Ever since the company opened its doors in 2012, Tynker has been one of the leading resources for kids learning to code. After starting out as a website aimed at providing kids with pre-packaged lesson plans, easy to understand tutorials and graded programming projects, Tynker secured millions of dollars of funding from venture funds and prominent investors like the founder of Google News, Krishna Bharat.
Much of Tynker’s early success and subsequent expansion was due to the market landscape when it was released. In 2013 there weren’t that many comprehensive coding tools available for kids making Tynker ahead of the pack and able to find customers that didn’t exist in the past. Since then they have made significant additions to their product by providing kids with numerous tools to learn to code like the ability to make their own applications, program parrot drones, make mods for Minecraft and much more. One of these new education tools that Tynker added to its online service was an app. Originally released in 2014, the learn to code app helped bring computer science ideas and principles to kids both in the classroom and at home who weren’t comfortable with their online platform.
What is it?
Available for free on iTunes and Google Play, Tynker’s app is compatible with devices running iOS 8.0 or Android 4.0 and above. Designed with a touch interface in mind, much of the reason why the Tynker’s app is much more accessible to young users than the website is the interface. By using large, eye-popping images, vibrant animations and a touch-friendly interface, younger kids find the design and interface of the app easy to work with and potentially more appealing than the website. The design of the app is critical since learning via the app goes hand in hand with the design of the lessons.
How kids learn:
Like many other apps for teaching kids to code, learning on Tynker’s app is accomplished primarily by experimentation. Running the app will present the user with two options; play or create. While kids might want to select the play option in hopes of finding something fun, the play mode contains more learning than the name implies.
At its core, the play mode on Tynker’s app is as much fun as it is educational. Currently, Tynker provides two free games or puzzles for children titled Codey’s Quest and Crash Course. Codey’s Quest is very basic puzzle type game that provides kids with an understanding of general computer science ideas like logic and loops as they use bits and pieces of code to guide Codey back home. Crash Course is more advanced and contains instructional information about using drones and Philips Hue lights in programs. Coding in these games is accomplished by dragging and dropping different blocks of code into the code menu. There are convenient labels separating code between actions like the when touching the screen occurs and the when the code starts. Editing code is very easy and practical by a single touch that brings up a keyboard or numpad depending on what is needed. If kids find the visual code blocks interface too simple, Tynker makes it possible to switch to Swift syntax instead with the Swift button feature.
There are three other optional paid games called Dragon Journey, Lost in Space and Lazer Racer. Buying the games individually costs $2 whereas purchasing all of them in a bundle is cheaper at $5. Getting these games is entirely optional but a good investment if your child is eager to learn more and found the other two games enjoyable. Personally, my kids didn’t find Codey’s Quest to be fun enough to warrant purchasing another game. Just like with the free tutorials included in the app, there was a lot of text featured in the instructions of the game that made completing it somewhat tedious due to the abundance of reading. The game’s fun graphics and vibrant images weren’t enough to keep my eldest kids attention after she completed Codey’s Quest and started working on Crash Course. Overall, while playing games in Tynker can be a rewarding experience, the long instructions make it better suited to kids who are really interested in the subject matter.
While the play mode contains an assortment of games, the create mode will present the child with a lot of tools for creating their own individual applications. Just like the play mode, the create mode contains a lot of resources to help kids learn about coding. Besides providing many blank templates for kids who are unsure where to begin in the creating process, Tynker’s create mode contains a substantial collection of pre-made projects for kids to tinker with and customise to their liking.
Including projects for beginners is a huge part of how kids learn with Tynker’s learn to code app. Even though they may not seem important, pre-made projects can provide children with a good guideline of what a finished product looks like which is something that beginners in computer science might not be familiar with. As of the time of this review, Tynker provides eight projects for beginners to look at that all include a step by step tutorial with instructions on how to create or modify the application from scratch.
I tried working on the Grumpy Cat 1 beginner project, and much to my children’s delight, Tynker’s app instructed me how to use code to make the grumpy cat accelerate in the air and knock down some obstacles. Having children learn while completing fun objectives like that is really where Tynker’s app shines. While I found that the learning the process with Tynker’s app is simple, one thing I noticed while going through the tutorial is that it requires a lot of reading. Since Tynker does not include video tutorials within the app, kids planning to learn from the app must possess good reading comprehension to be able to interpret the rather lengthy instructions. The reading requirements are one of the reasons why the app is best suited towards children around nine to eleven years of age.
Besides having templates and beginner projects available for kids to create and learn from, Tynker’s app also contains tools for letting kids create their own content. Unlike many of its competitors, not only does Tynker provide kids with the ability to create their own programs, but much more. From animations to arts, children can create a lot of different type of content either by themselves or from tutorials provided by Tynker. It is important to note that accessing this content requires a free account Tynker account.
Having children learn while completing fun objectives like that is really where Tynker’s app shines.
Finding the right app for teaching kids to code can seem a bit overwhelming when you start out. Tynker is definitely a good place to start because it combines fun graphics and a combination of simple ‘drag and drop’ games, with increasing levels of difficulty and creativity. While there is some reading for more advanced modules, it’s still a great tool that is well worth the investment – and as it’s free to download you get to test your child’s interest before even taking that step.
A lot of resources to create content with
Entering code is very simple
Lengthy instructions for more complicated modules
Extra games cost money (not much of a negative)
Negative Summary 3