Children as young as five are now being taught computer programming at school, so apps that help them to develop their coding skills at home are becoming more popular.
Tynker, available for iPad and tablets, is one of the best. It starts with a series of exercises teaching children to program using drag-and-drop code blocks: it feels like a fun puzzle game, even though kids are learning as they play.
The real fun comes when children enter the app’s free-creation mode. This allows them to make their own games, animations and physics demos, letting their imaginations run free.
Tynker is free to download and use and lots of its puzzles are free. However, some are sold as in-app packs for £1.49 each.
BBC iPlayer Kids
According to the BBC, a third of shows watched on its iPlayer are children’s programmes. That’s why it launched a standalone iPlayer Kids app, which is an easy way to stream shows from the BBC’s CBeebies and CBBC channels.
The app keeps a separate profile for each user and register their age, so controls which shows are appropriate for them to watch. Children can search for their favourites or browse the latest selection. The app also lets them download shows to watch offline – perfect for a journey without internet access.
Doctor Who: Comic Creator
For decades children have watched Doctor Who from behind the sofa. But this official BBC app gets them in front of their devices, making their very own Time Lord tales. It encourages children to turn various Doctors, companions and aliens into on-screen comic strips, writing their own speech bubbles to tell their story.
It’s simple to use, easily customised and a great way for kids to flex their creative muscles. They can even design their own baddies using bits of famous Doctor Who aliens. While the app is free to download and use, it does sell packs of extra characters and scenery as £1.49 in-app purchases.
Read with Fonics
Phonics is one of the most popular ways for children to learn to read in school and at home – and Read with Fonics is an app that helps them to practise their newfound skills on their parents’ tablets and smartphones.
Created by primary school teacher Sophie Cooper, the app is based around fun phonics games that test children on their letter-sounds – from the simple ones they first learn through to harder three-letter sounds. There’s a points system to track their progress, but it never feels stressful.
Read with Fonics may also make its way into classrooms in the months ahead – Sophie is hoping to get teachers using it with their pupils.
Disney Crossy Road
The original Crossy Road game has been a big hit with children, as it reimagines the classic arcade game Frogger for a new generation of (purely virtual) road-hopping gamers.
Disney Crossy Road is an entirely separate version, featuring more than 100 Disney favourites, from Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to the stars of The Lion King, Toy Story and Wreck-It Ralph.
The gameplay is the same: tap the screen to hop over roads and rivers without being squashed by passing traffic. And yes, the characters really do get squashed – some young Disney fans may need to look away.
The game is free to play, but sells some characters using in-app purchases – although the same characters can also be unlocked purely by playing the game.