Using a computer isn't always about playing video games and chatting with friends. You can just as easily create your own video games and programs. They may not be quite as glamorous as the games you buy in the store, but you'll have the satisfaction of doing it yourself. And, you'll be learning important skills in case you want to work with computers in the future. These are some of the best tools for kids and teens to learn to program.
1. ScratchScratch is a project out of the MIT Media Lab. It allows users to program their own interactive stories and games with animated content. Scratch is specifically designed to make programming accessible for kids (they recommend ages 8 and up). The website hosts support materials, user-created content and sample code to help you get started. The Media Lab has a license deal with LEGO to allow users to use LEGO characters in their Scratch projects.
2. AliceAlice and Alice Storytelling were created at Carnegie Mellon University as a way to introduce complex programming concepts to students. Users can create interactive 3-D environments using 3D objects. Alice is recommended for high school and college, while Alice Storytelling was created to be accessible for a middle school audience. Alice Storytelling was designed to appeal to girls, although it's appropriate for boys as well. Make sure you meet the minimum requirements for Alice, as it is a bit resource intense. Educational materials for Alice are available at www.aliceprogramming.net. Carnegie Mellon University has entered into a licensing agreement with EA Games for use of Sims 2 figures in Alice 3.0 (expected release in Summer 2009).
FMSLogo is a good choice. MicroWorlds is also great software, but it's not free.