Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Coding and Computational Thinking Apps for Kids with Amazon Fire Tablets

Amazon Fire tablets are great for young children (3-8 years). They are small, affordable and the kids' edition provide additional features specifically with little kids in mind.

One thing to note is that you will not have the range of apps available on iPads or Android tablets. Many companies also opt to create educational apps for iOS first and often these apps never make it to the Amazon Appstore.

So we've done some searching and found some great apps for young children using Amazon Fire tablets which will help teach coding and computational thinking skills.

At Tech Age Kids we don't think all screen time is equal and make a distinction between passive and creative screen time.

Apps that help teach kids skills like coding, logical, computational and creative thinking fall into creative screen time and as modern parents, we should encourage our children to choose these apps during screen time.

You can always find free apps, but for younger kids, I prefer to pay for an app which I know will be safe and specifically designed for them. All the apps in our list contains no ads or in-app purchases. (Codespark Academy provides a free trial for 7 days.)

Here's our list of top apps for young children with an Amazon Fire tablet:

  1. ScratchJr

    This is one of our favourite free apps for teaching coding skills to young children. It was inspired by Scratch, which many children now use in school. ScratchJr is specifically designed for non-readers. There's a lot of scope to create your own games, interactive stories and animations. One of my son's favourite features is recoding his own voice. I also like that you can use the camera tool on the device to add your face to your project. ScratchJr is an open-ended digital playground for children to explore coding and digital art.
  2. Toca Boca: Blocks

    Toca Boca Blocks is a 2D platform style game which you can build and then play. There are 3 characters to play in the game and each have their own super powers. This is one of my son's favourite apps on his Amazon Fire tablet.
    The Toca Boca apps are paid apps, but they are worth the money for younger kids as they will not be interrupted by unwanted ads and in-app purchased.
  3. Toca Boca: Builders

    Toca Boca Builders allows you to build a block-based world in 3D. There are 6 diffrent characters and they all build in a different way. You need to manuouver a ball to move around in the 3D space. It's fantastic for 3D spatial awareness and planning which character to use to build a world. It's open-ended and you can create different worlds. You can change the colours of the blocks, but your only tool to create is a block.
    My son loves this app and it works really well even on the smallest Amazon Fire tablet screen.
  4. Codespark Academy - The Foos

    Codespark Academy is a brilliant app for learning coding concepts, but it's not free. You get a 7 day free trial and then it's a subscription based app for $7.99 per month. You can have up to 3 children registered on the account. Codespark Academy regularly updates the app with new content. The games are fun and kids learn coding concepts in a playful way. It's aimed at non-readers, but my 9 year old son still loves playing this.
  5. Thinkrolls - Avokiddo

    I love the Thinkrolls apps to develop logical thinking skills. The graphics are fantastic. There are 3 different apps - Thinkrolls, Thinkrolls 2 and Thinkrolls: Kings & Queens. My son started playing these games when he was 5 and still loves them. I also like playing the games and you really have to sit and think how to solve the puzzles. Definitely recommend paying for these apps.
  6. Lightbot Jr

    Lightbot Jr is a young children's version of the popular Lightbot app, in which you programme a little robot in a 3D block platform to move around and light up blocks. It's good for spatial awareness and debugging as it's not necessarily easy to see which way your bot needs to turn! There are 5 sections of puzzles with 9 levels in each section. The sections cover, basic movement, jumping, overloading, procedures and loops. Some of the concepts are slightly advanced, but I've enojoyed sitting with my son figuring them out with him. The first level in each section is a tutorial and you can always tap help for more information.
  7. Run Marco!

    Run Marco! reminds me a little of Hour of Code type coding games wher you use coding blocks to navigate a character through a maze. In this case it's a cowboy and the setting the wild west. We found the code blocks quite small and there is a fair bit of reading required. My son commented that it wasn't easy to tap and drag the blocks on his small screen.

If you know of an app that works well on the Amazon Fire tablet and aims to teach coding and computational thinking skills which we've not included in this list, we'd love to hear about it!

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