If you think you might have a future programmer on your hands, it’s time to introduce your kid to Scratch. It’s a programming language that teaches the concepts of programming to young kids while making it easy for them to create animations, games, and more, then share them all with friends online. A new book from No Starch Press, Super Scratch Programming Adventure!: Learn to Program By Making Cool Games makes it even easier to get started.
Scratch was created at MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group. It’s targeted at ages eight and up, although my six-year-old finds it to be a lot of fun. If your child can read, understand numbers, and control a mouse, he can probably get started with Scratch, particularly if he’s used creative software like drawing programs. Younger children just may need a little more help than the older ones. To create programs in Scratch, you simply drag and drop colored puzzle-piece blocks of code written in simple language, snap them together, then change the variables:
Super Scratch Programming Adventure! helps your budding developer learn to use Scratch with a comic book story. Each section begins with a continuing piece of a story that ends by giving the reader a problem to solve with Scratch. Along the way, kids learn about software-building terms like “sprite,” “loop,” and “variable.” At the end of the book, they are rewarded with the fruits of their own creation, a game they can play knowing they made it themselves.
The best part about using Scratch is the wide range of skills that are involved, from the left-brain creativity to the right-brain reasoning. It also encourages sharing, collaborating, and learning from others–all additional non-programming skills useful in the programmer’s world.
Super Scratch Programming Adventure! was written by the LEAD Project (Learning through Engineering, Art and Design), which began in 2005 as a collaboration among The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, the MIT Media Lab, and The Chinese University of Hong Kong.