7 Best Coding Apps for Kids to Learn Programming
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Young children learn languages better. While older brains may be more efficient, younger brains are increasingly malleable. Like spoken languages, it’s an excellent idea for kids to foray into programming languages. BBC’s micro:bit Coding for Kids - BBC micro:bit Review Coding for Kids - BBC micro:bit Review Following in the footsteps of the hugely popular Raspberry Pi minicomputer and Arduino microcontroller comes the BBC micro:bit - and yes, we do mean that BBC. Read More hardware teaches kids coding and the Kano is a do-it-yourself (DIY) computer Kano: The DIY Computer For Kids To Code and Learn (Review and Competition) Kano: The DIY Computer For Kids To Code and Learn (Review and Competition) Can a small child build a computer and learn to code on it? To find out, I tested it on one 3 year old boy with little experience of computers, and his 9 year cousin,... Read More for kids to learn programming.

But just as old and young brains differ in retention, so too do learning methods. Coding apps offer ample opportunities to teach children programming. It’s a fun, controlled environment. Rather than send children to a coding boot camp, check out these five best coding apps for kids to learn programming.

1. Kodable (Free/Paid, Web/iOS)

Kodable-screenshot
Image Credit: iTunes

Kodable’s tagline reads “programming for kids, made with love.” Its easy lessons target kindergarten to fifth graders. While the K-3 curriculum is mostly foundational, fourth and fifth grade learning shifts to a focused set of topics. Kodable adheres to programming standards which teach JavaScript. Since JavaScript is an excellent language for beginners, the fundamentals Kodable enforces foster fantastic programming skills.

Plus, progression through lessons remains fun. Games arrive as a set of challenges like navigating a maze. But Kodable doesn’t keep programming concepts too simple. Rather, Kodable even includes notions including looping and branching. Largely Kodable presents if/then decisions to initially present the concept of programming. Moreover, Kodable makes learning JavaScript fun by using gamification. Overall, Kodable is a solid entry-level means for kids to learn programming.

Why it’s great: Kodable is free and web-based, and introduces basic programming concepts like looping and branching.

2. Daisy the Dinosaur (Free, iOS)

Fact: dinosaurs are awesome. As a kid, my favorite chicken nuggets were the dinosaur-shaped ones. Adding dinosaurs is a recipe for excellence. Further proving this point, Daisy the Dino is one of the best coding apps for kids. Mini-games teach children programming basics. For instance, a loop-deloop challenge encourages kids to use word commands to make Daisy perform various moves. But there’s a catch: you’re limited to using the spin command once. A hint suggests nesting the spin command inside the repeat five command.

Daisy the Dinosaur isn’t just one of the best coding apps for kids to learn programming because there’s a dinosaur. Although the dino protagonist certainly helps, it’s more the spectacular focus on coding and its challenges. Furthermore, Daisy the Dinosaur doesn’t seem tech-oriented. On the surface it’s a simple word and puzzle solving game. While Daisy the Dinosaur might be a bit short (according to Common Sense Media it only takes elementary schoolers 10 minutes to complete) it’s free and fundamentally sound.

Why it’s great: Daisy the Dinosaur is free, simple, and appeals to even non-techie kids.

3. Think and Learn Code-a-Pillar (Paid, iOS/Android)

Code-a-Pillar
Image Source: Amazon

The Think and Learn Code-a-Pillar by Fisher-Price offers a unique bonus: an app and an offline toy. While it’s an excellent idea to start kids off with hands-on tech and programming edification, too much screen time yields detrimental results. Therefore, the Think and Learn Code-a-Pillar app and its corresponding toy work in conjunction.

With the app, kids solve puzzles which present basic computer programming and coding concepts. It’s aimed at younger children, ages 3–6. While there is a Code-a-Pillar toy, the app is standalone. Some of the directions might be slightly challenging for the kiddos. Therefore it’s best if an adult supervises. Though the same can be said about a young age group deciphering the directions to “Candy Land.” Sound effects and the soundtrack may both be turned off. This remains a pleasant touch as it limits possible distractions.

Why it’s great: There’s a corresponding physical toy in addition to the standalone app. Plus, music and effects can be turned off for a distraction-free experience.

4. Gamestar Mechanic (Paid, Web)

Gamestar Mechanic is a web-based app that teaches kids to make their own videos games. Playing games is enticing, so the promise of game design is appealing to children, moreso than web development or app development. Thus, game design is an excellent foray with a huge payoff: getting to play a game. But since Gamestar Mechanic focuses on game design, it’s decidedly more advanced. Don’t expect simplistic matching games as seen in apps such as Think and Learn Code-a-Pillar.

For kids around 7–14, Gamestar Mechanic is perfect. The app boasts courses, game creation, and a play and learn feature with gamification. Quests build game design, and you gain items which you can use to make games. A robust community rounds out Gamestar Mechanic, making it a spectacular coding app for teens and pre-teens.

Why it’s great: Gamestar Mechanic aims at a slightly older age group. Game design is a promising and budding sector, so there’s a perfect segue into more advanced programming.

