Coding is one of those must-have skills for today’s kids. Their generation will find more jobs in the computer science field than ever before. Giving them a head start early in life can set them on track to master the critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills that they’ll need. These coding apps for kids and teens offer options for beginners and advanced learners alike, with plenty of free or inexpensive options for every kind of student.
The simple game style and engaging animation make this a real winner for those new to coding fundamentals, especially younger students. A school version is available that includes a teacher guide with an accompanying curriculum. (iPad; free w/in-app purchases, school version $7.99)
In this beginner-friendly app, kids drag and drop coding blocks to build games. When they’re done, they can play the games on their own or share them with the world! (iPad; free)
Made for more experienced coders, Codea allows you to create games and simulations using a touch-based interface. It’s built on the Lua programming language and offers open-ended coding possibilities. (iPad; $14.99)
Kids use basic coding skills to guide their car along a raceway. They gradually build up their speed to help them win races without crashing their cars. There are more than 70 levels and two game modes, so this app will keep them busy for quite awhile. (iOS, Android, and Kindle; 10 free levels, $2.99 to unlock full version)
Code Land’s games range from simple fun for early learners to complex multiplayer options for advanced programming. The company strives to inspire underrepresented groups to learn coding and join the ever-growing field of computer science. (iPad, iPhone, and Android; subscriptions start at $4.99/month)
For kids who love video games (so, all of them!), codeSpark is a perfect fit. Learners guide their characters through increasingly challenging levels by selecting the appropriate code. They’ve got to think ahead and envision the final result in their heads in order to get it right. This one is designed for elementary school (no reading required), but older beginners will enjoy it too. (iPad, Android, and Kindle; free for public schools, $9.99/month for individuals)
Daisy the Dinosaur
Use a simple drag-and-drop interface to make Daisy the Dinosaur dance her heart out. Players learn the basics of objects, sequencing, loops, and events by solving the challenges. Perfect for beginners. (iPad; free)
Kids will be surprised and thrilled to find out all the amazing things their iPad is capable of. Using the coding skills they’ll learn on the app, they can create everything from a kaleidoscope to a voice disguiser to a stop-motion camera. (iPad; $3.99)
Hopscotch’s suite of games and activities was designed for tweens and teens. They’ll learn to use code to build games, create animations, and even design their own apps or software. Play games designed by other kids, and share your own creations too. They also offer free lesson plans for teachers to use along with the app. (iPad; subscriptions start at $7.99/month)
Hopster Coding Safari
This is one of the top coding apps for the pre-K age group. As little ones help animals from around the world solve puzzles, they also pick up skills like pattern recognition, decomposition, and algorithms. All of these will serve them well when they’re ready to move on to more advanced coding. (iPad and iPhone; first world is free, second world $2.99)
This coding app has been around for awhile, but it still regularly makes the list of favorites. Kids guide a robot to light up tiles, learning about conditionals, loops, and procedures. It starts out easy for beginners but ramps up quickly to help build some pretty advanced thinking. (iPad; $2.99)
Move the Turtle
Just like real turtles, this app takes things slow. Kids learn the Logo programming language, well-known for its use of turtle graphics. Step by step, they learn and build the skills they need to create their own programs from scratch. (iPhone and iPad; $3.99)
Older learners who are ready to dive deep into coding and programming are going to love this app. The content is presented in bite-sized lessons, so you can move at a pace that’s comfortable for you. It teaches a variety of coding languages, and the available courses are wide-ranging and deep. (iPad and Android; monthly subscriptions start at $6.99)
Scratch and Scratch Jr.
Scratch Jr. is based on a popular coding language for kids developed by MIT called Scratch. The app is geared toward the younger crowd, who build the basic skills they need. Once they’ve mastered these skills, they’re ready to move on to programming in Scratch itself. (iPad and Android tablets; free)
Swift is Apple’s programming language, used to create many of the world’s most popular apps. Kids and teens can learn this valuable language with Swift Playgrounds, which offers activities for beginners and more skilled users alike. (iPad; free)
Tynker and Tynker Junior
Tynker is one of the biggest names in coding for kids, and their coding apps are some of the most popular and beloved out there. Their Tynker Junior app is intended for the K-2 age range, while Tynker itself offers games and courses for kids all the way through middle school. They also offer Mod Creator, which teaches block coding for Minecraft. (iPad and Android; pricing varies)
What are your favorite coding apps for kids and teens? Come exchange ideas in the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Plus, check out Our Favorite Websites for Teaching Kids and Teens to Code.