the stage name.

Each stage is made up of a number of levels, which are centered around a few puzzles to solve or some tasks the child has to complete.

screenshot of codeSpark level overview

Generally speaking, these puzzles involve an object (or goal) that the child must complete while navigating around obstacles put in their path. 

To do so, kids have to drag and drop visual commands from the tool bar in the right order.

screenshot of drag and drop commands in codespark

 Puzzles typically start off pretty easy, letting kids get the hang of the setting, and progressively increase the difficulty.

Students are rewarded for solving puzzles efficiently, i.e. by solving the puzzle with only one line of code. Doing so earns kids three stars, and periodically will reward them with certain items that can be used later on (dynamite or keys). 

As an example, there is a stage called Lunch Crunch that is centered around learning conditionals. 

Kids have to help the chef Foo serve the right meals to different Foos, starting off with only the ability to manually serve meals. 

Screenshot of codeSpark lunch crunch puzzle

At the beginning, kids have to remember to serve the right orders in the right sequence, but as they progress they get access to the conditional operator “if.” This lets them automate the process to take a variety of orders from characters when they don’t have a clue of what they’re going to order. For example: 

  • IF Foo orders spaghetti with sauce THEN make spaghetti and tomato sauce
  • IF Foo orders just spaghetti THEN just cook spaghetti
  • IF Foo wants ice cream THEN make ice cream

And so on chaining the commands together until they have created a basic IF/THEN program that can serve an entire menu. 

By completing this puzzle and its funny, rather abstract, representation of a conditional statement in coding, kids not only get a sense of what a conditional statement is but also why coding one is important and how it can make our lives easier. 

Ultimately, through the puzzles section, codeSpark takes a mastery method approach to learning to code. 

Kids start at the very beginning and have to complete all of the levels of a stage, learning about and making extensive use of a particular coding concept, before they “unlock” the next one, preventing kids from skipping around and missing out on certain key ideas.

This is helpful in that it organizes learning a bit better for younger kids, breaking difficult concepts down into shorter and easier to understand lessons, and makes sure that kids really understand the material before moving on.

We liked the fact that kids are rewarded for creating efficient code with stars and items, as it encourages kids to plan and think things through in advance rather than just engaging in trial and error.

One thing we thought was also quite well done from a teaching standpoint is that the program usually lets you work through the first level or so with manual commands before giving students access to code snippets they can use to make things easier.

This both demonstrates the point of the command and also drives home the ultimate reason for coding: making life easier and tasks more efficient.


In addition to the puzzle-based learning stages, there are a variety of educational minigames that kids can play in codeSpark Academy.

Each minigame is centered around a specific concept in coding and teaches them in an abstract, fun way. 

screenshot of codespark academy minigame from the menu

Each game has many levels (often 30 or more) of increasing difficulty, so there’s a lot of content for kids to explore, and the company does introduce new games every so often. 

Pet pals 

Teaches:  automation and conditionals

Pet Pals Takes place at a pet center, with a variety of animals coming and going all the time. 

Kids have to get Foos to take care of these little virtual guys, feeding, cleaning, dressing, and playing with them. 

Very quickly kids learn that manually clicking and moving things won’t work so well and so  use their coding skills to create efficient automation, programming little Foo helpers to take care of the tasks for them.

For example, using conditionals kids can work out how to set if/then and loop conditionals to tell their helpers to go on permanent patrol and clean up waste if they see it.

Crocodile catch

Teaches: variables and inequalities 

In Crocodile Catch a Foo’s grandfather has disappeared into a temple and kids have to help rescue him. 

They progress through the temple by collecting a certain number of gems in jars, which open certain doors. 

The jars represent variables, with numbers being “stored” in them for later use, and kids can add, subtract or modify the number of gems these jars hold. As the levels progress things get more complicated with time limits, powerups and so on.

In this game, kids learn about inequalities (greater than, less than or equal to) – the crocodile in the title being related to a common way to remember greater/less than symbols > and <

Screenshot of codespark game crocodile catch

Ultimately, kids have to understand the inequality symbols and their underlying meaning so that they can direct their Foo to catch the right amount of gems. 

In this way, kids get exposed to adding, subtracting math symbols, as well as the concept of variables in coding, which is kind of cool.

Wild West Pets Stacks 

Teaches: data storage and organization with stacks, queues

Taking place in the wild west, in Wild West Pets Stacks kids have to organize and stack pets correctly. 

To do so, kids will have to organize a line of pets so that they will jump off a high board and land in the correct order for that level. 

