On top of being a software engineer, I’m also the father of 3 kids. My daughter recently turned 8, and she is my oldest. I’ve been having her try out different methods of learning to program already, but nothing had really stuck. But I think this is about to change, as I recently discovered the wonderful website KidsRuby. After spending some time with KidsRuby over the last few days, it’s become clear there is interest enough to keep my daughter entertained and learning. My main gauge has been the fact my middle son (6) has also shown interest in what his sister is doing! Both of them have spent time playing with KidsRuby over the last few days, read on for our experience.

Getting Started

It’s pretty straightforward to utilize KidsRuby. Just go to their download page and download either the Windows or Mac package. Since the Mestery household is a Mac household, we went with the Mac version. After the download completed, I was able to install the package, but I could not get it to run. After doing some googling, I found this issue on github, which apparently is what I was hitting. After reading the thread, I simply removed KidsRuby, reinstalled, and then the install went through successfully.

So, just a note if you have issues after installing on Mac, simply remove the KidsRuby package and reinstall to get going.

Learning Ruby!

After brining up KidsRuby, you are greeted by an easy to navigate menu. See the image below for what the “Help” section looks like:

Navigating the program is easy, and within minutes you’ll be writing your first graphical Ruby program! The program uses a Logo-like turtle interface to teach graphics programming. For those old enough to remember using Logo, the experience will be very nostalgic. My daughter and son both enjoyed this and were excited when the turtle was drawing on the screen, following their commands. In fact, my daughter spent 30 minutes changing how the turtle moved to draw different shapes, utilizing “for” loops. Little did she know she was writing her own algorithm!

My Take

Teaching your kids to program is almost a must in today’s world. Everything is moving to be “App” centric, so having the skills to understand this new world is important. KidsRuby provides a fun, easy to understand and navigate experience which will keep your kids happy and entertained for hours. On top of that, they are learning a great language in Ruby. From there, they can move on to move advanced things, such as running KidsRuby on the Raspberry Pi (video  here). How cool is that?