Buy This, Not That: Coding Apps

There are many coding apps out there, but I wanted to tell you about one I liked and one I wouldn’t purchase.


There are many coding apps out there, but I wanted to tell you about one I liked.

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.


Buy This: The Foos

The Foos is a programming game geared toward the youngest coders. Read KinderTown's review.

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.


Not That: Cato’s Hike

Cato's hike

When first opened, Cato’s Hike looks old and outdated.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.


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Best Coding Apps for Young Children

Check out these top coding apps for young children.

Coding. It’s the latest, most popular, and slightly geeky topic to be teaching your children right now. A recent New York Times article called Reading, Writing, Arithmetic…and Lately Coding, talks about the trend and it’s significance. I like this trend and feel that teaching coding is teaching problem solving, strategic thinking, visual/spacial concepts and math. It’s all of these skills wrapped up into one area, and usually weaved with game-like qualities that make it fun for kids to learn. That’s why coding is a great addition to your summer learning. Check out these top coding apps for young children.




Kodable is an introduction to coding for young children. The Kodable website uses the tag line “Learn to code before you know how to read.” This is an interesting thought in our digital age. When children use the app they are coding fuzz balls to move around the screen. The app starts off with very simple mazes for the “fuzz” balls to complete, and progress as your child completes the puzzles.The children we tested this app on loved the option to change the puff ball’s color as they earn additional colors when they successfully complete the puzzles. Kodable is for kids ages 5 and up and is free but does include in-app purchases to unlock additional levels. With the free version there are 45 levels with interactive tutorials. Kodable Pro offers all of the in-app purchases into one app for 6.99 and includes interactive tutorials and learning guides. Check out their website  for more information on their line of apps. Kodable also offers another feature called Kodable Sync, which is designed for classrooms in order to accommodate multiple students.


Daisy the Dinosaur

Daisy the Dinosaur

Children can program Daisy the Dinosaur and learn some basic rules of programming in the process. Daisy the Dinosaur has two sections for your child to explore, free-play mode and challenge mode. In the free-play section, children can experiment with commands and see how Daisy moves as a result of their program. In challenge mode, children are presented with a problem to solve. They must use the commands given to complete the challenge. Use the easy drag and drop icons to make Daisy move. Daisy the Dinosaur lays the very basic foundation for learning programming in the future. The amount of content in the app is not expansive, but a good amount for a free app. This app would serve as a great introduction to programming or to test your child’s interest in the topic. Daisy the Dinosaur is appropriate for children ages 5-8 and is free.


Move the Turtle

move the turtle

Move the Turtle is reminiscent of the turtle that I used to program on the Apple II e. Move the Turtle is a much more updated version of the basic programming I learned as a child. It offers three areas to explore; Play, Compose and Projects. In the Play area there are nine different chapters with directions to instruct your child on how to program the turtle to accomplish a basic goal such as moving to a diamond or drawing a line with a pen. Children earn diamonds, trophies and stars along the way. In the Compose area your child can apply what they have learned in the Play area in order to create their own project or experiment with commands. In the Projects section, your child can explore what other children have created. Move the Turtle also offers the option to create multiple accounts for children in your house or in a school setting. Move the Turtle is $2.99 and appropriate for children ages 5-8.


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