Our world is turning increasingly digital and our lives are permeated with various technologies. Even if your child never aspires to be like Jobs or Zuckerman and takes a whole different path in life, programming is going to come in handy and will teach them important life skills like problem-solving, creativity, planning and communication. With these great apps you can teach your child to code and have great fun along the way:
1. Daisy the Dinosaur (age 5-8)
With this free iPad app, your preschoolers can learn the basics of coding. In a simple drag-and-drop interface, kids use one-word block commands to make Daisy jump, spin and dance across the screen. This way they can immediately establish the connection between command and action, which is the essence of coding. Through various challenges with lovable Daisy, even the youngest users intuitively grasp the basic ideas behind objects, sequencing, loops and events.
2. Hopscotch (8 and up)
From the makers of Daisy also comes a programming platform for somewhat older kids, which takes the block system to a whole new level. Now kids can string blocks into sentences to create their own programs. They learn branching logic, if/then statements and variables, in an environment which makes it simple and fun. They can make their own games, animations, random art generators and lots more.
As opposed to Daisy which was based on simple challenges, this application teaches children to plan ahead and then follow through to make whatever they’ve imagined come true. Kids can later apply the concepts of programing they’ve learned while playing Hopscotch to „grown-up“ programming languages like Python or Ruby. If you do not have a tablet or would like your child to practice programming on a computer, try Scratch, an MIT program which also uses its original visual programming language in much the same way, teaching children how to code in a colorful and child-friendly environment.
3. Alice (8 and up)
Alice is a computer program created at University of Virginia which uses its own original object-oriented 3D programming language. This time, Alice doesn’t venture to the other side of the looking glass but hops onto the screen to teach children the importance of coding. This program also uses blocks as commands and kids can stack them to create longer sequences and watch how the action on the screen unfolds in result. They can also test their programs and see how something plays out if they change this or that command. The program is available in Windows, Mac and Linux version.
4. Hackety-Hack (13 and up)
Hackety Hack is aimed at teenagers, but a younger computer-savy kid shouldn’t have problem using it. Unlike the programs mentioned above, it does not use its own language but dives right into the world of „serious“ programming with Ruby. It is great for kids who have absolutely no experience with computer programming whatsoever, but it also works well as a transition from apps like Hopschotch and Alice to coding with a real programming language. The interface of Hackety Hack consists of two screens: one displays a simple clarification of the code whereas the other is used for command input and program testing. It has fun graphics, but at the same time it uses a grown-up programming language, which is something that appeals to this age group. It is available for both Mac and Windows.
5. Hakitzu: Code of the Warrior (teenagers)