5 Ways Kids Can Program Their Own Video Games and Software

Top resources for kids to learn top program

Tween playing with video game 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

MIT

What We Like

  • Great place to start.

  • Graphical and kid friendly.

  • Teaches core concepts well.

What We Don't Like

  • Best for young kids.

  • Doesn't make real games.

Scratch is a project out of the MIT Media Lab where kids can 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 Scratch projects.

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Alice

Alice

Alice.org

What We Like

  • Make real 3D games.

  • Learn the Java programming language.

What We Don't Like

  • Not an easy place to start.

  • Better suited for older children.

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 your computer meets the minimum requirements for Alice, it's resource-intensive.

Educational materials for Alice are available at www.aliceprogramming.net

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Turtle Academy

Turtle Academy

What We Like

  • A great place to start.

  • Simple for young kids.

What We Don't Like

  • Best for young children only.

  • Logo is only used for teaching.

  • Doesn't make "real" games.

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 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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Tynker

Tynker

Tynker

What We Like

  • A complete course from basics to real world code.

  • Modding real games like Minecraft.

  • Highly visual and interactive.

What We Don't Like

  • Can be pricey.

  • Requires a decent computer to work on.

Tynker is a complete course that grows with children as they progress from the absolute fundamentals of code through real-world projects in real games. Eventually, they build their knowledge to write their own code from scratch, while learning real-world languages such as JavaScript and Python.

Tynker has partnered with major tech companies including Google and Microsoft to give children access to games and worlds that they're familiar with, for example, Minecraft.

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RPG Maker

RPG Maker

RPG Maker

What We Like

  • Make real playable games.

  • Tons of creativity involved.

  • Ease in to coding at your own pace.

What We Don't Like

  • Can be expensive to start.

  • Possible to avoid code altogether.

RPG Maker has been around for a long time. It's found its way onto multiple game consoles, and it's available on Windows, Mac, and Linux. RPG Maker has been a favorite so long because it delivers on the promise of its name, you can make real classic role-playing games and play them.

RPG Maker isn't necessarily about learning to code. Instead, it focuses on making games, and you have the choice of custom coding parts of your game in real-world web languages like JavaScript and HTML. It's this philosophy that gives RPG Maker a perfect balance of drag-and-drop gaming making fun and real-world coding practice.