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Top Ten Linux Educational and Entertainment Programs for Children

written by: Tolga BALCI•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 5/20/2011

In our previous article in the series, we looked at child-friendly Linux distributions. Now we look at different programs developed for children.

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    You may choose a child-friendly distribution or you may want to use a specific one for your child and modify it to their needs. In this case, the distribution may not come with the must-have programs for your children. Rather than letting you search endlessly for the software to install, we did, and compiled a list of essential programs to install for your children. Let's see the Linux Kids top ten.

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    GCompris Watercycle An educational software suite for children aged 2 to 10; I think you will want to put GCompris at the top of Linux kids list. There are currently more than 100 activities available and more are under active development. To mention a few, there are the computer discovery (keyboard, mouse etc.), algebra (enumeration, mirror image, table memory), science (submarine, canal lock, water cycle etc.), games (memory, chess and Sudoku, etc.) applications, geography training, which asks the child to place a country on a world map, reading practice and many more.

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    KDE Educational Suite

    KGeography from KDE Educational Suite KDE Educational Suite targets children aged 3 to 18, covering a broader age range for kids Linux. The programs available in the suite are KLetters (spoken letters and syllables and their written representation), Kanagram (word scrambling game), KHangman, Parley (vocabulary trainer), KWordQuiz (flash cards), KBruch (math fractions), Kig (interactive geometry), KAlgebra (graphing), KmPlot (plotting functions), KPercentage (quizzes to test your knowledge on percentages), KGeography, KTurtle (an easy introduction to computer programming), Blinken (recognize the blinking patterns and repeat them), KTouch (typing tutor), Kalzium (periodic table of elements), Marble (interactive globe to practice geography), KStars (interactive planetarium) and Step (exploring the physical world through simulations).

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    EToys EToys is somewhere between problem solving and entertainment but definitely emphasizes problem solving for kids Linux. The user is given the opportunity to create a project on his own, such as putting a bouncing ball inside a square. To do this, the user has to create a ball with a bouncing property by selecting/painting the ball and selecting its properties. Then the user modifies the properties and add scripting to control the events/behaviors. The possibilities are varied, given the objects, actions, scripts and other modifiable events. The program introduces the concepts of polymorphism, inheritance and encapsulation to the user without going into detailed explanations.

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    Atomix Educational Game Atomix is a molecular puzzle game, where the objective is to bring together a couple of atoms to form a molecule. The player has limited control of the atoms and the atoms are placed in a maze-like environment, which makes things more interesting (and harder). During the game, the name of the molecules that are to be constructed are displayed so that the player also take their first steps to learning chemistry.

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    Tux, of Math Command

    Tux, of Math Command Tux, of Math Command is a math practicing game, targeting elementary school children. The game is inspired by the old-school game Missile Command, where the player has to shoot the missiles to save his city. In Tux, of Math Command, the player needs to solve the math equations to destroy the comets falling down on his cities. It is a good blend of math and games, enabling children to practice without getting bored.

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    KTuberling and The Potato Guy

    KTuberling and The Potato Guy KTuberling and The Potato Guy provides a blank space where the Linux kids places the body elements, such as nose, eyes, hair and even spectacles. The default blank space is a potato, but a blank penguin (our Tux) is also provided. Children love to save their own creations, or even make a “family" of their characters.

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    SuperTux SuperTux is another beloved game, similar to the well-known Super Mario, but with Tux instead of the plumber. Linux kids control Tux, who jumps and bumps through the levels, collects power-ups and points on the way, and in the meantime squashes the ugly-but-cute mushrooms, turtles and the other guys in the way. Parents also have the option to design other maps, providing kids an almost endless play area.

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    Tux Kart

    TuxCart As you might have guessed, Tux is the driver of the kart, racing with others in the tracks in TuxKart. The gameplay is suitable for children; it is not too hard and the music is entertaining. The developers did not focus on taking the game physics to the extreme level for simulation, but focused on kids, who want entertainment rather than real-life physics.

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    TuxRacer If you imagine Tux sliding down the hill with 90 kilometers per hour on his belly, you will immediately realize that TuxRacer is a great game to install. The graphics are really beautiful on the mountain and the game play is immersive. Children can play against each other and explore the wonderful multiplayer environment presented by the program.

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    XTux XTux is a Gauntlet-style arcade game where our hero, Tux, battles through the Microsoft people, certified peons and bugs, and collects computer processors to build his massive supercomputer- to decode the security on the Microsoft secret database. You upload yourself to the Internet, liberate Linux websites and finally go to to destroy whatever comes your way, and arrive at the end where you come face to face with the “Evil Lord." Although you may think the game discriminates against Microsoft, it doesn’t. It just puts the operating systems and their mascots to the game in a funny way and let the Linux kids play through it.

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    In the first part of the article, which is the collection of the educational software, GCompris and KDE Educational Suite are complimentary programs, rather than competitive; they have some parts in common but most are different. If you have free space on your hard disk, I recommend you install both suites. Etoy's targets a little older children but is a good base for developing skills for the long term.

    The second part is actually a compilation of games, without the educational emphasis. The games are smooth, cute and appropriate for children; both in terms of game play and graphics.

    Of course this is not an exhaustive list. You can find more programs on the Internet developed with children in mind. Our top ten list has applications that have lasted over the years.

    You will be able to find almost all of the programs above and possibly many more in your package manager, which you will be able to install with one click.

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    Article: Author's own experience

    Image Credits:

    1. Gcompris: APC Mag,
    2. KDE Educational Tools: Author's own
    3. EToys: OLPC Project Wiki:
    4. Atomix: World Label:
    5. Tux, of Math Command: GeekComix:
    6. KTuberling and The Potato Guy: Linux Journal:
    7. SuperTux: FossWire:
    8. Tux Cart: Libre Game Wiki:
    9. Tux Racer: Tux Racer Homepage at Sourceforge:
    10. XTux: XTux Homepage at Sourceforge: