Scratch: The enormous value of children’s programming languages


I have been aware for some years of the various programming languages available for children. This evening I decided to have a go with Scratch with my daughters, as Leda is now almost eight, the bottom of the suggested age range for the language.

I was blown away. Scratch has an extremely wide range of capabilities, ranging from very simple animations through to complex conditional loops, all done through extremely easy rearrangement of colored blocks.

Any child would be immediately drawn into what they can do, and simply by playing, learn the principles of programming. Scratch’s originator MIT’s Mitch Resnick tells the story in this TED talk below.

The Scratch website notes:

With Scratch, you can program your own interactive stories, games, and animations — and share your creations with others in the online community.

Scratch helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively — essential skills for life in the 21st century.

Scratch is designed especially for ages 8 to 16, but is used by people of all ages. Millions of people are creating Scratch projects in a wide variety of settings, including homes, schools, museums, libraries, and community centers.

Students are learning with Scratch at all levels (from elementary school to college) and across disciplines (such as math, computer science, language arts, social studies). Educators share stories, exchange resources, ask questions, and find people on the ScratchEd website.

Other programming languages for children include Phrogram (formerly Kids Programming Language), Alice, and Gamestar Mechanic (more explicitly focused on game development).

Now that software is the language of our world, the ability to understand software is enormously valuable. Not everyone needs to be a programmer, but understanding computer languages gives us access to a universe more than if we don’t.

Initiatives such as in the US and UK’s Year of Code actively promote teaching computers skills in schools.

Educators must seize the open opportunity offered by these tools and platforms. Parents and children too can have fun and learn with these openly available resources.

Children’s programming languages are a vital plank to our future.