Simple & Friendly: 4 Great Linux Distros For Kids

Justin Pot 06-12-2012

linux distros for kidsTurn an aging computer into a kid-friendly machine that’s both educational and entertaining. Thanks to open source software there are a variety of complete operating systems designed to let you hand down computers to kids without worry.


Kids love to explore, and computers are a great opportunity for that. Programmers from around the world dedicated to education have built a number of freely available operating systems you can use to set up a computer for your kids, free of charge. They (like many operating systems) are built around Linux, and as such are called Linux Distros.

Confused? Don’t be. Just know that these free operating systems are designed to be used by kids, and come with a wide variety of educational software free of charge. Whether you’re a teacher wanting to build a lab full of machines or a parent looking to convert an old desktop into a kid computer, these Linux distros will make the job simple.

Sugar On A Stick

Sugar, you might recall, is the user interface designed for the One Laptop Per Child. What you might not realize is that anyone can use it on any computer, thanks to Sugar On A Stick (a version of Fedora that runs Sugar).

linux distros for kids

Sugar is built from the ground up, to be a learning environment for kids. It’s unfamiliar for adults used to Windows or Gnome, but kids who love exploring will figure things out quickly, regardless of whether they can read or write. To quote Sugar Labs:


Information is about nouns; learning is about verbs. The Sugar interface, in its departure from the desktop metaphor for computing, is the first serious attempt to create a user interface that is based on both cognitive and social constructivism: learners should engage in authentic exploration and collaboration. It is based on three very simple principles about what makes us human.

As kids learn to better use their computer, more is revealed. Depending on how they use it, kids could ultimately learn the skills to become a programmer. Read more about the philosophy behind Sugar here, if you’re interested.

If you want to check this out, go ahead and download Sugar On a Stick. It comes as a live environment but you can also install it on most computers easily.


Once known as the Ubuntu Education Edition, Edubuntu is an aptly named version of Ubuntu intended for classrooms. It’s been developed in collaboration with teachers, and includes a wide variety of educational programs in addition to most of what is included with Ubuntu.

best linux distros for kids


Edubuntu is designed to make it easy for teachers to set up an entire computer lab. There are many deployments of it in schools all over the world..

Interested in what software Edubuntu comes with? Check out screenshots of the software in Edubuntu here, and note that while it uses Ubuntu’s Unity interface, it can also work with Gnome’s fallback session. Gcompris seems to be a key player, but there’s a lot more to explore.

A potential advantage of Edubuntu is access to Ubuntu’s software repository, which includes access to most Linux programs. There’s downsides to this as well.

Download Edubuntu if you want to try this out on your machine. Alternatively, you can try Edubuntu out online.



This is another kid-friendly distro built on Ubuntu, but with a difference. A dock gives kids quick access to educational Linux games, while a complete menu means you can browse all programs easily.

best linux distros for kids

The idea is for the interface to be easy enough for a 3 year old to figure out, and provided the apps they like reside in the bottom bar I think that’s true. Featuring most of the education programs offered by Edubuntu, Qimo is a simple and lightweight alternative to that system with a kid-friendly cartoon theme. It’s built to be simple, and it is.

Download Qimo now, if you’re ready.


Doudou Linux

With a simple, tab-based menu system and large icons, Doudou makes it easy for kids to quickly launch educational games. It comes with a simple set of software and is built on Debian.

linux distros for kids

This is one fast system, meaning it could easily give life to an old computer. It includes the standard set of education programs and is simple enough for most kids to figure out quickly.

Read more about and download Doudou Linux.


Do you guys know of any other Linux distros made for children? Please share them in the comments below. I’d love to put together more lists like this in the future.

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  1. Kshitij Verma
    January 15, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    Great list! However I feel that children shall learn to use computers with a real OS(eg Windows or Ubuntu - Something which everyone uses, not just kids). That is the only way they will get some exposure into the real world of computers.

    See this:

  2. Chew Jian Yue
    December 28, 2012 at 4:22 am

    What about ElementaryOS?

    • Justin Pot
      December 29, 2012 at 4:08 am

      It's a great distro, though not exactly made for children. I'll probably be writing it up soon...

