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10 STEM apps to get kids coding

We’ve listed our top 10 STEM apps to get kids coding. What’s more, they’re all free!

No. 10 – Swift Playground

SUMMARY: In this game, players write code to help their character, Byte, move around and collect gems. The accompanying tutorials make the game relatively easy to understand. The app is created by Apple and features beautiful visuals.

TOP TIP: The app takes up quite a lot of room on an ipad so make sure you have plenty of space. You’ll also need to be running one of the more recent software updates.Kodable

No. 9 – Kodable

SUMMARY: This app allows the player to sequence a set of instructions to make their character roll through the maze highlighted in each level. We love the simple kodable interface and friendly characters. This game is a great way to introduce young children to coding.

TOP TIP: There are some really great resources on this app for parents who need some help understanding the programming language used in the levels.

No.8 – Bee-Bot

SUMMARY: Many of us have used the tts bee-bots in the classroom and now you can access them through this free app! Much like the classroom floor robots, the aim of the game is to move the bee-bot around the screen to get to the flower. Players will need to program in directional code in order to do so.

TOP TIP: This app is a good introduction to coding and works well with younger children.

No. 7 – Daisy the Dinosaur

SUMMARY: The Daisy the Dinosaur character is sure to appeal to younger users as they guide Daisy through the different challenges. Each stage introduces new coding skills. There is an option either to work through the challenges or apply your new skills in ‘free play’.

TOP TIP: This game is worth downloading for its simple, child-friendly interface and the fact that it doesn’t charge for access to the more advanced levels!

No. 6 – Cargo Bot

SUMMARY: The aim of this game is to move the cargo around using the cargo-bot’s robotic arm. First time users can work their way through the tutorial levels before applying their coding skills to the main levels in the game. It’s a simple idea that proves to be an addictive challenge!

TOP TIP: This game is better suited to the upper end of the primary school age range due to the complexity of some of the levels.

Tynker

No. 5 – Tynker

SUMMARY: Tynker is full of lots of fun, story-based puzzles that gradually introduce the player to coding. Children will enjoy customising their character and appreciate the funny story lines.

TOP TIP: As with many of the apps we have featured, only a few levels of the game are available for free.

Lightbot

No. 4 – LightBot

SUMMARY: The user takes on the role of the lightbot, sequencing the instructions to make this character walk, jump and, most importantly, turn on lights. As the player progresses through the levels, there are clear tutorials for new actions.

TOP TIP: Some of the levels are fairly challenging so children may want to pair up and work together as the levels get more advanced.

Hopscotch

No.3 – Hopscotch

SUMMARY: As children drag and drop the commands and instructions into the script they will make the various characters move. We love the instructional videos that accompany each of the projects in this coding app.

No. 2 – Hour of Code

SUMMARY: Although not strictly an app, the Hour of Code website is full of one hour long coding tutorials. The tutorials are filtered by both age and ability and link up to many of the other coding apps recommended by us. Access it here:

TOP TIP: Watch the Hour of Code video with your class to inspire them with their coding and introduce them to some inspirational coding role models.

scratch jr

No. 1 – Scratch

SUMMARY: Now a staple app on most school ipads, Scratch Jr is a great way to introduce children to coding. The app involves programming scratch and his friends to move around using jigsaw-style coding blocks. It also allows the user to change the background, personalise the characters and add audio clips.

TOP TIP: First time users will need a bit of teacher guidance to get going as this app is not always self-explanatory.

 

For more great STEM app ideas, check out our webpage here.

6 STEM books about making mistakes

With today’s pressures to do well in exams and succeed at school, it’s no wonder that children sometimes feel like failures if they do something wrong. Whilst we may pretend to be perfect, the reality is that none of us are and the sooner we start sharing that with our children the better. We’ve put together a few of our favourite STEM books which teach children that not only is it normal to make mistakes, it’s an important part of life!