5. Minecraft (Paid)

Minecraft is a massively popular game. Its sandbox style makes it highly adaptable. While it’s not necessarily aimed at kids, Minecraft and its all-ages content prominently offers a safe environment for programming. Lifehacker even features a parent’s guide to playing Minecraft with the kiddos. Some mods specifically target children such as the LearnToMod mod is child-centric. You might use Minecraft as an opportunity to teach your children about servers and set up a Linux game server Everything You Need to Build a Game Server on Linux Everything You Need to Build a Game Server on Linux Since its inception, gaming has almost always been more fun with multiple players, a practice that has moved online. To host an online tournament, you'll need to setup your own game server, using Linux. Read More . In fact, Linux is perfect for kids 6 Reasons to Start Your Kids Off With Linux 6 Reasons to Start Your Kids Off With Linux Computers, and their operating systems, are not created equal. The OS they use matters, and Linux might be the best one to start them off with. Let's talk about why. Read More and teaches valuable life lessons.

However, Minecraft is not pre-configured for younger audiences. Adults may need perform a bit of initial set up. But once it’s created, LearnToMod offers a bevy of programming knowledge that’s digestible. There’s a thriving online community. As most of these apps go, Minecraft is pricier. Yet it holds loads of promise with its tutorials which foster real-world programming skills. Minecraft Pi 5 Exciting Activities for Kids to Learn Coding on a Raspberry Pi 5 Exciting Activities for Kids to Learn Coding on a Raspberry Pi One of the best gifts you can possibly give your child is an education in computer programming. Here’s five simple ways to teach your child how to code with the Raspberry Pi. Read More is an awesome medium to get kids modding in Minecraft.

Why it’s great: Mods such as the LearnToMod mod teach kids actual coding skills with lessons and instructions.

6. Tynker (Free/Paid, Web)

Tynker is a solid app. Its name suggests tinkering, which connotes getting hands on. As such, Tynker teaches programming brilliantly. Like many apps for kids to learn programming, Tynker infuses coding with excitement. As a platform, it boasts a smattering of choices. Kids can code robots and drones, mod Minecraft, build apps and games, or explore STEM.

Children begin with code using visual blocks before starting with Python and JavaScript. But along the way, programming centers on projects so there’s an enticing value proposition for kids. Since Tynker starts with visual blocks before moving up to actual code, there’s a clear learning path. A comprehensive environment with levels of increasing advancement makes Tynker one of the best mediums for kids to learn programming. You may also consider the similarly-minded Scratch which is backed by MIT.

Why it’s great: It’s free, and offers paid tiers. Tynker allows kids to make neat projects and grows as kids do.

7. Nancy Drew: Codes & Clues – Mystery Coding Game (Paid, iOS/Android)

If there was anything that motivated me to type, it was Mavis Beacon. However, had my mother allowed me a copy of Typing of the Dead, I would likely have preferred that. Perhaps a Coding of the Dead game is in order though maybe not for kids. Similarly, Nancy Drew: Codes & Clues – Mystery Coding Game presents learning with games. Moreover, the Nancy Drew: Codes & Clues game includes a subtle STEM theme with its protagonist.

The premise is simple yet effective. There’s a narrative about a tech fair and a mystery to solve. Along the way, kids drag and drop visual code blocks into their proper places. Certain mini-games involve selecting costumes. According to Common Sense Media, Nancy Drew: Codes & Clues – Mystery Coding Game scores a 3/5 for educational value and 4/5 on ease of play. Goldieblox: Adventures in Coding – The Rocket Cupcake Co. is another stupendous entry-level coding app with a STEM concentration. Because of its balanced gameplay, Nancy Drew is one of the best coding apps for kids to learn programming.

Why it’s great: Intuitive, entertain gameplay and STEM themes.

The Best Coding Apps for Kids to Learn Programming

Although programming might sound incredibly advanced, it’s an excellent idea to get kids started early. These five best coding apps for kids provide a spectacular opportunity for kids to learn programming. Microsoft remains at the forefront of tech, and its Kodu GameLab Easy Coding for Kids With Microsoft's Kodu Easy Coding for Kids With Microsoft's Kodu Do your kids a favor and encourage them to pick up coding skills. Don't wait for school curricula to teach them! A number of games and applications make coding fun and easy. Read More stands as a solid foray into programming. As a child, I mostly played Oregon Trail II and Math Blaster. Unfortunately, neither game taught me anything about programming. Although I did learn that it’s pretty difficult fording a river. Once you’ve selected the best apps for your kids to learn programming, check out these indestructible and educational tablets The Most Indestructible and Educational Tablets for Kids in 2016 The Most Indestructible and Educational Tablets for Kids in 2016 Looking to buy tablets for kids? You want an indestructible device that comes loaded with educational software. Fortunately, we've covered six of the best kid-friendly tablets around! Read More for kids.

Apps make learning easier and also more fun. Which coding apps for kids to learn programming do you recommend?

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