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Tynker
SCREENSHOTS

Tynker

9/24/2015

FREE

Kids use visual coding blocks to build programs and games.
The Bottom Line
This coding app has some free content that is worth exploring, but some of its parts can be frustrating.

Overview

When opening Tynker, kids see two options: "Play" and "Create." First time users should start with "Play," since it has free puzzles that teach kids the basics of Tynker's coding language. In the puzzles, kids program a candy-loving alien named Codey to move across the screen while avoiding a host of obstacles. This programming language uses block codes that kids drag-and-drop to snap together.

The "Create" section lets players use the Tynker coding blocks to build or modify simple games.

The Play Mode

The Play Mode starts with "Candy Quest", a set of 21 puzzle levels that kids can play for free. Kids use the Tynker code blocks to create programs that control Codey's movements. By dragging and dropping code blocks in the programming workspace, kids learn and experiment with how to program an object to do something. The levels start out easy by teaching kids to program the alien to walk. To do so, kids drag the code block “walk” into the build-your-program area and position it below the “on start” block. The two code blocks snaps together as if they were part of a jigsaw puzzle. Then kids press the play button to see if what they programmed actually works to meet the specific goal of that level.

As the puzzles get progressively harder, kids learn to recognize repeating patterns; and then figure out how to program repetition using loops. The levels also introduce conditional logic so that budding coders learn to build programs that contain “if…then” codes. For example, kids can program the alien to jump “if” it encounters a Lego block blocking its path.

The app offers three more puzzles sets (Dragon Journey, Lost in Space, and Lazer Racer) that teach more sophisticated programming concepts. These are available as in-app purchases ranging from $1.99 -$4.99.

Tynker has partnered with other companies to support their connected devices. The Sphero and Ollie robots, Parrot Rolling Spider drone, and Philips Hue and Lux personal lighting systems all interface with this programming language. A second set of free puzzles within the app called "Crash Course" focuses on these devices.

The Create Mode

The "Create" section contains a workspace to create a new project and also provides kids with ideas via Game Kits and Samples. Unfortunately, this whole section doesn't contain much guidance, so kids must use trial-and-error to figure out how to build games.

App Analysis

Tynker's free Candy Quest within the "Play" section provides a good introduction to programming using a visual coding block language. By putting learning to code inside a progressive puzzle environment, this coding app isn’t intimidating. Kids learn by experimenting and failing. While the failure means they don’t earn all three possible stars (the reward for programming a level in a correct and efficient manner), they can also hit redo and try it again. The app cleverly builds in hints; and it rewards programming that contains the fewest possible code blocks.

Unfortunately, the Create section isn't nearly as good as the "Play" section because it isn't very user-friendly. Kids who don't mind jumping in and mixing it up to see what happens can have fun with this set of building tools; but for many, this section will just be frustrating.

Likewise, the puzzles that make up "Crash Course" aren't as well done as those found in the "Candy Quest" and we found ourselves having to tweak them repeatedly to try to accomplish the objective of each level.

This app is a companion to the Tynker website which offers a set of coding courses for kids that start at $50 (bundles run $99). The courses are set up for different ages, broken into ages 7-9, ages 10-11, and ages 12+. Each age category has a free Starter Pack, and "Candy Quest" is the one for ages 7-9. If your kids explore this content online, they can also play the two other Starter Packs for free, so the online experience offers more free content than the app.

Teachers, there is a separate version where all the content is unlocked called Tynker for Schools which costs $5.99

Best For

The Tynker app is a good fit for kids who like puzzles and creating games, such as is done in Minecraft or Disney Infinity. If you are unclear whether you child will take to this block-method of learning to code, try the free "Candy Quest" first. If they like it, then you can purchase the additional adventures via in-app purchase, or go online for more free puzzle sets.

Our original Tynker app review was published on March 3, 2014. This is a new, updated review reflecting changes in the app. Jinny Gudmundsen wrote both the original and this updated review.

All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.

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Tynker
Released: 7/16/2015
Company: Tynker
Price: FREE
Platforms: Android
iPad
Mac
Win
Available: Apple App Store
Google Play