If you are a parent, chances are that your kid has some access to screen time. Some people may feel concerned about the amount of time their children spend online or on video games, but there can be a positive side to this that is more than just having a few minutes to yourself when your child is watching or playing. These days there are many websites, apps, and games that can actually teach your child how to create the very websites, apps, and games that they enjoy so much. If you direct your child to these places, not only will you get a break and they will have fun, but they can also gain skills that they can use in their future careers and hobbies. There are many options to point your child in the learning direction, but we'll go over a few of the most well acclaimed options for kids today.
One of the most popular tools for younger kids to learn programming basics is ScratchJr. ScratchJr is a free app developed by MIT and is aimed at children aged 5-7 years old. This app is aimed at teaching the fundamentals of programming through simple, visual methods, allowing children who are not yet able to read the ability to use the app and learn with it after just a simple explanation from their parents when beginning to use the app. By dragging blocks and snapping them together, children can create their own interactive stories and games while learning the basics of coding, enhancing their literacy and numeracy skills, as well as learning to express themselves creatively. For older children looking for something similar, they also have a version called Scratch, aimed at kids 8-16 years old.
Another similar app is Hopscotch. Hopscotch is aimed at both young and beginner programmers, and also features a drag and drop block method to create scripts, allowing kids to to create stories and games to share with other users of the app. The app is aimed at children aged 9-16, but could also be utilized by adults looking to learn the basics of programming before taking on more difficult courses. The app was launched in 2012, but in March of this year, Hopscotch was pitched on the show Shark Tank where investor Mark Cuban invested $550,000 in the app. The app is available on iPhones and iPads and costs $7.99 a month or $79.99 a year, but they also offer a 7 day free trial.
Tynker, a educational programming platform, offers courses that help to teach coding, web design, animation, robotics, and even game design skills to younger users. Tynker offers over 4,100 learning modules featuring hundreds of tutorials and over 60 courses. Some courses offered on Tynker are standard, focus on real world programming languages like Python and CSS, as well as Minecraft modding, drone programming, and augmented reality programming, all taught in a manner that is fun and understandable for children. Tynker not only has the potential to appeal to kids who love Minecraft, but Lego, Hot Wheels, and Monster High have all recently partnered with Tynker to offer branded coding experiences. Tynker offers at home plans for $9.38 per month, and also offers many free resources to the over 100,000 schools that utilize the platform.
While the appeal of making sure your child is safe while enjoying their screen time is enough for most, when directed to options like the ones we listed above, not only does your child gain programming abilities that can open up the potential for high earning careers, children who learn programming at earlier ages also develop better problem solving skills, improved math understanding, and learn to express themselves more easily. So, no matter what app or platform that you and your child decide to use, it is obvious with our world's reliance on technology and the internet, that they will be gaining many useable skills for their future.