"So what do you suggest, Mr Clever Clogs?"
I agree with the last section of the article. How to engage children with programming? Some unordered observations follow. I'm concious that I was once a young boy, and that these points would benefit from someone who was once a young girl:
The LEGO 'Mindstorms' look excellent (i.e my 8 year-old self would have given his Tonka truck for it!) but are expensive. LEGO Technic taught me about gears, screw threads, differential gearboxes and pneumatics, for example. Destroying some LEGO lights by using them with a 12V model train controller taught me something too...
These days, a IR controlled mini-helicopter can be bought for 15 quid, containing a silicon gyro and a chip to keep it level... a programmable autopilot function wouldn't be much pricier. The "ten minutes play, 50 minutes recharge" nature of its battery seems ideal for programming its actions in advance and then observing the results.
Children like inventing and designing things, look at computer-game inspired 'fan art' or new levels drawn on paper.
What is programming? Just a formal way of expressing "if X happens, then do Y". If car leaves track on left, steer right.
What young boy could watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ErEBkj_3PY 'Robots that fly... and cooperate' without going 'Wow!'?
I'm having trouble separating programming from other 'tech' orientated disciplines, such as CAD modelling and 3D printing (Design an action figure, print an action figure. Add motors, sounds and actions) in the education space.
The enemy of these creative activities might be the polished nature of pre-made video games and branded toys.
Being able to solder is a useful skill.
The government is trying to get more men to become primary school teachers. The government is also trying to recruit more Design and Technology teachers of either gender. By law they cannot offer bigger grants to men studying to become Primary school teachers, but they can and do offer a bigger grant for Design and Technology (as well as for Science subjects). Why is this relevant? Just look at the gender make up of Reg readers... ...it would seem more of us men have an interest in these things.