With the changes in the National Curriculum for ICT in 2014 introducing a greater emphasis on coding and programming, there is a greater demand for easy to use programming tools for children. Tools such as Scratch are great, but it doesn’t currently play nicely on an iPad. Coding apps tend to fall into two categories.
At the simplest level they allow children to produce simple algorithms to make something happen on the screen, whether it’s a turtle or a dalek move about the screen. These allow the children to begin to think logically to solve a particular problem. Other apps provide a more complex coding environment with features such as repeating loops and inputs.
Here are 10 apps that can help your children learn to code:
Scratch Jr is a version of the popular Scratch coding platform especially written for iPads and aimed at younger users. ScratchJr is an introductory programming language that enables young children (ages 5-7) to create their own interactive stories and games.
Like the other versions of Scratch, children snap together graphical programming blocks to make characters move, jump, dance, and sing. Children can modify characters in the paint editor, add their own voices and sounds, even insert photos of themselves — then use the programming blocks to make their characters come to life. If you are looking for ways to introduce younger children to coding, then this is definitely worth getting.
The Doctor and the Dalek is designed to introduce children to the idea of programming through simple codes. By issuing commands to an on-screen Dalek the children can solve various problems and eventually save the Universe. In addition to the app, the BBC has also produced a Doctor and the Dalek resource pack designed to be used alongside the game by teachers or parents.
- Daisy the Dinosaur (Free) – iPad/iOS Link.
This free, fun app helps teach the basics of simple programming. It has an easy drag and drop interface to animate Daisy to dance across the screen. Children will intuitively grasp the basics of objects, sequencing, loops and events by solving this app’s challenges. It’s a simple, easy to use app which gives children an easy introduction into simple programming.
- Hopscotch (Free) – iPad/iOS Link.
Developed by the same team behind Daisy the Dinosaur, Hopscotch is a free app which allows children to create their own games and animations with a simple programming language. Hopscotch works by dragging and dropping method blocks into scripts in the same way as Scratch. When you’re finished with a script, press play to see the code in action. More advanced users can add additional objects and use custom events, such as shaking and tilting the iPad, to run different parts of the code.
- Bee-Bot (Free) – iPad/iOS Link.
The Bee Bot app from TTS has been developed to mimic the familiar Bee-Bot floor robot that many children are already familiar with. The app makes use of Bee-Bot’s keypad functionality and enables children to improve their skills in directional language and programming through sequences of forwards, backwards, left and right 90 degree turns. The game is set in a cute little garden scenario and will appeal from age 4 upwards. Also check out the new range of Blue-Bots which are Bluetooth Bee Bots that can control with the Blue-Bot iPad app. They’re a great blend of app and real-world device.
- Cargo-Bot (Free) – iPad/iOS Link.
Cargo-Bot is a puzzle game where you teach a robot how to move crates. It sounds simple, but it gets quite challenging! It’s good for developing logical thinking.
- Kodable (Free) – iPad/iOS Link.
Kodable offers a kid-friendly introduction to programming concepts and problem solving. Beautifully designed with little ones in mind, Kodable comes free with 30 levels of programmable fun! You can unlock additional worlds with inapp purchases, or get them all by downloading Kodable Pro (£1.99*).
- Move the Turtle (£2.29*) – iPad/iOS Link.
Move The Turtle is an educational application for iPhone and iPad that teaches children the basics of creating computer programs, using intuitive graphic commands. It’s very similar to the BeeBot app mentioned above.
- Cato’s Hike (£3.99*) – iPad/iOS Link.
Cato is stuck in a parallel world, and needs help to get home. Some solutions are simple, but there are also opportunities for more advanced concepts like loops and branching. It’s the most expensive app out of those I’ve looked at, but it does provide more of a challenge for upper KS2 children. A free, lite version is also available for iPad by clicking here.
- Snap (Free) – Website.
The final addition to this list isn’t really an iPad app, but it is a free website that has been designed to work on your iPads so it is definitely worth investigating. Snap is another visual, drag-and-drop programming language that’s almost identical to Scratch. The coding platform allows you to “Build Your Own Blocks” of code. It works by dragging and dropping method blocks into scripts. When you’re finished with a script, press play to see the code in action.
Danny Nicholson is an independent trainer, PGCE lecturer and consultant. He is a former science teacher and now delivers Computing and Science training to teachers all over the UK as well as overseas. He regularly blogs about educational technology at whiteboardblog.co.uk and can be found on Twitter as @dannynic.