Kids love a bit of tech, especially if it lets them play games or watch their favorite YouTubers safely. Getting them to enjoy the kind of tech that helps them to learn, however, is a whole tougher challenge, but who said educational software had to be boring?
Thanks to the kind of fun, free and educational software you can find on Linux, it doesn’t have to be. Let’s run through eight of the best examples.
Not every child in the world has a natural interest or ability in mathematics, but TuxMath helps to overcome this. It’s designed to help children learn math in the style of a space-themed arcade game, practicing their skills in short gaming sessions.
TuxMath is actually part of a wider suite of games and programs aimed at kids, and while it doesn’t win awards in 2019 for its outdated interface, it’s a very effective tool in the battle to help kids learn (and learn to love) math, especially if traditional learning doesn’t suit them. It’s fast-paced, so kids won’t have time to worry about wrong answers.
The style of the game is simple—the player is faced with math questions which, if they answer correctly, allows them to shoot down asteroids. As the game moves forward, the questions get harder and more difficult to help test their math knowledge and boost their confidence.
TuxMath is great for visual learners looking to improve their math skills outside of a textbook.
Childsplay isn’t one game for kids—it’s actually 14 activities for younger children to help teach and reinforce basic skills, from learning the alphabet and basic numbers to training digital skills like typing and using a mouse.
There’s plenty of variety in Childsplay. An educational version of Pac-Man teaches kids how to spell and pronounce certain words, while a memory matching game helps to improve recall while teaching numbers.
Thanks to reporting software and integration with SQL databases, you can also integrate Childsplay into a school environment and track the progress of multiple children, making it a great tool for pre-school teachers.
The stars are wonderous, so why not teach children about them? KStars teaches the stars to children for free. It simulates the night sky from anywhere on the planet, showing no less than 100 million stars in the night sky to astronomy-loving kids.
You can also see up close different constellations, planets, comets, and other bodies (well known and obscure). It’s not just a simulation tool, however. You can also use it for real-life astronomy, with a planning tool for observing different stars in real life.
KStars also includes Ekos, a tool for controlling telescopes and digital cameras for automatic photography to help you create your own home observatory of the stars.
It’s never too early to get a child interested in coding. Learning the basics early helps provide a solid foundation for more advanced programming languages later, which is why Scratch is the perfect tool for kids who want to learn how to code.
Rather than trying to teach using text, Scratch uses colorful graphics to create basic programming routines and animations; you can even create your own Mario game if you want to.
There’s also a massive community of ideas and projects for budding coders looking for inspiration.
Not every child has a love for technical subjects like math or science, so what about the arts? Minuet appeals to children with musical talent.
It’s a full suite of musical training activities designed to help kids improve their musical skills. Learners listen to music samples to help them learn chords, scales, and musical intervals. For educators, Minuet is extendible with your own pre-tailored exercises for learners, making it a good tool for the classroom.
Minuet isn’t just aimed at beginners. It’s got exercises and settings that are customizable for any skill set, and if you’re a visual learner, the on-screen piano helps learners visualize the music as it’s performed.
Aimed at younger children, GCompris is another set of games and activities rolled into one complete package. The active development team is regularly updating GCompris with new games and challenges for children on every topic imaginable, including games that focus on history, math, science, geography, and digital skills.
There are over 100 games and challenges for kids to work through, in 15 different languages. The games are colorful and well thought out for younger children, with helpful tips to explain some of the tougher challenges.
GCompris is perfect for parents looking to boost the skills and confidence of a younger child at home.
Sugar isn’t just a set of activities; it’s an interactive learning environment for kids. Everything is based around the Sugar interface—it’s designed to run on a USB memory stick (thanks to the Sugar on a Stick distro), or as part of a standard installation of Fedora or Ubuntu.
Children working on Sugar are able to look back on their progress using the portfolio and journal sections. It’s got activities to teach typing, basic coding, painting, math, and geography, to name but a few. Everything a child does when they’re using Sugar gets saved into the journal and portfolio sections, making it easy to review a child’s progress over time.
It’s a great Linux distro to install for kids, especially if you’re looking to install it on a Raspberry Pi.
Kano isn’t just a Linux operating system for kids. It’s actually part of a coding kit for young programmers to learn how to code while building their own projects. They even get to build the computer they use before they start learning.
Kano is definitely one of the most refined packages for teaching any kind of tech to kids that I’ve ever seen. Children get to learn about the basics of what makes a computer work, using a Raspberry Pi as a base. The bespoke Kano OS Linux distro is colorful and easy to use, regardless of ability.
You get apps like Scratch pre-installed, along with other apps for making games or art. If you want to take Kano further, there are hundreds of other games and apps available to install. You can also buy add ons for motion sensing and Harry Potter-style wand waving.
If you want your child to really embrace the experience, Kano’s Story Mode turns the entire OS into a game, with different areas representing different apps to teach them programming skills, or in the case of the Terminal Quest app, basic Linux skills.
Download: Kano (Third-party kit required)
Linux: Fun for Kids, Safe for Learning
These Linux educational tools allow kids to enjoy learning safely, without the worry of cost for parents or educators. Free learning doesn’t discriminate, either—children of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities can use these tools to make a difference in their lives.
If you’re not sure which program to try first, decide which is best, based on their purpose:
- TuxMath, for improving math skills
- Childsplay, for younger children
- KStars, for budding astronomers
- Scratch, for basic programming
- Minuet, for young musicians
- GCompris, for younger children
- Sugar, for a complete educational experience
- Kano, for coders and project builders
Once children catch the learning bug, the sky’s the limit. These educational games for Chrome can help support a child’s learning even further, whichever platform you prefer.