Fifteen years ago, I started this column with the advice that “computers are not a passing fad — they are here to stay.” In this, my last column as USA Today’s Kid-Tech Columnist, my advice is: teach your kids how to code. By comparing the advice given in these two columns, it’s easy to see how far children’s tech has come: from kids as consumers to kids as makers.
Introducing kids to coding is the hot new thing. Even President Obama is promoting it. By teaching children how to write code, we enhance their understanding about how computer science makes so many things work. Using their new coding skills, budding programmers can create their own games and solve problems, while also practicing logical thinking, math and reading skills. Here are some of the best free ways to start kids down the path of coding.
The Foos Coding 5+
Rating: 4 stars (out of 4)
The Foos cleverly ignites kids’ interests in programming by providing a set of puzzles inside of Foosville, an interactive world filled with cute characters who need your child’s help. Originally created as part of the nationwide Hour of Code initiative, this app provides a visual, animated-icon programming language that is easy to understand and use. In the 44 puzzles, spread over three locations, kids program the Foos to do such things as jump over obstacles in search of delicious donuts, rescue puppies lost in space and serve up customers at a diner. While playing, children practice logical thinking, experiment with pattern recognition and learn about computer programming’s loops, sequencing, parameters and more. There is also a sandbox mode, where kids can build their own puzzles using this coding language.
Rating: 4 stars
Kodable makes use of furry, round, alien creatures knows as Fuzzes to entice kids to explore its coding lessons. At first, kids help the Fuzzes explore the planet Smeeborg by programming how they roll through mazes. Kids use arrow icons to create sequences. The 30 mazes get progressively harder by introducing new concepts, such as debugging and conditions, including “if, then” statements. The Fuzzes can also fly to an asteroid field where players experience 15 match-three-type levels while learning how to use variables. Teachers wanting to use this free content can set up a classroom at www.Kodable.com, where they will also find a teacher dashboard as well as a complete curriculum. Kodable has additional content that can be unlocked, using in-app purchases ($4.99-$6.99) that cover loops, functions and other variables.
Frozen – Code.org
Code.org, best for ages 8-up, Free, on the web
Rating: 4 stars
Rating: 3.5 stars
Similar to the Frozen coding project above, Tynker also uses code blocks to teach kids how to program. Tynker introduces its visual programming language within a series of puzzles called Codey’s Quest. In each puzzle level, kids use the code blocks to make Codey, a cute purple alien, move to his beloved candy. Kids exercise logical thinking to create programs that stress efficiency; and in that process, they learn about programming using loops and conditionals.
The app also has a set of Crash Course puzzles that works with connected devices such as the Sphero and Ollie robots. In addition to the free puzzles, Tynker offers a section in which kids can use the block codes to create their own games. Additional content is available via in-app purchases ($1.99-$4.99). A separate school version app costs $5.99. Parents can also find more free content on www.Tynker.com, as well as paid courses.
Bonus Tip: For more ways to teach coding, including some options that cost money, check out this Learning to Code list.
Before signing off, I want to thank my loyal readers who have journeyed with me through the heyday of edutainment software, the birth of motion-controlled kids’ video games, the introduction of tech toys that morph into video games, to now, the glory days of children’s apps. If you want to continue reading my kid-tech reviews, head over to my website at www.TechwithKids.com where I will still be exploring and sharing what is new and good for kids in tech. I would also like to thank my many editors, including my mother, Dorothy Sands, who read every column before it was submitted.
Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/1FsPn0I