I recently reviewed several programming apps for Common Sense Media and wanted to give the rundown of a few hits, especially as summer approaches and kids have some time to focus on new projects. Developers are sensitive to exposing kids, especially girls, to STEM. What’s pretty cool about apps to introduce kids to programming is that meta element of a developer writing an app to help kids do what she does. Who knows better than a developer what future developers need to know?
I’ve seen the question posed of when is a good time to introduce kids to programming, and I’d say seven or so, for most kids. Not all of these apps would appeal to a seven-year-old, though, so read the reviews and think about your kid to decide what is most fitting.
My Robot Friend — $3.99
My Robot Friend is a LeapFrog app, but don’t think it’s for preschoolers. It’s probably the easiest entree in to the programming apps, though. Kids drag and drop directions to move a robot to its destination, eliminating obstacles in the way. Playing gets kids thinking in the steps and commands involved in coding.
Hopscotch HD — Free
With the colorful characters (sprites) and story-like environment, Hopscotch seems well-geared for typical girls. (I write typical because I know, since I live with one, that some girls will prefer the robots to the cutesy characters.) Kids drag and drop chucks of code in to place to create their programs.
Cargo-Bot — Free
Cargo-Bot was programmed on an iPad — pretty cool — to get kids thinking like programmers. Kids drag and drop commands into place to direct a robotic arm, and each command introduces kids to a programming concept. My programmer husband played it, too, and was pleased with the concepts included and the level of challenge.
Codea — $9.99
Codea is a program designed specifically to write programs for the iPad. Cargo-Bot was written using Codea, which is based on the Lua programming language. Codea reminds me of sitting down with my Commodore 128 and the user manual and copying their programs and then altering them to see what happened. Kids can easily do the same with Codea and the many sample programs provided.