Jason R Briggs

Python for Kids

Trouble With Turtles

If you're using an older version of Windows, Mac OS, or Ubuntu, you might have problems with the chapters in Python for Kids introducing the turtle and/or tkinter graphics modules.

If the Turtle window appears behind the Python Shell window, you may find that it doesn't seem to be working properly. When you move your mouse over the Turtle window, the cursor turns into an hourglass, like this:

turtle window hanging with hourglass

This could happen for a number of reasons, but in older versions of Windows and Mac, it usually means you need to make changes to the way you start Python's Shell. See instructions below for Windows and Mac


  1. Find where you installed Python. Open Windows Explorer and navigate to that directory -- look for a subdirectory called "Lib" -- if you see that, you're in the right place. Make a note of the directory.
  2. Right-click your desktop, and select New ▶ Shortcut from the popup menu.
  3. Enter the following in the box where it says Type the location of the item (make sure that the directory you enter is the same as the one you noted earlier):
    c:\Python37\Lib\idlelib\idle.pyw –n
  4. Click Next to move to the next dialog.
  5. Enter the name as IDLE, and click Finish to create the shortcut.

Double-click on this icon to start IDLE (Python Shell) and see if it fixes your problem.

Mac OS

  1. Click the Spotlight icon, the small magnifying glass at the top-right corner of the screen.
  2. In the box that appears, enter Automator.
  3. Click the application that looks like a robot when it appears in the menu. It will either be in the section labeled Top Hit or in Applications.
  4. Once Automator starts, select the Application template:
    automator screenshot
  5. Click Choose to continue.
  6. In the list of actions, find Run Shell Script, and drag it to the empty panel on the right. You’ll see something like this:
    run shell script in automator
  7. Enter the following in the text box (everything from open to -n -- note that you may need to change the directory depending on the version of Python you installed.):
    open -a "/Applications/Python 3.2/IDLE.app" --args -n
  8. Select File ▶ Save, and enter IDLE as the name.
  9. Select Desktop from the Where dialog, and then click Save.

Find the new icon on your desktop and double-click on the icon to start IDLE (Python Shell) and see if your problem is resolved.


At time of writing, the main issue you might hit with older versions of Ubuntu (usually version 14.04 and older) will be an error about the tkinter module being missing. If you see this sort of error, open the Ubuntu Software Center and enter python-tk in the search box. "Tkinter – Writing Tk Applications with Python" should appear in the window. Click Install to install this package.