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4/26/2007
  Teaching Kids to Program

If your kid wants to write their own side-scrolling shooter game, they probably need to learn to program.

My 9-yr old is learning to code using Phrogram (a revision of KPL - Kid's Programming Language), which is based on the Microsoft Visual Basic IDE model, and uses a simple BASIC-like procedural language that has sprites and intersection detection - so it's easy to do games.

Phrogram runs on top of .Net, so it's Windows-only, but it has a nice tutorial, and a ton of example programs. It's also free. Phrogram runs pretty slow, so you need a fast machine.

So far, we spend about 15 minutes a night going over loops, conditionals, and methods. Here's some sample code:


 For J = 1 To NumberOfSticks
   If I <> J Then
     If Sticks[I].Intersects(Sticks[J]) Then
       HasIntersections = True
       Break
     End If
   End If
 Next

You could be radical, and try and teach your son (or daughter) Ruby, Python, or JavaScript or ActionScript. Peter Norvig recommends "Alice" or "Squeak" for Kids. But I'm finding Phrogram / KPL to be just the right level for a nine year old.

BTW, Let me know if I'm missing something great out there - the modern day equivalent of "Bill Budge's Pinball Construction Kit" game...

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