Even when computers were first being introduced, engineers realized how useful they could be to teach children. There have been multiple games and even entire programming languages developed specifically for kids. Linux’s developer-friendly tendencies have made it an obvious choice as a platform to create software for children, and its security and stability leave little chance for them to break anything while learning. Today we’ve gathered together some of the best Linux software applications for kids, from simple games for toddlers to programming puzzles for the older kids.
If you’ve looked into free software for children, you’ve likely come across GCompris. This is a suite of over 100 games and activities for children aged 2-10. The activities are divided up between sections such as “Math”, “Reading”, and “Amusement”. The entire suite is available in the standard repositories of most major Linux distributions
sudo apt-get install gcompris
or search for “Gcompris” in the Ubuntu Software Center.
2. Sugar Desktop
The good folks working on the One Laptop Per Child effort have come up with a unique, simplified desktop system called Sugar. It was originally designed for their XO laptop series but it can be run on a home PC as well. If you install the complete package (instructions here) you’ll also get the included tools like a paint program, a few games, and some educational activities.
3. KDE Education Project
The KDE team has also produced a nice collection of educational software. This pack is aimed at an older crowd than GCompris, and includes tools like Kbruch for working learning fractions and Kturtle, a modern implementation of the Logo programming language for kids. To install look for the “kdeedu” package in your distro’s repositories
sudo apt-get install kdeedu
or search for “kdeedu” in the Ubuntu Software Center.
4. Tux Paint
What MS Paint was to many of us growing up, Tux Paint can be to our kids. It’s got all the normal drawing tools (pen, eraser, spraycan, etc) as well as dozens of additional shapes and patterns. It includes far more than MS Paint ever did, and should be a favorite for any young artists in the house. This is another common package that should be in your distro’s standard repositories.
sudo apt-get install tuxpaint
or search for “tuxpaint” in the Ubuntu Software Center.
5. Tux Typing
Typing can be a difficult skill to learn (I’ll be honest, I sometimes look at the keys) but fortunately there are software programs out there to help with the job. One such application for kids is Tux Typing, a fun a popular typing tutor game. There are multiple play modes such as “Fish Cascade” (spell the falling words before they fall off screen), “Comet Zap” (quickly type the letter on the incoming comet) and “Lessons” (match what’s on screen without looking at the keys).
sudo apt-get install tuxtype
or search for “tuxtype” in the Ubuntu Software Center.
Bonus: Children’s Linux Distros
Some individuals and organizations have realized the importance of free educational software, and have created complete Linux distributions specifically for schools and homes. Probably the best known of these is Edubuntu, an Ubuntu-derived distro intended for not just kids but parents and teachers as well. Its primary focus is on educational institutions, which is making it increasingly popular among schools.
A different approach is taken by Qimo, which is also Ubuntu based. Qimo is more focused on use in the home on a standalone computer, as opposed to Edubuntu’s networked, institutional approach. It runs a custom XFCE desktop with large simple icons and emphasizes easy navigation.
There’s also Foresight for Kids, a children’s edition of Foresight Linux. It comes with several of the applications covered here such as Tux Paint, GCompris, and Tux Typing, as well as several multimedia applications for more serious use.
If you know of any other great Linux applications for kids, please share them in the comments below.