There are many coding apps out there, but I wanted to tell you about one I liked and one I wouldn’t purchase.
This week is Computer Science Education week, and to celebrate, everyone is invited to the Hour of Code. Everyone, ages 4 to 99, are encouraged to spend an hour learning how to code. It is the basis for our heavily digital environment. There are coding exercises for preschoolers through adults. Spending an hour together as a family, learning to code, would make a great family activity.
The Foos is a programming game geared toward the youngest coders. Right away, it was easy to tell how to proceed. Tap the play button, then choose the first level. This app is ideal for children who do not have any coding or programming experience. The app prompts you to slide the block into place to make the character walk forward in a bright and cheery town. Instantly, the character walks through the star and the child ‘wins.” The levels progress very easily and slowly in order to set up a basic understanding of programming. There are 8 different levels with each of the 3 main characters to complete. At the end, your child can earn a certificate for completing the Hour of Code. The app is free and does not include any in-app purchases. The Foos is appropriate for children ages 3-8.
When first opened, Cato’s Hike looks old and outdated. After choosing your character, a boy or girl, a tutorial walks your child through how to start. Even after reading the short tutorial, I was unsure of exactly how to proceed. In order to help my child, I began randomly selecting button to see if I could program the character. After figuring this part out by trial and error, the app does work to move your child from easy programming to more complex skills. After choosing a level, I wanted to exit the level because it appeared too difficult. I found myself searching for a “home” button. It did appear at the top, after I tapped around the screen but I was frustrated that it just didn’t appear all the time. In addition, I found the music to be distracting, but the settings area does allow you to turn it off. The app includes a nice manual, but it is 20 pages long! This might be suitable for a teacher in a classroom with multiple days set aside for programming, but for the average parent, the guide is overwhelming. Cato’s Hike is $4.99 and does not give coding an easy start, nor a welcoming, fun feel. Choose The Foos if you are looking for that, for free, instead.