It’s hard to imagine a single career that doesn’t require coders. Everything that “just works” has some code that makes it run seamlessly. Coding is everywhere. The Zuckerbergs, Musks, and Gates of this world started coding as kids. All the cool kids are coding… or should be.
Computer coding can help kids develop various problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Not sure where to start? Here are three coding apps to jump-start your kid’s coding journey. In no particular order, these coding apps are appropriate for young learners. We’ve used some of them with elementary-aged students.
Designed by MIT students and staff in 2003, Scratch was created specifically for 8-to-16-year-olds. Scratch is web-based and easily accessible. Students use a visual programming language made of blocks that they drag to the workspace to animate sprites. Various types of bricks trigger loops, create variables, initiate interactivity, play sounds, and more. Teaching guides, communities, and other resources available on the website will help instructors get started. You don’t have to be a programming expert to use Scratch — you can learn right along with your kid!
Platform: Web & App
Cost: $2 per student
GameStar Mechanic teaches kids, ages 7–14, to design video games. Your child will love completing different self-paced quests while learning to build game levels. The site integrates critical thinking and problem-solving tasks.
Cost: Free! (with Premium upgrade option)
Tynker looks similar to Scratch. But while Scratch was designed to program, Tynker was built to teach programming. The app features starter lesson plans, classroom management tools, and an online showcase of student-created programs. Lessons are self-paced and simple enough for students to follow without assistance.
Hopscotch looks a lot like Scratch and Tynker and uses similar controls to drag blocks into a workspace, but it only runs on the iPad. Although its controls and characters are not as extensive as they are in Scratch and Tynker, Hopscotch is a great tool to begin helping your kid without coding experience learn the basics of programming, logical thinking, and problem-solving.
Cargo-Bot is another game that teaches coding skills. On each level, the objective is to move colored crates from one place to another by programming a claw crane, to move left or right, and to drop or pick up. The game was programmed on an iPad using a touch-based coding app called Codea, which is based on the programming language Lua. Elementary students learn the logical thinking required to do the “real” text-based programming using Lua — but Lua is not for young learners. For elementary students, stick with Cargo-Bot.
We hope these descriptions have whetted your appetite, and you will incorporate coding into your child’s after-school program. Even if your kid never intends to pursue programming as a career, learning to code will still foster problem-solving skills, spark creativity, and enhance logical thinking. As Maria Klawe, a computer programmer and inventor, says, “Coding is today’s language of creativity. All our children deserve a chance to become creators instead of consumers of computer science.”
If you are looking for a tutor to guide your kid through this journey, you can always reach out to us at Geeklama.com. We have vetted computer science engineers who provide a gamified approach to learning programming.