Can Shaun the Sheep help your kids learn to code?

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There’s a lot of excitement around kids and coding at the moment. Now Shaun the Sheep is joining the programming party with a new game-making contest for children.

Shaun’s Game Academy was launched today by Aardman Animations, which makes the TV show (and, next year, the film) of the cuddly sheep’s adventures.

It’s a competition that gets children to make their own games using assets from Shaun’s world, using the Scratch programming tool that’s already familiar to millions of parents and kids around the world.

The contest’s website provides five lessons (or “modules”) teaching children to use Scratch to make a simple platform game, but the competition is wider than that genre – they can come up with whatever they like.

It runs until 1 September, with prizes including a tour of Aardman’s studios – the home of Wallace and Gromit! – as well as the chance for the winner to spend an afternoon working more on their game with Aardman’s own games team.

“Do you like video games? They’re awesome! They let your explore strange worlds, become cool characters with mind blowing powers and take on quests you can only dream of. But wouldn’t it be amazing to design your own quests, and create your own worlds?” asks the website.

I suspect that for many children, the answer is a resounding “YES!” And the contest comes at a good time too: from this September, basic programming lessons will be part of the UK’s national curriculum for primary-school children as well as older kids. Getting to grips with Scratch now could be a good move for children – although the more important thing is that it could be good fun.

“The great thing about Scratch is that there’s a really big community behind them now, and every project is remixable: once a child has put a game out, other kids can look under the bonnet and see how it works,” the contest’s creative director Ricky Martin told The Guardian today.

“We’ve tailored the training modules to making platform games, but for the contest children can make anything they want: they can remix our games, make their own ideas and even put their own characters in.”

Read about more kids and coding stories on Apps Playground, and check out our 100 Best iPad Apps of 2013 e-book – £1.99 from Apple’s iBooks Store

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