GamesBeat

12 games that teach kids to code — and are even fun, too

Ludos

Who it’s for: Ages 4-12
Platforms: PC, Mac, iOS
Pricing: $119
Find out more: Digital Dream Labs
The expert view: “What sets Cloudboard [Ludos' board interface] apart from many other products currently available is not only its combination of the physical and digital worlds but also the way that it fosters collaboration.” — Terri Eichholz, teacher of K-5 gifted students, South Central Texas

Ludos tries to make programming a tactile experience for kids.

Above: Ludos uses tiles to make programming a tactile experience for kids.

Image Credit: Digital Dream Labs

Due out this August, Ludos aims to make programming a real hands-on experience for younger kids. Ludos allows players to physically place instruction tiles directly onto a grid, programming the actions of on-screen characters.

Cork the Volcano will be the first Ludos game, and it has a strong focus on coding basics like planning, sequencing, and debugging. Other games will also be made available for the system, which is an open platform that anyone can develop for.


Codemancer

Who it’s for: Ages 9-14
Platforms: PC, Mac, iOS, Android
Pricing: $20
Find out more: Important Little Games website – Kickstarter
The expert view: “A fantasy game [with] a female protagonist that teaches kids (& adults!) how to code? I adore every single part of this! ” — Lauren Scott, web developer and junior instructor, Dev Bootcamp

Codemancer raised over 4 times its targeted goal on Kickstarter.

Above: Codemancer raised over 4 times its targeted goal on Kickstarter.

Image Credit: Bundle in a Box

Codemancer is hoping its fantasy story and female protagonist will help it stand out when it releases next summer.

Players will use magical runes to direct the action when this successfully Kickstarted project goes live, helping the hero Aurora to save her father’s life. Creator Robert Lockhart hopes the game’s accessibility will help break down barriers that prevent some kids from coding.

“Codemancer’s language is designed to be accessible,” Lockhart says on his Kickstarter page, “but also translates easily to a variety of popular real-world programming languages. More complex programs are made when we introduce programming concepts like variables, conditionals, and functions.”


Machineers

Who it’s for: Ages 8-14
Platforms: PC, Mac (iPad to follow)
Pricing: Free demo
Find out more: Machineers website
The expert view: “Machineers looks to be the best example of an education game I’ve ever seen.” – Programmer and game developer Paul Hayes

Machineers won "Best Student Game" at the 2012 Serious Games Showcase and Challenge, Florida.

Above: Machineers won “Best Student Game” at the 2012 Serious Games Showcase and Challenge in Florida.

Image Credit: Serious Games

Machineers is an adventure title that lets players interact with broken machines, using coding principles and a drag-and-drop interface to fix them up.

Henrike Lode, a member of the Danish Lohika Games team behind Machineers, decided to market it as a puzzle-adventure after one child tester complained that educational games are like “chocolate covered broccoli.”

“This is preparation for future learning,” Lode told Indie Statik. “We don’t have math or code in there, so [kids] won’t be able to start programming, but [it trains] logical thinking and something called procedural literacy, which is the ability to read and write processes.”

Currently still in development, the PC and Mac demo of Machineers is free to download and play. Lohika Games is targeting an iPad release for the full game.


Bee-Bot

Who it’s for: Ages 4-7
Platforms: iOS
Pricing: Free
Find out more: iTunes
The expert view: “Just pass the device over and watch the trial, error, hypothesis, testing, revising, and ultimate success that will happen.” – Doug Peterson, Faculty of Education sessional instructor, University of Windsor, Canada

Bee-Bot is used in many schools to help introduce programming basics.

Above: Many schools use Bee-Bot to help introduce programming basics.

Image Credit: Dan Crawley

Educational developer TTS designed BeeBot to help younger children program with positional language and programming sequences of instructions. The simple, accessible app has 12 top-down timed levels set in progressively difficult mazes.

There’s also a companion app for kids aged 7+, called BeeBot Pyramid. It’s priced at $0.99.

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11 comments
Robotinmaze Robotinmaze
Robotinmaze Robotinmaze

Hello,

There is a simple but interesting small game. It is for children (8-12 years old). The game allows children to try some the simplest programming constructions in playful way. The last levels in the game are difficult enough for children and look like puzzles.

It is an online game and free.

http://robotinmaze.net

Lawrence Garvin
Lawrence Garvin

Hey.. uh.. maybe you didn't hear... Gates ain't the chairman of Microsoft no more.

Jonathan Schor
Jonathan Schor

You didn't mention the new kid in the block - CodeMonkey!

http://cm-studios.com

It teaches kids real programming through an online game, and it's pure HTML5 so soon will be accessible also through tablets. 


Zerothis Baud
Zerothis Baud

Add to the list, DroidQuest is lower-level programming using logic gates. After completing the game, that requires solutions as complex as networking 3 robots, yet mostly simple solutions, there is a 'sand box' style lab (mainly for practicing game solutions) that can be used to create virtually anything that can be created with logic gates including microprocessors, up to 12-bit communication buses, and memory. So, it should remain useful and entertaining for children of all ages. The source code is available and other levels and challenges for the game have been created. <http://mysite.verizon.net/thomasfoote/DQ/>. Oh, and the full version is available from the author and no cost. Also, its pure Java, runs on any platform with JRE (Linux, Mac, Windows, Solaris)

Adam Taylor
Adam Taylor

As a parent of young kids, this article just got bookmarked. Boo-ya!

Jason Wilson
Jason Wilson moderator VB Staff

I may have to try a few of these myself! They look fun. 

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