Saturday, December 14, 2013

Good Free Apps of the Day - Teach your kid the new foreign language: Code for an hour this week

The Hour of Code Campaign had it's kickoff this week. Students across the globe have been asked to spend one hour learning to code in their classrooms and homes. Coding is the new foreign language to learn, and for children with special needs, I think it will be one of the most important skills they can learn. I recently heard Dr. Ricki Robinson speak at length at an autism conference on families in the Los Angeles area that are teaching high schoolers with autism to code. The families are starting their own tech companies to support their kids' dreams and independence. Kids as young as three to five years old can start to code with great apps! Coding does lots of great things:
• Future job opportunities
• Turns kids into makers and innovators
• Teaches great math skills, sequencing and descriptive language
• For many of our kids it can be an opportunity for them to be a leader and teacher
• It is just plain cool

Read more for tips to get your child coding with success and FREE app suggestions!

I love incorporating coding into my social groups to help kids work on following directions, working as a team to problem-solve, and language development! Kids love the offline games we do together before jumping online to code.

To help your child or class enter into coding with success, do some things offline before jumping online or into an app:

• Have your child or class design an obstacle course
• Work on descriptive language and following directions: First, last, right, left., up, down, turn around, over, under, high, low, etc.
• Practice giving one another directions 
• Become a robot: Kodable has a great learning guide to help make offline games with children to practice real life code i.e. direction giving with peers
• Practice visualizing what the end result of a set of directions will look like by drawing out the map/maze and using post-it notes to add in direction giving instructions
• Video record kids giving one another directions and see what mistakes they make and talk about what you can do differently next time. Kids I work with love correcting these "Bloopers"!

Daisy The Dinosaur (FREE) is appropriate for the youngest coders! Kids can drag and drop instructions to get Daisy to dance across the screen! Great app to help young children work on right and left concepts, giving detailed instructions and sequencing.

FREE iPad only

Scratch (FREE website) was developed by MIT to teach children ages 6+ how to code! It uses the concept of moving and dragging blocks to make Scratch the cat move across the screen!
Go to:

Kodable LITE (FREE) and Pro (On sale $0.99) is appropriate for kids ages 5+! You make a member of the fuzzFamily move through 30+ levels of coding through increasing the complexity of directions and language. The Kodable website has some great offline activities where you can set up classroom obstacle courses as a wonderful lead-in to coding. Kids will be more successful practicing offline through obstacle courses before learning to code online.

Kodable (FREE, in app purchases)

Kodable PRO (on sale $0.99) iPad Only

Hopscotch (FREE) is appropriate for kids ages 8-12 is more advanced than Daisy and Scratch, but so much fun! Hopscotch teaches kids to "drag" blocks to teach kids the basics of programming, problem solving and logical thinking. This is a great addition or break activity to do during math activities.

FREE iPad Only


Tamara Kaldor, is a developmental therapist in Chicago in private practice, who dreams of being able to code all of her household appliances to clean for her so she can spend more time playing!

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