Programming for kids
By Darryl Gove on Mar 21, 2008
A while ago I started looking for ways to get my oldest coding. My first machine was a zx-81, with 1k of memory, and most of this was used by the screen, there was a big incentive to learn assembler. I'm not out to force him into assembler programming, but...
I evaluated a number of possibilities, one was the Kid's Programming Language (or Phrogram) which can do some impressive things in few lines of code. A sample 3D space 'game' takes about 30 lines most of which look like:
If IsKeyDown( Up ) Then Ship.TiltUP( moveAmount ) End If
I also looked at squeak, but it didn't grab me as being easy to use.
An interesting alternative to real coding is c-jump, which is a programming board game. I'm not quite convinced by the syntax, or the jumping around the board.
The first thing I tried with him was Java. Which was pretty successful, but I couldn't just leave him to get on with it. There's quite a bit of syntax to have to handle. So while it was a success, it relied on me finding the time to work with him.
We then tried scratch. This has been quite successful for the following reasons:
- It's all drag-and-drop, and the programming constructs are coloured/shaped so it's easy to put them together correctly.
- Its all graphical, and the interface is very intuitive. You can see the object that you're programming.
- It has an integrated graphics editor so he can draw his own sprites. Changing the look of a sprite is a step towards looking at the programming of the sprite and from there modifying the programming.
- The biggest thing has been that he can work on this autonomously, I just have to see the end results.
The downside of scratch is that it seems a bit limited in what it can do. He really wants to do 3D games - so perhaps Phrogram is the next stop.
Any other recommendations for kids programming?