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Playful computing activities

Computing is fun! It is possible to teach pupils through play and the activities listed below aim to do just that.

All the activities are available and used within the Digital Schoolhouse workshops and are embedded into a longer sequence of lessons. However, they also work as short standalone activities which can be dropped into any number of lessons; whether you are a computing teacher or not. 

12 Days of Computing

We're gearing up to the festive period with 12 wintery activities that will spark the christmas spirit in your pupils!

Accidental Adventures

Create a randomised story using the programming concept of arrays with Accidental Adventures!

Brain Teasers

Defined as an unconventional way to resolve a form of puzzle, brain teasers can also be used to explore Computational Thinking.

Cat On Yer Head Crowd Game

Cat On Yer Head ( is a crowd game that aims to teach key games design principles using unplugged techniques. The Digital Schoolhouse has worked in collaboration with Playniac to develop teacher guidance to help bring this exciting activity into the classroom. How long you spend on this is up to you, you can use it as a fun 5 minute starter to your lesson, or turn it into a main activity stretching over 20 mins or more. However you use it, whether with your pupils or your colleagues its a sure way to get the crowd giggling, participating and learning at the same time!

Code Kingdoms Board Game

This board game has been developed in collaboration with Code Kingdoms, and was originally designed as part of our workshop "Let's Play Code Kingdoms" to help bridge the gap between the lower levels of the game and more complex instruction sequences. Simply print and cut out as many game sets as you need for your class. The game can be played with multiple players, and is a great way to introduce pupils to algorithmic thinking and other key computational thinking skills. The 'How to' instructions outline various ways the game can be played, but there is always enough flexibility here to allow pupils to make up their own rules!

Computational Word Games: Three Word Stories

Computational word games are a fun way to tackle pupils understanding of key terms in computing. The aim of the game is to try and find a way to get your partner to say the hidden word without actually using it yourself; whilst simultaneously telling a story only three words at a time.

Computational Word Games: Word Sneak

The aim of the game is to try and have a normal conversation with your partner and without breaking the flow sneak your hidden words into what you say. The first person to use all their hidden words wins the game.

Gamebook Computing

Everyone loves a good story. Great stories will inspire you, keep you hooked and transport you to a different realm. Stories engage young and old alike. We traditionally consider stories the realm of the English department in schools, but did you know that you can teach computing and computational thinking through storytelling?

Guess Who

This is the classic game of Guess Who with the DSH twist to it. Developed by E. Ashman at Gildredge House School, this activity can be used in conjunction with the Cyber Safe workshop to discuss online identities and how people are not always what they seem on the Internet. The spectrum of computational thinking is covered and the activity likewise can be used to discuss algorithms for searching as well as problem solving.

Jazzy Jigsaws

Everybody remembers solving jigsaw puzzles. For a long time they have been accepted as a great tool for problem solving and logical reasoning. This activity developed in collaboration with Code Kingdoms takes this well loved game further by building in opportunities to develop Computational Thinking skills.

Making Faces: Playdough Programming

Have you ever tried to teach programming using playdough? Suitable for all ages, this activity will bring playful fun to your computing lessons. The activity requires pupils to work in pairs, with one pupil (the programmer) instructing the other (the human computer) to create a playdough model of an image based on verbal instructions alone. Sample images are provided, but these can be swapped with others that may be more suitable for cross curricular links.

Nifty Networks

Imagine describing a network and the concept of packet switching. If you want students to understand how the networking protocols split up and package data and send it across a network only for it to be re-assimilated and compiled at the other end, then regardless of the amount of dodgy sketches you draw on the whiteboard there is a certain amount of mental imagery and visualisation that is needed on behalf of the student. The student has to create an internal representation of what you are describing.

Origam-orithms: Algorithms

Why not use origami to teach algorithms? By precisely completing a set of rules in order to solve a problem, origami is a perfect unplugged activity to demonstrate how algorithms work.

Paint by Pixels

Data Representation is a key concept in computing, but often one that pupils can find difficult to grasp. Playing on the popular paint by numbers game this activity enables pupils to 'see' and manipulate bits and pixels to create their own graphics. Getting pupils to use a spreadsheet to create their pixelated graphics can help incorporate important Digital Literacy skills, while encouraging electronic communication to get pupils to send their stream of 'data bits' to each other can help illustrate networking concepts. The complexity of this set of activities lies with the teacher, its easy adapdibility makes it suitable for Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 4 and above.

The Computational Thinking Duck

One of the key playtime activities that almost every child has engaged in is playing with LEGO bricks. Remember getting the playset, where you had a set of instructions to build a scene? Many a child has followed those instructions to create that scene, and then simply chucked them away to build something totally unique and different. LEGO bricks are a perfect outlet for creativity for both adults and children alike. We can teach not just creative problem solving, but also tackle key concepts in Engineering and Physics amongst others.

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