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Here's where you'll find all the latest news about technology for children. We love to follow cool new inventions on Kickstarter and we hunt out all the latest announcements about tech toys and gadgets for the coming Christmas holidays. You'll also get our take on children's technology stories in the media.

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Our kids technology product reviews are intended to help you work out whether a toy, gadget or kit is a good fit for your child or family. There's lots of cool stuff available, but is it the right choice for the child or teenager that you are buying for? We'll help you make the right choices and get the best value for money.

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Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends assemble. We create gift lists to help you make good choices for kids technology which helps them develop the right skills for the future. We research the best in Coding Toys and Games, Making / Craft Tools and Kits, STEM/STEAM related gifts, Programmable Robots, Electronics Kits and Gadgets for Tech Age Kids and Teens.

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Get crafty with technology. Here we'll post all our ideas and projects using technology to get creative and making with kids. You'll find anything from making a lemon battery to a glow-in-the-dark Minecraft sword. Our projects are tried and tested on our own kids or at events we run, so we are sure you can have a go at home with your kids. Some of our projects use specific tech gadgets which we provide links for you to purchase.

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STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. In recent years there is an increased focus in these areas of study. We like to include Art and Design too, so we often talk about STEAM (A stands for Art). At Tech Age Kids we believe Coding is a new literacy and children need to understand how technology works, practice making skills and grow in their curiosity to make a better future for us all.

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We think it's really important for kids to get hands-on with electronics and learn how to make circuits and write code to control hardware. Younger kids can start with conductive playdough. For kids who like to combine craft and tech, littleBits are fab. And we love SAM Labs wireless electronics components for making it easy for kids to make Internet of Things inventions. Lots of electronics kits for kids have support for the Arduino microprocessor environment. The DuinoKit Jr is one of our favourites. Arduino is a fab skill for older kids and teens to develop.

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We love robots at Tech Age Kids, especially programmable ones. We've got lots of them and write reviews and projects that use them. Our programmable robots for kids buying guide is a good place to start if you're not sure what's available. Roby the mBot Meccano robot dog is one of our popular projects and has been with us to lots of events. Our Ozobot LEGO trailer is fab for kids who love LEGO and robots.

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We're advocates of the creative use of technology, but this needs to be balanced with developing physical skills such as papercraft, woodwork, clay modelling, technical drawing and soldering. If children don't develop these skills as they grow up then physical making projects can become frustrating rather than fun. The Maker Community uses the term 'making' as a broad term to include all sorts of artisan skills or craft activities. Being able to make things can lead to life-long hobbies or even careers. It's a great feeling to be able to take a project from an idea in your head to a real object that does something. We're particularly interested to explore products that combine maker skills with tech skills such as electronics but others focus purely on the physical making skills that are still important to modern making.

Scratch isn't Proper Computer Programming is it?

Scratch is a drag and drop programming environment for children. Kids can write games and animations, control robots, take input from sensors and lots more. Scratch is great fun and educational, but it's not really programming is it? I mean dragging coloured blocks around the screen, that's just for little kids, right? It doesn't teach proper coding skills surely.

I've heard lots of parents make comments like these. Sometimes parents think their child must be too old for Scratch. Others assume Scratch is just a brief stepping stone and are eager to find out about the next thing. IT professionals also tend to assume that Scratch is just a toy and that children using it are just playing at coding.

I'm a computer scientist and parent and I also teach kids to code. I can tell you, Scratch is most definitely real coding. It uses just the same skills that professional software developers use. A child who becomes an expert in Scratch will have a fantastic grounding when they move to so called proper programming languages.

There will be additional things for them to learn, but the core thinking skills are transferable. Scratch is an excellent environment for learning the basics of computers science and some fairly advanced concepts too.

Let's take a look at some of the misconceptions that parents and IT professionals have about Scratch.

But Scratch is Drag and Drop - It can't be a REAL Programming Language


A lot of parents and educators who are not experts in computer science assume that a graphical drag and drop language can't be a serious programming language. This simply isn't the case. There's nothing special about typing in text rather than sequencing blocks with text written on them.

