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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Computer Programming For Kids 8 And Up

Maddy Petrovich, 14, of Wellesley, Mass. first started learning how to use the programming language Scratch when she was 10 years old.

Maddy Petrovich, 14, of Wellesley, Mass. first started learning how to use the programming language Scratch when she was 10 years old. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

At a time when parents are eager to give their kids an edge in math and science, several computer programming languages have been developed specifically for children.

“They were learning how to test and debug, they were learning how to break down problems.”
– Karen Brennan of Harvard Graduate School of Education

For example, Lego Mindstorms lets kids create their own small, customizable and programmable robots. And the programming language Scratch, developed at MIT’s Media Lab, lets kids create interactive stories, animations, games, music and art, and share them online.


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Scratch has been downloaded more than a million times and is used by kids as young as eight years old.

While the programming languages are simpler than the ones used by professionals, they’re still teaching kids the foundations of computer science, according to Karen Brennan of Harvard Graduate School of Education, who helped develop the Scratch program at MIT’s Media Lab.

“They were learning how to test and debug, they were learning how to break down problems,” Brennan told Here & Now. “They started seeing the world in a new way, that computers weren’t something that other people did or other people think about, but computation becomes something that they can use to express themselves, that they can solve problems.”

Karen Brennan helped develop Scratch at MIT's Media Lab. (mit.edu)

Karen Brennan helped develop Scratch at MIT’s Media Lab. (mit.edu)

One Scratch user, 14-year-old Maddy Petrovich of Wellesley, Mass., said Scratch encourages “remixing” or building upon other people’s work.

“If you just sort of change the timing or what they say, people don’t really like that that much,” Petrovich said. “But if you sort of take the story and build off of it, then that’s definitely encouraged. Like, this project has six remixes. I like it when people remix my projects because it shows that people took interest in them. It was exciting because there’s actual people looking at this.”

Brennan has created a companion website for teachers called Scratch Ed that lets teachers share stories, exchange resources and ask and answer questions. More than 6,000 teachers, from kindergarten level through college, have joined the community, according to Brennan.


  • Karen Brennan, helped develop the Scratch program at MIT’s Media Lab. She’s also an assistant professor of education at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. She tweets @karen_brennan.
  • Maddy Petrovich, a 14-year-old programmer in Wellesley, Mass.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Prodigy

    Ahem, my name is Randy and I’m 12 years old. The reason I posted was simple, I’m fed up on how todays “programming” works. You see I’ve been programming C++ for around 1.5 months now and it’s hard  and the rewards aren’t that great but you see I had a dream since I was 5 (no joke) to get a doctorate in computer science at M.I.T or mabye that other colleage in California I don’t know yet and I tryed using MMF2 or even Scratch and while they worked good I knew I couldn’t put on my resume “Used Scratch for 5 years” and while I think it’s good that kids can make small games they shouldn’t be fooled into thinking they have a career in programming because once they start to program real professinal languages it would be to hard in most cases. Personally I think instead of hiding the true difficulty programs should be made to help kids learn real languages by making a simpler language which are actually already present but modify them to make them even simpler because almost everything requires some knowledge of the languages. Don’t get me wrong though I think it’s great what people are doing to a certain extent but I knew some people at tech camp who were using MMF2 and they really thought REAL programming was that easy and invested a lot of money into it, remember I just want to help future generations not put them down and mabye in some cases kids who use these programs are inspired to do great things so ya.  

    • Notchent

      Prodigy, REBOL is a not so well known language that makes things really simple, but is a real professional development tool.  It’s easy enough to start writing code immediately.  I wrote an introduction to it that you might like, at http://easiestprogramminglanguage.com

    • Met

      So, wich tool you recommend to star for a 10 years old

      • Abrar Quadery

        kturtle is a great tool (especially if you are on linux, say, ubuntu).

    • Joseph Mayeux

      You are a very impressive young person Prodigy, and I tend to agree with you a little. I do not believe people should use a language like Scratch and expect to be able to create a useful, real world application. Where I believe Scratch fills a need is in its ability to help new people learn some of the ways a program may be structured. I look at it as kind of a functional pseudo code. This is great for getting people who are interested started and keeping them interested.

    • Thomas CLements


      Try Microsoft’s Small Basic. It is a kids version of Visual basic and at the end you can graduate to Visual Basic. That, you can put on your resumé.


      • johnny

        I have tried small basic before it in some ways is more complicated in some ways like just to put some words on the screen you have to type in like 10 words to do it instead of just typing print

    • Bill

       VAX Fortran was the best. No braces , semi-colons, pointers or objects.Didn’t have a Dennis Ritchie plugging it like ‘C’ so it lost out to more complicated
      Languages like C++

    • YoungDev

      Hello, my name is Brady and I’m aswell, 12 years old. I’ve been trying to write code in C++ too, and it is extremely hard. The problems when you accidentally write a comma in a code and you have to go back for hours to erase a simple comma which destroyed your program is HORRIBLE. I too have had a dream since I was about 6 – 7  to one day become a programmer, or a developer. I know this road may be hard, and the rewards won’t be big at first, but in the end you will be proud with yourself.

    • David

      Tried python?
      you only need to type
      print ‘goodbye cruel world’
      or if using python 3
      print (‘goodbye cruel world’)
      to make your first program

  • Ingram

     I can’t wait to play this game. I want to learn coding and make some program.

  • Andrew Luo

    This is cool

  • Farthead

    my farts are stinky at the moment.

    • Qwerty

      yes, yes mine to, what do yours smell of, mine our bacon.

      • Farthead

        mine our hmmm…………. egg been and poo

        • Qwerty


          • Farthead

            I wish I cold be with you to smell the glorious joy of your sumptuous farts

          • Qwerty

            well sadly you cant smell them but heres a picture of one of my farts :)

          • Qwerty

               hope you like it

          • Farthead

            I didn’t get the pic ? :(

          • Qwerty

            ohhh sorry here it is my darling

          • Farthead

            YAY ! thanks, wanna see mine !!! :D

          • Qwerty

            OK !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D

  • Qwerty

    yum yum, sounds good


    I am 12 years old my all time dream witch is what i will put every last bit of my energy into is to work at GOOGLE and im gonna say im not soo good with the whole computer gig. I love technology but im not so caught up. I now this is not easy at all but im ready for anything. So if any one has websites books or anything that can help me please let me know.

  • felix cordova

    this is dumb this does not help us bye.

  • afras

    afras sux



  • Kellan

    I don’t really call scratch a programing language but I loved it when i saw it on my raspberry pi I was really exited even tho i was only a novice at it. I eventualy learned more of it (way faster than i learned minecraft(my user name is kellanclarkisnan)) while learning other programing languages like python(print(“Hello, World”)),java script(alert(“Hello, World”);),and HTML(Hello, World). BTW my name is Kellan and I am 9 years old.

  • AK

    Thanks Kelly! My son is nine years old and has mastered Scratch. He’s ready for something more challenging. We’re going to check this out!

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