Although perhaps not as action packed as some of the other games, kids do learn the basics of linear data structures, ordering (last in first out, first in last out) and finding the best way to add and remove linear data from the top of a stack. 

Sweet Sorter

Teaches: Boolean Logic

In Sweet Sorter different colors and shapes of candies gently float by suspended on balloons and kids have to drop the right candies into the right tubes. 

Each tube is marked with an image of the type of candy it accepts. For example: 

  • Some accept only one kind of candy
  • Some only several types of candies (OR)
  • Some only accept a candy if it is of a particular shape and a particular color (AND)
  • Some explicitly don’t accept a kind of candy (NOT)

Other than being a calming and kind of addictive game, kids are slowly introduced to the various boolean operators and boolean logic, which is a foundational concept in programming and computers.

Splash Clash Multiplayer Coding

Teaches: coding in context and skill building

In addition to the concept-oriented video games, kids can also choose to go head to head with another player (or up to 4) or the computer in Splash Clash. 

This is essentially a coding challenge that involves splashing another player with a water balloon. Kids can program their Foos to collect balloons, run, jump, throw stuff at each other, all while remembering to help their Foos navigate the various obstacles that the levels contain, or risk getting stuck.

This is kind of like the game Worms, but multiplayer and involving creating chains of code.

Creative Maker

In addition to learning with games and puzzles, codeSpark also gives kids the ability to build their own games and stories using the code, characters, blocks, props that they’ve earned while solving puzzles or games (which is a great incentive for kids to stick with and work through the educational content).

This aspect of the game lets kids go wild with their imagination to create essentially anything they can think of, which is really cool. 

It can be a bit more challenging to younger players (5-6) without parental help, however, and is probably best for those at the older end of the age range, due to the need for stronger sequencing and logical thinking skills in planning.

Create a Game

With codeSpark’s game creator, kids can create their very own video games.

Using a blank workspace, kids insert blocks, spikes, ramps, obstacles and more with the click of a mouse, ultimately building a complex map for the player to navigate on their way to collecting stars or other goals.

Once they’re done they can save their game, play it or even (anonymously of course) share it with the wider codeSpark community. They can, of course, also play games that other users have made (and there are some pretty crazy, fun games out there). 

Overall, game creation is very much an open world, It lets kids really use their imagination and build their very own video games, making them as complex as they can come up with (once they have all the tools).

Our tester absolutely loved this feature and had a blast creating their very own games, although they did need help from time to time with object resizing, rotation and manipulation. Overall, though, they really loved the chance to try their hand at game development in a point and click environment, which isn’t something that kids in this age range come across too often.

Create a Story

If your child is more of a budding animator or content creator, rather than a game enthusiast, codeSpark also lets them create their own little cartoon stories using much of the same environment as the game creator.

In essence, kids set each scene using a lot of “props” they can find in codeSpark. They then insert characters that are then set on individual paths using code, creating events.

For example, telling the game when the scene starts a certain character should move forward, pick something up, jump and so on, while telling another character is coded to walk over to some cake and eat it when the scene starts. 

Kids can even write in dialogue if they so choose, coding it to appear when the scene starts or after a certain action which gives it the feeling of a real cartoon.

Kids then chain scenes together to create a little cartoon film, which can get pretty interesting.

Overall, like the game creator, we found story creation to be an interesting addition to codeSpark. It’s very appealing to kids, inundated as they are with content creators on YouTube and social media, and gives them the opportunity to safely try their hand at it.

We found it to be a little less difficult for young kids to get started with the stories than it is with game creation, as it doesn’t generally require fine object manipulation, although it does perhaps require a bit stronger sequencing and planning skills to get the animations working the way they want.

As with the video game creation section, kids can share or view the communities stories and even enter them into periodic contests that the company runs online. 

What do kids learn with codeSpark Academy

Despite its adorable, cartoon-like appearance and fun, gamified nature, we think young kids can actually learn quite a bit with codeSpark Academy. 

While they won’t be exposed to any written code, through the various puzzles, games and accessible drag and drop gameplay, kids can and do learn the ideas and concepts behind coding. 

In particular, they’ll learn to use fundamental concepts in coding, such as variables, loops, conditionals, events, functions and more, which will serve them well and serve as a foundation for future coding should they choose to pursue it. 

Beyond the coding concepts, we think codeSpark’s puzzles can help kids develop stronger problem solving skills and logic, while the creative and open nature of its game style encourages planning, creativity and persistence.

codeSpark look, feel and play 

We were actually quite impressed with codeSpark’s look and feel. 

