Comments: Programming for kids
I'm biased, but I honestly think AS is one of the best languages you can learn on… it's based on modern syntax (ie. what you learn is relevant), it has immediate visual feedback, and it's probably the most scalable languages you can find – you can start with simple timeline commands, and ease slowly all the way up to ECMA262 OOP.
Another major benefit is that it leaves a ton of room for your son to be infinitely creative – you might find he enjoys like the design aspect of Flash more so than the coding.
This is all coming from someone with no kids though. But I did start coding when I was pretty young, and I know the visual aspect of Hypercard was the main thing that kept me interested in the beginning.
Posted by Grant Skinner at October 16, 2004 07:26 PM
I have a kid brother(13) who just won't follow my footsteps… he loves art/drawing to death but won't do it on computers… i've been trying to sell flash to him, but I guess i've been a bad salesman so far… like grant, what I really appreciate about using Flash/Actionscript as an introductory point is the immediate visual/audial feedback you get from it… i know in my [10 ?"hello world!"] days, PLAY was one of the keywords that got me hooked early… there's also kidwaresoftware.com where you can find some java, c# and vb stuff… but if you have a plan for teaching Flash, then by all means I think it's the best… and you could probably open a miniblog for that :)… i'd love to see how that goes; i could probably steal some ideas from there
Posted by Emmanuel Okyere at October 16, 2004 10:18 PM
Posted by Walter S. Skinner at October 17, 2004 08:48 AM
our software architect teaches his children in squeak http://www.squeak.org/
Posted by c. at October 17, 2004 08:49 PM
I would suggest a robust language like Fortran, let the kid get some historical references before getting into the new stuff.
Posted by Borlan Cartwright III at October 18, 2004 03:13 PM
I think that's important to teach him a language where he can see what happens whith his code. Most languages need too much preexperience before you can e.g draw some lines or even move a drawn object around.
Flash makes this easy! I started programming with 12 on QBasic which was hell. I can't remember what kept me on this track anyway.
Posted by Roland Schär at October 18, 2004 03:45 PM
Teach him Python. It is very simple language and has lots of resources for teaching non-programmers. The interactive command line make it easy to learn variables, simple print statements, creating your first functions and your first class.
Plus once you learn Pyhton, all the concepts port to other languages. But once you get hooked everything else will look boring by comparison.
Posted by Ted Patrick at October 19, 2004 11:09 AM
The AS idea seems like a pretty good one – as Grant stated, it allows the option of coding or graphics as the draw at that point in the child's life.
on a slightly different slant, html (although not really coding) may not be a bad step – it at least gives a very gentle intro to tags, and simple syntax. good for instant gratification too – no compiling and all.
Maybe I'm way off base here, but html seems (to me) to be kind of a 'gateway' language…
Posted by nick at October 19, 2004 12:56 PM
processing is a simplified java like language that makes it easy to write little apps that draw things and interact on screen. http://processing.org/ it's kinda fun i think
Posted by david at October 19, 2004 04:48 PM
I started actionscript at 11, it taught me allot of basics and standards.
Posted by daz at October 26, 2004 01:41 PM
I actually found Java easier to learn than C, C#, C++, etc! I went on from there building my own languages like JVBML.
Posted by BMan420! at October 31, 2004 01:28 AM
Thanks everyone, all good suggestions (except I'm not touching Fortran!)
I showed my son Python, doing some simple calculations from the console; he thought it was cool to get results so simply.
However, I think the lack of visuals from "just" a programming language is not going to be too interesting for a kid. He had more fun playing with Photo Story 3's music generator! 8-)
Posted by Dave Yang at November 4, 2004 09:35 PM
What the hell is wrong with you? Teach your kids how to play sports first! Don't let them become the geek you became ;) just kidding
I actually started with LOGO and still recommend it to my kids, with a few hours of SPORTS too ;) ;)
Posted by Alex at November 11, 2004 10:59 AM
My son is about 4½ years old now. We do have a lot of fun of making small games and apps in flash.
