How To Teach Kids Programming From Scratch!

Ads by Google

Is there a child in a developed country that doesn’t interact with a computer in some fashion everyday? Probably not. Yet still, many of these kids have only a vague idea of what makes a computer tick. It also appears that, for the most part, kids don’t get into the inner workings of programming until secondary school.

Why is that? If children can learn second and third human languages by their teens, why not programming as well? Here’s an excellent development tool that truly is for kids of all ages.

Scratch

Developed at MIT for kids ages 8 and up, Scratch is a new programming language that is very visual in nature. The basic logic statements are shown and the programmer can then drag them into place and type in new variables. I had a program going in about 20 seconds! And if you’ve ever seen me code, you know that’s miraculous.

Okay, so it’s only a funny looking dinosaur that takes a few steps, says ‘Hello’ and then plays a soundfile that says ‘Doy-doy-doy’. It entertained me for at least 15 minutes. Doy-doy-doy, hee hee!

Seriously though, take a look at the code. Anyone who can read English can figure out roughly what is going to happen and how to make it happen.

Ads by Google

There are a ton of configurable statements you can use to make just about any kind of program you want. Look at the categories – each category has several components that are completely customizable for your needs.

You can also use sounds and images already included in Scratch, or you can record or import your own. The images, or sprites as they call them in Scratch, and sounds are broken down in easy to identify categories. This is great for kids! Or me! Check out these puppies.

Scratch also comes preloaded with a bunch of complete programs, so you can see what’s possible with this package. This also introduces the concept of code reuseability to kids since they can take a program that already exists and bend it to their needs or wants.

Check out part of the program for Virtual Dog. Yes! A virtual dog! Your grammar school gum-chewers can now create life!

Scratch also has a pretty extensive online community with even more resources for download and other Scratch programmers willing to lend a hand.

My son, the 7-year old Lego king, has been showing some interest in programming lately. I’m thinking this is the way to go.

What do you think? Have you tried Scratch or other applications for young programmers? I’d really love to hear about it.

Join live MakeUseOf Groups on Grouvi App Join live Groups on Grouvi
Best Android Phones
Best Android Phones
10 Members
Best Android Games
Best Android Games
24 Members
Best Android Apps
Best Android Apps
43 Members
Android Rooting and ROMs
Android Rooting and ROMs
35 Members
Android OS Tips
Android OS Tips
32 Members
Android Rumors and News
Android Rumors and News
11 Members
Best Android Tablets
Best Android Tablets
7 Members
Ads by Google
Comments (45)
  • Renee

    I found this discussion while researching appropriate programming languages for my son. He is only 8 but quite gifted and scratch is just not cutting it. I have thought of having him learn c++ but it seems like it will not be gratifying to him in a timely manner. Computers are his first love and I would like to see him harness that interest into some solid learning. Any suggestions? I need something I can teach from home. FWIW I was a computer science major for three years but that was 20 years ago and I have not programmed since – so my knowledge base is ancient but I understand a bit more than the average so I will be able to help guide him.

    • Linden

      Renee,
      My kids, 8 and 9 are in the same situation.
      I would suggest looking at Alice.org if Scratch is not cutting it. Alice has a text only option where he can work directly in Java code as well as the visual interface.
      For me the next step will be C# in the free Express edition. With the free XNA Game Studio they can write games to run on PC or XBox.

  • perihan

    someone can help me for my project? if there is,add my mail:tatlisekercim@hotmail.com

  • NIcole

    I’ve done a few workshops with middle school and high school students and I have to say that for students who have never programmed before and “thought” they had no interest in doing so, Scratch kept them occupied, engaged, and involved for the duration of these 3 hour workshops. As a former teacher, I was lucky to keep them engaged during a mere 45 minute class!

    I think we make a mistake in thinking programming is only for a certain “type” of person. Scratch goes way beyond that because it develops critical thinking and problem solving skills. Kids don’t need to know more “stuff”, they need to know what to do with it and how to manipulate it to make something that hasn’t been seen or done before. Exposing them to Scratch, not as a programming introduction but as an exercise in developing higher order thinking skills, serves a much higher purpose than tying it to just computer science.

  • GL22

    I tried Scratch coz i was curious about it. (I’m 21 years old btw) It’s fun, but i prefer SmallTalk. SmallTalk seems way better than Scratch… and they have similarities…. SmallTalk is also easy to learn.. Why Scratch when you can SmallTalk?

  • GRS

    I’ll vote for LOGO. Aside from the simple turtle graphics and seeing visual feedback, the language is fairly sophisticated with a lot of capabilities borrowed from Lisp. There’s enough there for a gentle introduction plus moving on to more difficult challenges. The only problem is finding a decent, stable implementation.

Load 10 more
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.