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My Favorite Coding Apps for Kids

Coding can seem like an unconventional way to approach learning for teachers who don’t have a ton of experience with computer sciences. And often we think about teaching coding and programming just to the older kids. But the truth is, coding is appropriate for all school-aged children. And there are some super resources out there to get you started!

Why teach coding at such a young age?

Coding skills prepare our kids for the future in ways that traditional literacy and curriculum can’t. These skills also hit those high order thinking concepts that will help kids with logical, step-by-step, problem solving skills. We want to encourage these abilities in all of our kiddos.

We also want to give our students access to learning that will prepare them for a successful future. With the increase in technology in every industry, coding skills are not only relevant but will be more and more necessary.

You may be thinking, But Valerie, aren’t our primary students just a little too young for this kind of computation and analogous thinking?

NOPE! In fact, there are a ton of great apps and programs that are designed with primary learners in mind. These tools can help prepare your young students to make those bigger connections later when it’s more developmentally appropriate.

We can facilitate creative thinking and problem solving at any age, and coding is simply technological storytelling. When we expose kids to these concepts of creating a beginning, middle, and end—and then give them the freedom to express their thinking and let their imaginations go, coding can truly be an art! Now more than ever in our classrooms, our kids deserve access to the concepts that will inspire them to learn more.

In the meantime, they’re building computer literacy skills and getting comfortable navigating online tools that are important for every grade level.

How to integrate coding in your classroom routine

Virtual learning gives students an advantage that may not have been accessible before 1 to 1 learning. Every student has access to a device!

Even if you’re in a traditional classroom without one device for every student, there are ways you can integrate programming into science, art, tech time, project based learning and STEM activities in small groups. Kids can have access to structured experimentation while teachers can set goals for how to work it into the curriculum in a meaningful way.

Another idea is to start a school club for coding. That gives you more wiggle room for how to integrate it if there is no computer science time available in your regular school day.

Additionally, and especially for little ones who need extra scaffolding to coding and programming concepts, there are a lot of “unplugged” coding resources available online to help expose them to the process. These resources help build background knowledge and understanding before they pick up their device and start applying that learning.

Each year, there’s an event called Hour of Code that’s a weeklong initiative to introduce kids (and teacher-newbies to computer science) to coding. You can register for this event that provides an hour of free resources for kids from kindergarten up! And the fun secret is, even though the Hour of Code Week is once a year, you can actually host an Hour of Code all year round!

Awesome coding apps for your class

Code Karts: This app is super simple and meant for your earliest coders. For teachers who are eager to help their students get that early exposure, this intuitive game is perfect! You get the first 10 levels for free, but there are a total of 95 levels if you are interested in the paid version. Check it out for Apple or Android devices.

Box Island: This is another great app for kids ages 4 and up! They’ve even added an hour of code feature if you want to integrate it into that event. There is also a Box Island for Schools, but both are for iOS devices only.

Scratch Jr: This one is my personal favorite! Developed by researchers at Tufts and MIT- It was designed with younger kids in mind after success with the Scratch interface designed for kids 8 and up. Find it in the App Store or Google Play

Lightbot Jr: Designed for kids 4-8, it’s another great app for introducing coding with simple puzzles and intuitive learning. Click here for Apple devices and here for Android.

Do you have some more advanced coders? Try the Hopscotch app for your quick learners and older students.

FUN TIP for little coders

I always choose a few “experts” for each coding lesson. These kids are given permission to walk around the room and help anyone out. There is only one rule: they are NOT allowed to use their hands to help. They can only use their voice. I do this because it encourages those who are struggling to try things themselves rather than having a classmate do it for them. Give it a try! 😉
Make sure to follow my social media (Facebook & Instagram) and let me know how coding looks for your students, and share your ideas to help kids and teachers with their coding adventures.

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