TinyTap allows kids to make their own games for a tablet. TinyTap allows kids to make their own games for a tablet. TinyTap allows kids to make their own games for a tablet. (Photo: jfk image / Shutterstock)

Now kids can create online games without knowing a line of code

Award-winning app inspires teaching tools for kids – from over-achievers to those with special needs.

Once upon a time, kids had hopscotch, played kick the can, and made puppets out of socks. Today’s youth have all of that, but so much more, too, now that tablets are part of everyday life.

Games built for tablets and smartphones can be a parent’s best babysitter. But they can also educate and inspire in the classroom. Now, kids can make their own educational games, quizzes and online storybooks, using technology made in Israel through an application called TinyTap.

TinyTap makes it easy and fun for kids – and teachers alike – to craft interactive games and stories, through a drag-and-drop interface. This means no software coding experience required.

Once the games or lessons are created, they can then be shared and sold through an online marketplace where other people can enjoy them. It could be a new interactive Spanish language class or an e-book created by the wild imagination of a 6-year-old.

TinyTap, with the backing of telecom giant Verizon, was awarded a $1 million Powerful Answers Award in Education. In awarding the prize, Verizon cited the app's "ability to tailor games to suit a child’s unique learning needs.”

Yogev Shelly, one of the co-founders of the company, has a father with dementia. It was through customizing memory games for his dad, with actual family faces as part of the game, that helped keep Dad’s mind in check.

The result inspired Shelly and his co-founding partner Oren Elbaz to think about how to individualize games as teaching tools for kids. The two had known each other as students through the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, a college in Jerusalem.

Besides the challenges and enjoyment TinyTap offers children, teachers and parents love how they can create content for kids with very special needs, like those with autism.

“I just took a photo with my iPad, and then it was really easy to make a game for a little boy with autism,” said a speech therapist from France who uses TinyTap. “Now, he is able to say his name, show his nose, ears and is very happy to play.”

Here's how it works: TinyTap has various “engines” as starting points, depending on whether you, as a parent, teacher or child want to build a game or a story. Content elements can be selected and dragged from inside the TinyTap app and set up in a timeline, or added using a game-building wizard.

Personalized elements like photos, music, video or your child's favorite monster voice can be added to the game.

The TinyTap marketplace features a variety of games for all ages.The TinyTap marketplace features a variety of games for all ages. (Photo: TinyTap)

Once the game is made, it can be played over and over, or shared through an online marketplace, which serves people globally in languages such as English, Spanish and Chinese.

It’s free to publish and share your game on TinyTap, and most are free to play. Thousands of new games are shared daily, according to TinyTap.

“TinyTap is a great and easy way to make individualized apps for students,” says Bretta Loeffler, a first-grade teacher from Thornton, Colorado, who blogs at Live, Laugh, Love and Learn.

Loeffler works in a classroom where every child uses an iPad. “My students love using the apps because they are specific to their needs," she told From The Grapevine. "They love to use them and I love watching them make progress. It is a win, win!”

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