Move over, Space Camp: Coding is quickly growing as a popular activity for kids, and not just for those who dream of being programmers when they grow up. The logical thinking required to code can help kids succeed in school and other day-to-day activities — it's no wonder why big companies are getting behind the effort to help students learn the needed critical thinking skills.
If you want to help them get started, there are a number of visual, kid-friendly apps that teach users how to build games and code other simple activities on their own.
Hopscotch schools you in the basics
If you want to pick one app to start with, go with Hopscotch (free). It turns you (and your kid!) into a game creator with simple-to-learn tools.
Hopscotch walks you through a visual tool for making games — you can even make a Flappy Bird clone. There are a lot of good, tutorial videos that explain how you connect the pieces together, which correspond to actions within the game.
You can then try out your creation after adding in some commands of your own.
Hopscotch also has a smart method of integrating social aspects into its apps without sharing your child's personal info — something that, hopefully, will make parents feel more comfortable. You can view a stream of other games created by the community, but you don't have to create a specific account with email or other information to check it out.
Tynker helps kids solve the puzzle
Tynker (free) turns things up a notch, with a visual programming method that is capable of creating some impressive games and tools.
There's a free app that you can grab to try it out on your own, but Tynker also has bigger ambitions with a separate edition specifically for schools that use it for teaching programming strategies to their students.
Tynker includes a game called Codey's Quest, which uses various programming puzzles that you must solve in order to lead the wayward one home.
Tynker is also available on the web and for Android devices, so if you sign up with an account your child can access his or her project from multiple devices. It's grown to become a popular platform, so it's worth checking out eventually even if you hit some of the other options first.
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