4 Linux Applications to Keep Your Kids Ahead of the Game

Stefan Neagu 14-09-2009

Today we’re going to continue our journey through the Ubuntu software repository looking for more children’s Linux educational software. As I dutifully noted in the previous article about chemistry applications 3 Useful Ubuntu Apps for Chemistry Students Read More , Ubuntu and Linux distributions in general, have a wealth of great educational software. As more and more parents allow their children to use the computer, setting up your kids with a Linux distribution makes even more sense:

  • You don’t have to worry about security, system maintenance and updates.
  • A separate, unprivileged account for your kids makes sure that anything they could possible to to the system is limited to one account; if anything goes wrong just delete it and create another one.
  • Call of Duty, zombies, and other modern 3D PC games won’t run without additional emulation software and hackery. Safe to say, if your kid manages to play Crysis on a Ubuntu box using just WINE, his future’s looking bright.

Kanagram mixes up the letters of a word, creating an anagram. You have to guess what the mixed up word is. Kanagram is a great children’s Linux program that features several built-in word lists, hints, and a cheat feature which reveals the original word. Kanagram also has a vocabulary editor, so you can make the game be as hard as you want it to be.

childrens linux

Kanagram is cool, but wait until you hear about GCompris. Designed to be the end-all be-all of children’s Linux educational software suites, it has about 100 activities, and an age recommendation of 2-10. It’s got everything you’d want, from reading practice, to science, algebra, drawing, geography quiz and even chess. There are even activities for discovering the computer’s peripherals. When you start the program, GCompris presents the list of activities, and a control bar at the bottom.

linux educational software

Each icon stands for an activity. When the mouse is hovering over it, more information appears: the name, description and author of the activity are displayed in the description area. A click on the icon will lead you to an activity or a menu of activities. GCompris is translated into more than 50 languages.


We’ve all seen the commercial with the kid who likes drawing on the furniture. Oddly enough, his mother is happy about that because she was anxious to test her new Pronto spray. In real life, I think you’d rather install TuxPaint and let the creativity flow freely on the computer screen. It’s recommended for kids aged 3 through 12, it has easy to use interface and a funny penguin that sits in the bottom left and encourages your efforts.

linux for kids

Finally, we’ve got Earth3D, which is very similar to Google Earth and is a great way to teach your kid about geography. Unlike its Google counterpart, Earth3D taps into various map providers and time stamps. You can watch the ice in Greenland melt away before your eyes,  learn country flags and borders.

4 Linux Applications to Keep Your Kids Ahead of the Game Screenshot20090911at11


You can install any of the Ubuntu software discussed in this article by searching for their name in the Synaptic Package Manager, checking the box on the left of its name and clicking “Apply Changes”. To launch Synaptic, choose System > Administration > Synaptic Package Manager.

kids linux

Most children’s Linux educational software is readily available for other distributions such as Fedora or SuSE, in their respective package managers, so try searching for the application name. We describe the installation process for Ubuntu because it’s the most widely used of the bunch.

You might want to check out some other posts related to Linux, Ubuntu or education, here on MakeUseOf. We have also published complete guide to getting started with Linux Getting Started With Linux and Ubuntu You're interested in switching to Linux... but where do you start? Is your PC compatible? Will your favorite apps work? Here's everything you need to know to get started with Linux. Read More .


Related topics: Education Technology, Ubuntu.

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  1. Nukoca
    November 5, 2009 at 11:48 am

    One of your images is dead.

  2. fyanardi
    September 15, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Don't forget marble, a cool cross-platform Google earth replacement from KDE project :-)

  3. Mario
    September 14, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks, just what I was looking for

  4. macuser
    September 14, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    There are better options on the web.

    Several Flash or Shockwave apps and games for kids exist on the internet.

    Kanagram: Can easily have Flash version.

    TuxPaint -- There are several educational art games or Flash apps.

    Earth3D -- You already said it. Google Earth is available on many platforms.

    All the kids need is Firefox and go to kids websites.

    • schmegdry
      September 15, 2009 at 12:39 pm

      Maybe, but all of that is less secure. My kids are squarely out of the browser group on our system and couldn't access the web if they wanted to.

      Don't get me wrong, there are lots of great resources for kids on the net, but I don't want my 5 year old to even have the chance of finding porn or something.

      • macuser
        September 15, 2009 at 1:38 pm

        There is no difference shielding your kids from the Internet as shielding them from influence at school or even traditional media.

        Also, that is such a lame excuse: There are Firefox plugins that let parents control the surfing habits of kids.

        Finally, I know the Linux has its good points and all but listed: The future OS is Google. It's NOT Linux, NOT Windows, NOT EVEN THE MAC.

        The future is the WEB, the CLOUD. The OS WARS are are so 1990's. Now, at 2009, it's all pointless. Google will dominate the web, not your Linux, not my Mac, not their Windows. It's Google.

        • Dan
          September 28, 2009 at 11:08 pm

          google os IS a linux distro.