We just do simple things like 'worms' and basic 'shot the enemies' games. My kid tells what he would like and then we just start by drawing a superduperhardcoresuperhero in a intergalatic hyperspeed turbocruiser (done in flash and/or Photoshop with a Wacom by my kid), soundeffects are also recorded by my son through a microphone and we then implement them in our games. It's fun for both of us to play and learn computerskills this way.
I think instead of thinking whats the best choice for learning a programming language for kids it's much better just to sit down with him and do something he finds interesting.
You mentioned, that he had fun playing with a music generator – what about build something like that in a visual enviroment like flash? It sounds like more fun to me than to look at some 'real' languages like c++ etc?
I think that in his age it's not that important to 'think' language it's more important to see what can be done quickly and that it can be visualized with sounds and lots of effects.
Or how about you. Why did you start with programming? Because it was fun, right? :) What was fun? I'll bet it was to see something on the screen that worked and that you actually build yourself. Well, it was for me. If your kids find it funny to work with programming i'm sure that he soon will be ambitious and hopeful will find his own way – and soon be a better coder that yourself.
And as Alex said. Teach your kids how to play sports first! :) Nothing nice about kids in bad shape that doesn't know how to play.
(ps. Sorry for my bad english, my spanish is even worse :o))
Posted by Michael at November 12, 2004 11:59 PM
AS is a good choice because it's modern and clean… but primarily because inside Flash you can see your results right away. I don't know of anything else that lets you see stuff so quick.
Posted by Phillip Kerman at November 13, 2004 10:37 PM
I think the lego mindstorms is a pretty good product, the programming interface is much better than it used to be. Lego anything is pretty good for kids as far as I'm concerned…
Still I think there is nothing like flash for kids. Even when they aren't programming, the design part with nested symbols/mcs/gotoAndPlay etc is a lot like programming. That and it is both visual and 'fun'. Dog turn animations can really capture a person's attention – in my family anyway. I always loved fooling around with the kids doing that kind of stuff : ).
PS I'm really bugging them to post some of their games – they have a pretty complete tank war one done. They are 3D nuts too (I know, how do you discourage that?), so the graphics look pretty game-like. It is very neat to watch them getting pissed off at things while programming, I can feel their pain man : ).
Posted by Robin Debreuil at November 15, 2004 12:52 AM
Who the hell suggested Fortran?? What a moron.
A long time ago, there was a language invented for this exact purpose: BASIC. I started programming at a very young age using QBasic. In hindsight, it left alot to be desired, but ignorance is bliss. It allowed me to easily draw to the screen and capture user input, so I was able to develop some really crappy games. Eventually I moved onto Pascal (which I believe, as basic, was also invented for educational purposes), which made the transition to C an easy process. Nowadays I would think that OO is a good way to start. C++ is a nightmare. Java is nice but I don't think it would provide the instant gratification necessary.
I begrudingly endorse AS.
Posted by Herman at December 10, 2004 03:03 PM
What about Design By Numbers? http://dbn.media.mit.edu/
Here's the quick write up. http://dbn.media.mit.edu/whatisdbn.html
I used to use this to introduce basic programming concepts to art students and it worked extremely well. Now I would use Processing (http://www.processing.org – DBN was the project that inspired it's creation), but for an 8 year old, this seems pretty hard to beat.
Posted by Joshua Musick at December 10, 2004 03:13 PM
Check out Botz:
It's a kid friendly programming environment similar to Logo, where you are programming a robot to do different things. You can program it to draw pictures, also solve simple puzzles, and even battle with other Botz. It uses simple drag and drop programming and should offer something for everyone.
Posted by David Wallin at December 13, 2004 02:18 PM
why not start them with flash 4?
Posted by smk at February 2, 2005 02:52 AM
It's really amazing!
I start programming very early , especially in China.
But , however, the EDUCATION in China is really very cruel .
So I gived up programming and study some foolish stuffs .
At last, I returned , now , I am already 20 years old .
I hope the kid can really enjoy programming. I don't wanna 'em be like me .
Posted by Guo at March 24, 2005 11:49 PM
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