If your class is like mine, the kids are always talking about playing video games! Rather than discouraging that interest, I want to harness it to encourage a higher level of thinking in my class. That is exactly what happens when kids explore coding. I love watching their faces as they try to process that people have to “tell” technology what to do in order for a game to work.
For many kids, the thought of creating games is even more exciting than playing them. Supporting their interest in gaming is important because the process of coding promotes problem-solving, creativity, collaboration and communication skills. Below I have listed four apps that are great places to start learning about coding with young kids.
Daisy the Dinosaur (free) – This app is best suited for early childhood students or for a very basic intro for older students. The goal of the app is to make Daisy the Dino perform tasks. The “challenge” mode prompts the student to follow specific directions (image below), and the free-play mode allows kids to create whatever they like. Teachers could challenge students to perform certain tasks, or the kids could create challenges for each other.
Hopscotch (free) – Created by the same developer as Daisy the Dino, this app takes coding/programming a step further. This is an open platform for kids in which they use coding skills to manipulate the characters they choose. The options for kids creating with this app are nearly endless as they can create games, animation, stories and more. I love that their creations can be interactive—the characters can be controlled by shaking, shouting and tilting the iPad. If you are new to this app, I suggest clicking on Community at the bottom of the app (image below) to check out some of the great examples of students and teachers using this app. There are a few app purchases you can make to get extra characters, but you will not need them to enjoy full use of this app.
I also suggest checking out the Hopscotch Teacher Guide provided by the app developer. For older students, you could simply give them this document and let them start creating.
Cargo-Bot (free) – This is a game-based app that teaches coding as kids progress through challenges in the game. There are tutorials to get them started, and then they move on into the actual game levels. My favorite part of the app is the higher-level thinking involved as part of the learning process. Give the game a try and you will see what I mean—it is fun for all ages.
Tynker (free) – This is another game-based app that teaches kids the basics of coding as they complete the game’s challenges. This app might be more appealing to kids who aren’t showing as much interest in coding, as the game aspect will immerse them in the learning. Tynker actually has three different games within the app: Puppy Adventure, Lost in Space and Sketch Racer.
Matt Gomez is a kindergarten teacher in Texas. Despite his dislike for glitter, he has found kindergarten to be the perfect place to work and play. Follow him on his blog, mattBgomez.com, or find him on Twitter and Facebook.