5 Ways Kids Can Program Their Own Video Games and Software

Top resources for kids to learn top 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

MIT

 

What We Like

  • Great place to start

  • Graphical and kid friendly

  • Teaches core concepts well

What We Don't Like

  • Best only for young kids

  • Doesn't make "real" games

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

 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 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

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 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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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 will grow 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, learning real-world languages like JavaScript and Python.

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