No 6 – Your Fantastic Elastic Brain

Did you know that making mistakes is often one of the best ways that our brain learns? This book challenges our understanding of our brains, explaining that each time we make a mistake, we develop our brain. For those teaching their children about growth mindset, this book is the perfect accompaniment.

To buy this from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy this from Amazon.com click here

No 5 – Beautiful Oops

We love the colourful illustrations in this inspiring book about turning a mistake into something beautiful. The artistic ideas in this book can be linked to all areas of learning. This book serves as a good reminder to the perfectionist in all of us that sometimes beauty can just happen.

To buy this from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy this from Amazon.com click here

No 4 – 11 Experiments That Failed

All of the best scientists have experienced failure in their careers. In this book we discover what happens when scientific methods go wrong. Guaranteed to make you giggle, we can learn a lot from the mistakes made in this book.

To buy this from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy this from Amazon.com click here

No 3 – Mistakes That Worked

From velcro to silly putty, post-it notes and fudge, so many of the things we’ve come to love today started out as a mistake. Find out more about some of these amazing discoveries in this entertaining read.

To buy this from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy this from Amazon.com click here

No 2 – The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes

Nobody is perfect, are they? Meet Beatrice Bottomwell, the girl who has never made a mistake! Join her as she makes a most spectacular mistake and realises that you don’t have to be perfect all the time.

To buy this from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy this from Amazon.com click here

No 1 – What Can You Do With A Problem

We can’t get enough of the beautiful illustrations in this inspiring book. Like so many of us, the child in this book tries to run away from his problem, only to find that it gets bigger and bigger. He then comes to realise that we can learn a lot from our problems and that sometimes they can bring us unexpected gifts…

To buy this from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy this from Amazon.com click here

Let’s embrace STEM and bring ‘real world learning’ into primary classrooms

Very early on in my teaching career, a student responded to an activity I had set during a maths lesson with a very simple question: ‘what’s the point?’ This is a question that could be taken one of two ways by a teacher who had so far spent her NQT year overdosing on lesson planning. However, taken objectively, it was a perfectly valid question and one that I fear many students across the country have asked themselves over and over again throughout their school education. What’s the point? How does any of this relate to ‘the real world’?

In an education system dominated by assessments and SPAG tests, it’s easy to see students becoming disengaged with learning as they grapple to memorize a plethora of different calculation methods and make sense of the grammatical posters plastering the walls around them. Even at primary school level, children can spot disparities between what they are taught, and the strategies that they see applied in day-to-day life. They know that the adults in their lives do not spend hours copying out examples of grid method multiplication onto squared paper and they become increasingly aware that these adults are not always familiar with the various methods that they are expected to demonstrate in their homework.

Children are constantly bombarded with answers to questions that they simply haven’t asked. Leave them to their own devices, however, and we find that they are naturally exploring and asking questions of the world around them. We see this kind of exploratory play in pre-schools and reception classes in which children work together to enact real-world scenarios and solve problems. Follow these children up through primary school, however, and we find that this exploratory learning stops rather abruptly.

Our students are growing up in a world increasingly dominated by STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) advancements and it is our duty to make their learning exciting and relevant to the ‘real world’ skills that they need to succeed. STEM careers continue to be some of the fastest growing and most in demand career areas with STEM graduates currently earning some of the highest starting salaries. However, speak to a primary school child and they are likely to describe science and maths as ‘difficult’ and ‘boring’. It is now more important than ever that we ditch the worksheets and bring these areas of learning together a practical focus that allows children to be creative, exploring their ideas and developing them further.

Here at HowToSTEM, we’re passionate about developing exciting STEM resources that engage children’s natural curiosity. We begin each of our activities with a real-world question or problem, challenging the children to collaborate together in order to solve it. We know how busy teachers are with so many skills and objectives to cover so we’ve linked each activity to the national curriculum. What’s more, resources are clear and open-ended to allow them to be adapted to the age and needs of each specific class.

It’s time that primary schools engaged with the world around us, inspiring children from an early age with ‘real world learning’. As a primary school teacher and former science-phobe, I can think of no better platform to excite and inspire children than STEM.

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