But Scratch is Drag and Drop - It can't be a REAL Programming Language

Scratch prevents a lot of the annoying syntax errors that you get in a text based programming language which does make it more accessible. But there's nothing particularly educational about spending lots of time fixing syntax errors. It's something adult developers would like to avoid and increasingly development environments help coders avoid them. 

There are also professional development environments that support graphical programming and drag and drop. Video game development environments are often graphical and support drag and drop. There's nothing childish about this, sometimes it's the right approach. 

Whether you work with colourful blocks or text the individual elements are ways of getting instructions into the computer - the abstract representation of the concepts in a child's brain is just the same. 

Drag and drop vs typing text is a complete red herring. With practice, typing will be faster than dragging and dropping but there's no conceptual difference.  And most kids can't type quickly so drag and drop is faster for them. (Yes, they should be able to type quickly, that's a different discussion!)

But 6-Year-Olds can Write Scratch - It can't be a REAL Programming Language


It's true, many 6-year-olds, and even younger kids, can build cool projects with Scratch. There seems to be an assumption that because quite young children can do some things in Scratch that older or more able kids will quickly reach the limitations of Scratch. 

That's a bit like saying that because 6-year-old children can write simple stories that they will soon outgrow the English language. 

Scratch does have some limitations, but it can be used to build incredibly sophisticated projects that will challenge the most able of kids and tweens, and most young teens (and many adults too!) 

Scratch is deceptively simple with its palette of brightly coloured blocks. The thing about programming though is that you can do amazing things when you combine the blocks in interesting ways. 

As children progress they will be able to use Scratch in more and more advanced ways.

Scratch has a low floor, but a high ceiling.


But Scratch Only Teaches Really Simple Coding, Right?


Actually you can build some really complex things with Scratch. You can use complex maths to simulate gravity, you can draw fractals, you can import data from files and work with it, you can explore event-based and prototype-based programming. 

It will be a long time before most kids start bumping up against the restrictions of Scratch.

The way Scratch naturally supports concurrency gives kids a real headstart on developing complex systems. Scratch encourages the use of multiple sprites which means kids must think about how to organise their code. Scratch also encourages a 'run early, run often' way of coding which develops good working practices. Scratch also encourages learning from other people's code.


But Scratch Doesn't Have Feature X

A common complaint from IT professionals is that Scratch doesn't have some particular programming language feature that they consider crucial. Sure there are some gaps, but I don't believe that any of them will cause long term harm! 

It might irritate you not to have a feature you are used to having, but kids probably won't expect the feature and will find another way to do things. 


Wouldn't Their Time Be Better Spent Learning a Real Programming Language?


Some parents see their child spending a lot of time developing Scratch projects and wonder whether that time wouldn't be better spent learning an actual programming language that is used in industry. 

This might be a valid argument once a child is close to an age where they could be employed to write code. But for a young child it doesn't make sense. Who know which programming language they will end up writing in (and whether they even exist yet.) 



Don't Be in Too Much of a Hurry to Move On From Scratch


My 8 year old has had a go at writing text-based languages and there's no real barrier for him, other than his slow typing! He readily understands the concepts because of his Scratch experience.

But he really enjoys Scratch and can create what he wants more quickly using it. He's still learning loads and will continue to do so for some time. I'm in no hurry for him to move to textual coding just because he can.

I think he'll spend the next few years trying out other languages and then returning to Scratch where he can be creative and productive.

The most important thing he's learning isn't a specific programming language or even computational thinking skills, it's that he can use computers to express his creative ideas and solve practical problems. This is where Scratch excels. If Scratch can empower kids to be digital makers not just digital users (and it can!) then it doesn't matter whether it's a proper programming language or not.




Name

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Tech Age Kids | Technology for Children: Scratch isn't Proper Computer Programming is it?
Scratch isn't Proper Computer Programming is it?
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