Teaching kids how to code has a surprisingly long history, going all the way back to the 1960s and the first programming language designed for children — Logo. On its 50th anniversary, Google’s latest Doodle recalls the game-like Logo with Coding for Carrots. It’s the first ever coding Doodle, and it’s lovely.
Coding for Carrots was created by three teams: Google Doodle, Google Blocky and researchers from MIT Scratch. The Scratch team teach kids how to code by getting them to play games and tell interactive stories, hiding the maths behind whimsy. Scratch uses coding blocks just like the one in Coding for Carrots.
In Coding for Carrots, kids (or adults like myself who like taking care of digital bunnies) must help a rabbit munch on all the carrots in each of the Doodle’s six levels by dragging and dropping blocks of code into a bar, giving the rabbit its instructions. It’s a simple and playful way to present something that might otherwise seem a bit daunting.
Here’s MIT’s Champika Fernando explaining why teaching kids how to code is so important:
Kids programming on computers must have sounded futuristic and impractical in the 1960’s when Logo was first created. In fact, even in the 1980’s when I wrote my first lines of code, my working-class parents questioned how coding would ever benefit their nine-year-old daughter.
Today, computers are used in almost every aspect of our lives. We have them in our homes, at work, and in our pockets. My early experiences with computers gave me confidence that I could create with new technologies, not just interact with them. Those early experiences not only influenced my career path, but provided me with new ways to express my ideas and influence the world around me.
Despite going to several decent schools in the UK and abroad, I wasn’t really given many opportunities to learn this stuff as a kid, and I regret not pushing for them more. I took up game dev as a hobby a wee while ago, and learning the basics has been so much harder now that I’m in my 30s and don’t have that foundation to build on. I wish I’d had something like Coding for Carrots to kickstart my interest earlier.
Google’s coding Doodle will be around for the rest of the week. It’s an example of why we named Google Doodles as one of the best PC games.