Python for kids?

Python is a very friendly programming language to start for adults as a very first programming experience. However, can it be used in education of younger? Of course. But I would recommend it as a second step after understanding basic algorithms (e.g. with Scratch or ScratchJr). Python is great to start their programming journey for teens, those who know what sentence structure is and who can do some mathematics.

Why Python is good to start?

  • Comparing to other widely used programming languages, it has quite easy syntax. You can experience it from your first line of clean and working code, so it will encourage you to write more.
  • It is a high level programming language, so you really don’t need too much code to see the effect – also encouraging.
  • There are a lot of information on the Web about Python, how to start with Python, what to do in case of failure – it is very important to have support, feeling that you have someone to turn to for help anytime.
  • If you want to sell something to kids, it must feel interesting to them. Well… you can make simple games with Python (and it’s not very hard), you can quite easily prepare a website and, last but not least, coding on Raspberry Pi may also be an argument.

There are also a couple of books concerning Python for kids. Just to name some:

  1. Python For Kids For Dummies: Brendan Scott
  2. Python for Kids. A Playful Introduction to Programming by Jason R. Briggs
  3. Python Projects for Kids. Jessica Ingrassellino

Programming for kids #2 – ScratchJr

ScratchJr is Scratch for younger kids. You don’t even need to write or read to use it but still it will show you basics of algorithms and enables to create simple scenes and games.

All you need is a tablet with Android or iPad and your free to go (app is free for both systems). It was, as Scratch, created in one of the best Universities in the World, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

Similarily to Scratch, children can draw their ‘ghosts’ and background pictures and make them move (jumping dancing etc.). Simple loops and conditional actions are also possible. What children really like is the possibility to record own voices.

If you don’t have a tablet, you can also try some emulators for computers, e.g., http://www.scratchguide.com/how-to-run-scratchjr-on-windows-and-mac/ .

More information you can find here: https://www.scratchjr.org/

There are also a lots of ideas on youtube:

Have fun!

Programming for kids #1 – Scratch

When it comes to programming, it is never to early (or too late) to start. Learning of programming start not with programming languages but with algorithmic thinking. What it an algorithm? Instruction, ordered commands. It is easy to explain to children on the example of sandwich making. What steps do you need to take to make yourself a sandwich?

After understanding algorithms,  we can start using computer for further programming learning. There are increasing number of languages, software and toys that help with this step. First of all – Scratch.

Scratch is a block-based programming language with huge support community created by Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Media Lab (https://scratch.mit.edu). It is free to use – both online and offline. It is available for  Windows, macOS, and Linux (Adobe Air Required). Now it is even often used in schools as first choice programming language for children.

In brief, you can prepare environment for a scene (background, music, etc.) and heroes of the game or story (so called sprites) – you can choose from default options or draw everything yourself. Then you can tell what the sprites should do, how many times, for how long, whether it should happen in special conditions. You have for loops, while loops, if conditions, various commands… actually it combines to unlimited number of combinations. Sprites of course can interact with each other and music or background may change during the scene/game.

For new ideas for projects you can search through database of open projects available at https://scratch.mit.edu. You can copy found project and modify it (however, remember about the credit to the original author!)

When I first tested Scratch I was really amazed by the possibilities of the language in spite of (at first look) low number of available blocks. Just to show you examples:

Pacman

https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/2345919/

Some old racing game

https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/26999060/

But you find many many more (also games from your childhood 😉 ).

Have fun with Scratch!