How Kids Can Program Their Own Video Games and Software

Top Resources for Kids to Learn to Program

Boy Playing with videogames joystick
Miguel Sanz / Getty Images

If your kids are addicted to video games, they may be ready to program their own. The games they create may not be quite as glamorous as those they buy in the store or download on their mobile devices, but they'll have the satisfaction of doing it themselves. And, they'll be learning important skills that will give them a head start if they are interested in a career involving software or app development. These are some of the best tools for kids and teens to learn to program.

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Scratch

Scratch is a project out of the MIT Media Lab. It allows users to program their own interactive stories and games with animated content. Scratch is specifically designed to make programming accessible for kids (they recommend ages 8 and up). The website hosts support materials, user-created content and sample code to help you get started. The Media Lab has a ​licensing deal with LEGO to allow users to use LEGO characters in their Scratch projects.

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Alice

Alice and Alice Storytelling were created at Carnegie Mellon University as a way to introduce complex programming concepts to students. Users can create interactive 3-D environments using 3D objects. Alice is recommended for high school and college, while Alice Storytelling was created to be accessible to a middle school audience. Alice Storytelling was designed to appeal to girls, although it's appropriate for boys as well. Make sure you meet the minimum requirements for Alice, as it is a bit resource intensive. Educational materials for Alice are available at www.aliceprogramming.net

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Turtle Academy

Logo is a simple programming language designed for educational settings. Some adults may remember experimenting with Logo as computers were being introduced into schools in the 1980s. At its most basic, users control a "turtle" on the screen with English-based commands that tell the turtle to move forward or backward and turn right or left. Logo is simple enough for early readers and complex enough for more serious programmers. This site combines a series of lessons in using LOGO with a fun "Playground" sandbox where kids can explore freely.

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Logo Foundation

The Logo Foundation is the place for all things Logo-related. Look under "Logo Products: Software" for a list of various logo programming environments to purchase or download. For ease of use, FMSLogo is a good choice. MicroWorlds is also great software, but it's not free.

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Code.org

The Code.org initiative focuses on helping kids learn to code with just one hour of coding each day. The site offers age-specific content for kids between preschool and high school, and it adapts based on the specific platforms (PCs, Macs, iPads, mobile) to which the kids already have access. Much of the Code.org content is based on games, which makes learning both easy and fun.