An important skill for the future: programming
Your kids might not daydream about a job as a computer programmer when they grow up, but there are undeniable benefits to learning the essentials of programming. By getting a grasp of the basics, kids can boost their logic and problem solving skills at an early age. And they’ll be amazed to see something they’ve created from scratch come to life on the screen!
Kids as young as 4 years old can start learning the essentials of programming thanks to these intuitive, informative and cost-effective apps aimed at getting learners of all ages on the path to writing code — and have fun expressing themselves, too.
The cute characters and upbeat music in Cato’s Hike give programming a playful feel. To reach the star in each level, kids ages 5 and older must enter a series of instructions to get Cato to the right spot. The character doesn’t simply move this way and that; more complicated instructions like if/then and loops make this a game that older kids can enjoy.
A free demo version of the app,
is also available to try before you buy. Cato’s Hike Lite,
Designed for kids ages 8 and older, Hopscotch is a sleek, user-friendly app for learning how to program that also takes care to keep kids safe online when sharing projects and ideas with others. Once they pick up the ins and outs of Hopscotch, they can safely publish their own games, animations and designs quickly and easily through the app. Older kids looking to connect with a community of like-minded young programmers can get a lot out of the free app.
If your child
does dream about making video games for a living one day, Hopscotch is a fantastic place to start.
, Free iPhone/iPad
Lightbot Jr. 4+ Coding Puzzles
Take control of a tiny robot in this engaging game that challenges kids ages 4–8 to think a few steps ahead. The robot needs help to light up the blue squares in each level of the game. Program the series of commands to make the robot move, jump and light up the squares in just a few moves.
If the robot doesn’t reach the goal the first time, kids can learn how to “debug” by switching up the steps or starting over to get the sequence just right. Lightbot Jr. feels more like a game than a programming lesson, and kids who love a good challenge can spend hours solving these coding puzzles.
, $2.99 iPhone/iPad, Android
Move the Turtle
This programming app also puts elementary-aged kids in command of a cute character to learn programming basics. Each level of Move the Turtle begins with a task that a simple program must complete with the goal of reaching a diamond. As you progress through the first few tasks, more complicated concepts like procedures are introduced to keep upping the challenge level.
Move the Turtle also includes Projects, a set of completed procedures that draw a spiral, flower, garden and more. Kids can delve into these projects to see how they work and get their own ideas for creating one-of-a-kind programs in the open-ended Compose section of the app.
, $2.99 iPhone/iPad
My Robot Friend
LeapFrog’s My Robot Friend is a polished game that teaches programming basics with high-quality 3-D graphics and voiceovers that explain the game instructions clearly. Use a series of movement commands to get Alpha-1 to the treasure in each level. Along the way, kids ages 7 and up will use logic skills, math and critical thinking to finish the level and earn ribbons and coins.
If your child is the type who enjoys games with big, flashy rewards and spending coins (earned in game, not in-app purchases) to dress up their characters, My Robot Friend will get them programming in no time.
, $3.99 iPhone/iPad
Kids ages 5–7 will get a kick out of making a cartoon cat and other colorful characters move, hop, turn and more through a series of intuitive drag-and-drop programming commands.
The free app, which is inspired by the Scratch programming language, may take a short time to learn to use. (Don’t skip the tutorial!) But once your kids have the hang of it, they can make their own one-of-a-kind animated stories and simple games complete with voice-overs and bright, clear graphics.
, Free iPad
More kid-friendly apps