The app contains really cool cell-shaded 3d cartoon characters, as well as a bright, animated world that is filled with fun music and sound effects.

Everything is extremely smooth and well-animated and overall codeSpark Academy feels very much like a high quality video game for kids rather than a learn to code program. 

As such, we feel it is quite well designed and engaging for young kids. In fact, we had something of a hard time getting it out of the hands of our tester. 

What is quite interesting is that, unlike other coding programs out there, codeSpark doesn’t use any written instructions.

It is a writing-free learning experience.

Instead of written instructions, on screen, real time demonstrations show kids what to do, and these are complemented by spoken descriptions for each command.

This makes it a multisensory learning experience that is a great option for younger kids still learning to read, those whose primary language is not English, or for young kids who have learning difficulties, such as dyslexia.

This written word-free approach, however, can mean that in order to get the full educational benefit of the program, parents may need to be a bit more involved since, unlike some of the coding for kids programs out there, there is not as much step by step written guidance that kids can turn to for help.

The emphasis here seems to be on boundaryless education and fluidity of play, which is great in that it really encourages independence and problem solving, and most kids have no problem exploring the game and figuring out what to do.

Left to their own devices with not a lot of directive game instruction, however, some kids may get lost and frustrated and need a parent to help them get through things.

In addition, because there’s not a lot of directive instruction, kids may have a hard time connecting what they’re doing to the coding concepts that the game represents.

As such, parents may need to step in to make sure that kids are understanding how the on-screen activities link to concepts such as loops, sequences and conditionals in a more explicit way.

That said, the company does do a good job at running tutorials and has other resources available, especially on its blog and Facebook page, so less-technologically inclined parents won’t be totally lost.

Gamification of Learning

As with many other modern educational learning solutions, codeSpark has gamified their puzzles and minigames, letting kids improve their learning experience with rewards and prizes, which is something we think is usually a good idea when teaching young kids.

As they progress, kids can earn badges, props, avatars and other items in game by completing puzzles efficiently and effectively. 

They can even earn coins that they can use in the in-game shop to “buy” unique items and props for later use in the program. 

The various rewards that are slowly introduced keeps kids motivated to want to keep doing their lessons, as well as motivating them to do the best job they can (as they receive their rewards for efficient code).  

In addition, especially with younger kids, the intrinsic motivation to learn something like coding may not really be there yet. 

Older kids may want to learn to code to build their own games or apps as a hobby, but five to eight year olds may not see the value and may not want to spend their free time learning. 

By making it more like a video game, kids see codeSpark as more like a fun game or activity, rather than a learning program, and are less likely to feel frustrated or bored by it.

Is codeSpark Academy worth the Money

There are few apps out there that attempt to make learning to code accessible to kids younger than 8, let alone those that do it well.

In our opinion, codeSpark manages to do it and, at around $10 per month, they do so without breaking the bank.

codeSpark’s reading-free and highly visual nature makes it quite accessible to younger kids and those struggling to read, even if it may mean that some parental involvement may be required if kids get stuck or need help connecting the game to the underlying concepts.

The program’s cell shaded 3D animations are really well made, and the silly humor and gamified elements make it highly attractive and engaging for kids in this age range (and even adults).

codeSpark provides a ton of content, with hundreds of puzzles and minigames and even a creative space where kids can explore the limits of their creativity and share their creations with other users.

In addition to being a lot of fun, all of the content centers around learning real, fundamental concepts in coding, such as loops, conditionals, boolean logic and sequences. Perhaps equally importantly, codeSpark emphasizes the role of coding in making our lives easier and demonstrates the importance of coding in a way kids can understand.

One thing to be aware of is its subscription based nature means unless you buy it as a gift it will automatically renew, something we never like, and so you’ll have to cancel before your subscription term ends or they’ll rebill and renew your account.

Bottom Line

In today’s tech-forward world, parents are increasingly interested in getting their kids to learn how to master technology with coding as early as possible. 

With rich graphics, smooth animations, hundreds of puzzles and minigames and a ton of creativity-inspiring features, if you’re looking for a way to teach coding concepts to a child ages 5-8 codeSpark is one of the better options out there, and it won’t break the bank doing it.


Picture of our tech author David

About the Author

David Belenky is a freelance writer, former science and math tutor and a tech enthusiast. When he’s not writing about educational tech, he likes to chill out with his family and dog at home.