How to Explain Algorithms to Kids

How to Explain Algorithms to Kids
Last Updated: April 5, 2023 1:17 pm

This is Part 1 of a series on kids learning about algorithms.

Algorithm for kids: Definition, Examples, Benefits and More

Even though the word “algorithm” may not be familiar to kids, the truth is that algorithms are present in everything around them. They control the technology they use and even the everyday decisions they make. Algorithms are captivating, and while some may be complex, the concept itself is simple. Therefore, an algorithm for kids is a set of instructions that a computer or a human can follow to solve a problem or complete a task.

What Is an Algorithm?

Algorithms are a set of instructions that can be followed to solve a problem or complete a task. They are used in computing and in everyday life, from recipes to solving math problems to folding clothes. Algorithms for kids are simplified instructions that children can follow to solve problems or complete tasks.

To explain the algorithm definition for kids: An algorithm is like a detailed recipe that tells a computer or a person what steps to take to solve a problem or complete a task. Programmers write algorithms so that computers can understand how to perform a task. But algorithms are not just for computers – they are all around us! Even your morning routine can be thought of as an algorithm. Here is an example of what your child’s morning routine might look like written out as an algorithm:

Kids Can Write Their Own Algorithms!

Encourage your child to write out their morning algorithm, or the algorithm for an even simpler task, like brushing their teeth or eating cereal. Without knowing it, they’ll be exploring important computational concepts like repetition (brush bottom left teeth five times), sequencing (put cereal in bowl and then put in milk), and conditional logic (if the bowl is empty, stop eating).

Challenge your child to be as specific with the instructions as possible. Computers don’t understand your intentions, so if you don’t specify that you need to get out the bowl first, you’ll end up pouring milk on the floor!

In math class, kids learn about prime numbers and how to determine if a number is prime. But with large numbers, this is very difficult! For the number 493, you’d have to try over 15 calculations to learn that 493 is not prime (17 * 29 = 493). Kids can write an algorithm in Tynker to determine if a number is prime.

Simple Examples of Algorithms for Kids

Algorithm Examples for Kids

Algorithms are sets of instructions that tell a computer or a person what steps to take to complete a task or solve a problem. They are all around us, from making breakfast to doing homework. Here are some simple algorithm examples for kids:

  1. Making a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
  • Gather your ingredients: bread, peanut butter, and jelly.
  • Spread peanut butter on one slice of bread.
  • Spread jelly on the other slice of bread.
  • Put the two slices of bread together.
  • Cut the sandwich in half.
  1. Brushing Your Teeth
  • Wet your toothbrush.
  • Put toothpaste on the toothbrush.
  • Brush your teeth for two minutes.
  • Spit out the toothpaste.
  • Rinse your mouth and toothbrush with water.
  1. Making a Bed
  • Take off all the pillows and blankets.
  • Straighten the bottom sheet.
  • Put the pillows back on the bed.
  • Put the top sheet and blanket back on the bed.
  • Fluff the pillows.

These are just a few simple examples of algorithms for kids. Algorithms are everywhere, and they help us complete tasks efficiently and effectively. By understanding how algorithms work, kids can learn to break down complex problems into smaller, more manageable steps. This can help them become better problem-solvers and critical thinkers.

To explain algorithms to a child, you can use simple language and visual aids. For example, you can create a flowchart or a diagram that shows each step in the algorithm. You can also use real-life examples to explain algorithms, like making a sandwich or brushing your teeth, to help kids understand how algorithms work. By making algorithms fun and relatable, kids can develop a love for problem-solving and technology.

See How This Algorithm Works

Importance and Benefits of Learning Algorithms

Algorithmic thinking, or the ability to define clear steps to solve a problem, is crucial in subjects like math and science. Kids use algorithms without realizing it all the time, especially in math. To solve a long division problem, kids apply an algorithm that they’ve learned in order to iterate through the digits of the number they’re dividing. For each digit of the dividend (the number being divided), the child must divide, multiply, and subtract. Algorithmic thinking allows kids to break down problems and conceptualize solutions in terms of discrete steps in a procedure.

Kids can strengthen their algorithmic thinking skills by completing coding activities on our Hour of Code page. To complete puzzles, kids design simple algorithms based on sequencing, repetition, and conditional logic to solve fun problems. As with all skills, kids can improve their algorithmic thinking through daily practice and by completing creative projects to apply their skills. To learn more about algorithms and problem-solving, try a subscription to our courses!

Explore Courses

To read more about the algorithms kids should know, check out Part 2 of this series, Understanding the Basic Algorithms that Power Your Digital Life.


1. How do algorithms help us in our daily lives?

Algorithms help us complete tasks efficiently and effectively in our daily lives, from making breakfast to solving math problems to folding clothes.

2. Can you recommend any resources for kids to learn more about algorithms?

Tynker is a recommended resource for kids to learn about algorithms through engaging coding courses, games, and puzzles.

3. How do you write an algorithm?

To write an algorithm, create a set of instructions that a computer or a human can follow to solve a problem or complete a task

4. Can algorithms be fun to create and use?

Algorithms can be fun to create and use, as they help break down complex problems into smaller, more manageable steps, and can be applied to everyday tasks like making a sandwich or brushing teeth

About Tynker

Tynker enables children to learn computer programming in a fun and imaginative way. More than 60 million kids worldwide have started learning to code using Tynker.