George Lucas Educational Foundation
Coding in the Classroom

7 Apps for Teaching Children Coding Skills

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It's hard to imagine a single career that doesn't have a need for someone who can code. Everything that "just works" has some type of code that makes it run. Coding (a.k.a. programming) is all around us. That's why all the cool kids are coding . . . or should be. Programming is not just the province of pale twenty-somethings in skinny jeans, hunched over three monitors, swigging Red Bull. Not any more! The newest pint-sized coders have just begun elementary school.

If you're concerned that that a) elementary school students don't have the ability to code, b) there's no room in the curriculum, and c) you don't possess coding chops to teach programming skills, throw out those worries. The following sites and apps can help anyone who has basic reading skills grasp the basics of thinking and planning in order to make things happen (the whole purpose of coding) and create applications: interactive games, quizzes, animations, etc. Best of all, many of these tools are free, or almost free, and require no coding background or expertise!

In no particular order, we have listed all the coding apps that are appropriate for young learners. We've used many of them with elementary-aged students.

GameStar Mechanic

Platform: Web
Cost: $2 per student
GameStar Mechanic teaches kids, ages 7-14, to design their own video games. Your students will love completing different self-paced quests while learning to build game levels. The site integrates critical thinking and problem-solving tasks. An app embedded within Edmodo makes logins easy for students.


Platform: Web
Cost: Free!
Designed by MIT students and staff in 2003, Scratch is one of the first programming languages we've seen that is created specifically for 8-to-16-year-olds. Originally a multi-platform download, Scratch is now web-based and more accessible. Students use a visual programming language made up of bricks that they drag to the workspace to animate sprites. Various types of bricks trigger loops, create variables, initiate interactivity, play sounds, and more. Teaching guides, communities and other resources available on the website will help instructors get started. You don't have to be a programming expert to introduce Scratch -- we learned right along with the students!


Platform: Web
Cost: Free! (with Premium upgrade option)
Although Tynker is relatively new, we definitely count it as one of our favorite coding apps. The interface looks similar to Scratch. But while Scratch was designed to program, Tynker was built to teach programming. The app features starter lesson plans, classroom management tools, and an online showcase of student-created programs. Lessons are self-paced and simple for students to follow without assistance.

Move the Turtle

Platform: iOS (iPad and iPod)
Cost: $2.99
We love Move the Turtle, a gamified way to learn programming procedures. The main character reminds us of the old Logo turtle used to teach kids computer programming during the reign of the Apple IIe. Each new level of achievement increases in difficulty and teaches a new command that directs the turtle to reach a star, make a sound, draw a line, etc. A free play "compose" mode lets students move the turtle however they want.


Platform: iPad
Cost: Free!
Hopscotch looks a lot like Scratch and Tynker and uses similar controls to drag blocks into a workspace, but it only runs on the iPad. The controls and characters are not as extensive as Scratch and Tynker, but Hopscotch is a great tool to begin helping students without coding experience learn the basics of programming, logical thinking and problem solving.

Daisy the Dinosaur

Platform: iPad
Cost: Free!
From the makers of Hopscotch, Daisy targets the youngest coders. The interface is similar to Hopscotch but much simpler. There is only a dinosaur to move and only basic functions to use, but for your younger students, this is an excellent introduction to programming.


Platform: iPad
Cost: Free!
Cargo-Bot is another game that teaches coding skills. On each level, the objective is to move colored crates from one place to another by programming a claw crane to move left or right, and drop or pick up. The game was actually programmed on an iPad, using a touch-based coding app called Codea, which is based on the programming language Lua. Elementary students will learn the logical thinking required to eventually do "real" text-based programming using Lua -- but Lua is not for young learners. For elementary students, stick with Cargo-Bot.

We hope these descriptions have whetted your appetite and that you'll incorporate coding into your curriculum. Even if a student never intends to pursue programming as a career, learning to code will still foster problem-solving skills, spark creativity and enhance logical thinking., a pro-coding education nonprofit, features dozens of quotations about computer programming from famous and important people who believe that coding should be part of the core curriculum for every child. One of our favorite quotes is by Maria Klawe, a computer programmer and inventor who says, "Coding is today's language of creativity. All our children deserve a chance to become creators instead of consumers of computer science [emphasis added]."

How have you brought coding into your classroom? Do you have any resources to share?

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Tali Gueta's picture

My 4 and 5 graders are really enjoying
It's an online game that teaches real programming, they are experiencing with writing real lines of code and they also learn problem solving and other 21st century skills.

Matt Harrell's picture
Matt Harrell
Founder of and passionate about parent engagement.

For younger students (K-2) check out iPad apps called The Fooze and Kodable. Both are excellent were used extensively out our elementary school.

KidsGamesProjects's picture

Education through the game is very important. Children (and not only them) easier to learn if they treat learning as fun. Therefore in 2014 we founded "Kids Games Projects", with the mission to entertain and educate children around the world.

Example FREE applications:

Our apps are free and have been designed to teach, cause and effect. They stimulates the child's senses through pictures, sounds and touch. Applications are translated into many languages and tasks in the game are read out by a professional narrator for the following languages: English, Czech, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swedish.

Imam Arsum's picture

The new educational games for children are the most complete . Which in this game a lot of categories . including :

1. Learn to memorize the alphabet letters from A-Z
2. Learn to write letters of the alphabet from A-Z
3. Learn to count from 1-50
4. Learn to write numbers from 1-10
5. Learn to recognize a variety of animals, there are 114 kinds of animals.
6. Learn to recognize a variety of fruits, there are 52 kinds of fruit.
7. Learn to memorize months. Example: January, February, and so on.
8. Learn to memorize the day. Example: Monday, Tuesday, and so on.

Hopefully with educational games for kids that can be useful for your child's development.

Martin Diaz Alvarez's picture
Martin Diaz Alvarez
Business Consultant

Nice those apps are really useful for kids. I will surely recommend those apps to my friends with kids.

Edward Refuerzo's picture

I already tried scratch and it's really cool. Kids will surely like this app. Thanks for the share, I'm going to check those other apps.

Sarah W's picture

Hi Anna and Helen,

These all seem like great resources for students, thanks for putting a great list together! Do you have any recommendations for integrating these "game" type interfaces with curriculum that teachers traditionally need to teach in a classroom? While it's great to have filler activities that are still instructional for students who finish quickly, or resources to send home with the students, I think it would be great for students to think of coding as an integral part of their school work by encouraging them to utilize coding to complete other work, thus presenting an interdisciplinary approach that is so indicative of the actual field of computing.

roboticseducation's picture

Hello! Seems to be very interesting article for small coders. To reach an extreme level of coding and learn virtual robotics, one can opt for the easiest and advanced STEM courses, land up here

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