  3. Irfan Ahmed
    December 11, 2012 at 11:29 am

    Edubuntu and Qimo seem good. Will give a try.

  4. Giggity Goebbels
    December 10, 2012 at 5:30 am

    I use edubuntu for this

    • Justin Pot
      December 11, 2012 at 4:02 pm

      Awesome. Why it instead of another one?

      • Giggitygoebbels
        December 12, 2012 at 12:53 am

        Because i know a bit about ubuntu so i can also it to browse internet
        (I am not bothered to login)

  5. Ritwick Saikia
    December 9, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    Great finds Justin

    • Justin Pot
      December 11, 2012 at 4:01 pm

      Been compiling the list in the background for a while; it's been fun. Glad I could share it.

  6. James Hudson
    December 8, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    ok i need to move over to liunx but i dont know what one to get?

    • Justin Pot
      December 11, 2012 at 4:00 pm

      Is this for yourself or your kids? If it's just for you I'd start with Ubuntu, you can learn a lot from there. If that's not to your tastes do some research and you'll find something else. If it's for your kids set one of the above up for them.

  7. Juan Gonzalez
    December 7, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Another one for consideration shou be openSUSE:Education-Li-f-e,, this release includes carefully selected software for students, educators as well as parents. The software selection encompasses everything required to make computers productive for either home or educational use without having to install anything additional.

    • Justin Pot
      December 7, 2012 at 6:26 pm

      I can't believe I missed this! Great find, great distro and great collection of software. Recommended.

  8. Anonymous
    December 7, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Linux Rocks!

  9. Douglas Mutay
    December 7, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Wow! Very good. I have downloaded and now testing edubuntu. I know my kids wil love it. I m very thankful for the article.

    • Justin Pot
      December 11, 2012 at 3:55 pm

      Happy to help, as always. Let us know how your kids like it.

  10. ha14
    December 7, 2012 at 9:58 am

    linux taste for kids (They will start haiting WINDOWS:)...)

  11. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    December 7, 2012 at 6:05 am

    I've tried several Linux distros but I think I'm interested to try Sugar just for the sake of it. Haha, I wish I have more opportunity to interact with non-Windows OS as a child, but doing it now doesn't lessen the fun.

    • Justin Pot
      December 11, 2012 at 3:54 pm

      Sugar is designed so that, if the kid is curious, he or she will eventually learn some programing skills. Let us know if it works, okay?

  12. Ravuama Nayago
    December 7, 2012 at 2:44 am

    cool. looking forward to trying some of these! Thank you.

  13. Jason Williams
    December 6, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    thanks for the article. i have been trying to find a Linux alternatives for kids so my kiddos dont end up Windows dependent.

  14. Dane Morgan
    December 6, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    I have an 8 year old and a 6 year old. I want to put a box in the livingroom to share a monitor with the XBOX. Will be games for the whole family, largely flash based from education sites, youtube and videos from homeschooling sites, researching on online encyclopedia sites... that sort of stuff. Also netflix is our only source of 'TV', and we would run DVDs through it, though that could be handled by the XBOX too.

    Would that narrow me down to one or another of these?

    • Justin Pot
      December 6, 2012 at 10:08 pm

      Most of these should work for that, I think, but if your approach is that web-based you might not like the kid-specific distros, which are largely focused on desktop apps. Try some out and see.

  15. Austin Halsell
    December 6, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    The school district I work for has been trying to find a way to make our aging netbooks last a few years longer, and these all look like decent options, at least for elementary students.

    Sugar on a Stick looks interesting in particular. Any suggestions on which to try first?

    • Justin Pot
      December 6, 2012 at 9:57 pm

      Sugar On A Stick is best for younger kids, I think. If we're talking middle school and up I'd probably just stick with Edubuntu.

      • David Commini
        January 13, 2013 at 6:05 pm

        What would you recommend for a special needs child who is 3 going on 4?

        • Justin Pot
          January 13, 2013 at 9:48 pm

          I'm not an expert, but again: Sugar On A Stick. It's made to be easy to explore and discover, and will probably make more sense to your child than it will to you and your decades of learning how to "properly" use a computer.

        • David Commini
          January 13, 2013 at 9:59 pm

          Thanks, I'll give it a spin