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How to Use Scratch - A Guide for Parents to Help their Kids Learn Coding

How to Use Scratch - A Guide for Parents to Help their Kids Learn Coding

Parents love their kids to learn coding and programming. One simple way to start code learning is through the easiest programming language, Scratch. Here’s a guide for parents to help their sons and daughters see how to use Scratch and how to create a game on Scratch!

But first, let’s determine what Scratch is and what other things you can do with this program. 

What is Scratch? What can I do with it?

Scratch is a free online programming language that allows users to program their own projects, which you can share with others in the Scratch community. It is a block-based technology that allows learners to learn coding by creating projects on the web through the creative and block-like interface.

Using Scratch as a programming language with its online community, your kids can program their own interactive stories, animations, and games -- and share their project creations within the online community. From creating and sharing various Scratch projects, kids can think creatively, work collaboratively and reason logically. 

Who created Scratch?

Scratch was developed by the Scratch Team at the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT Media Lab and is continuously maintained by the same team of experts. This programming language is translated to over 70+ different languages, so people worldwide can definitely understand and use Scratch with ease. This free programming language is used by individual users and can be taught in after school care, elementary and high schools, and universities. 

In October 2020, there are more than 65 million users, with over 63 million projects created and shared in the Scratch community!

Fun fact: Did you know that the term Scratch was coined after the technique used by disc jockey's "scratching"? The vinyl records are attached in a turntable and manipulated to create different sounds, music, and effects. Like coding using Scratch, this programming language allows users to mix various media (sounds, graphics, etc.) in different ways to create or remix projects such as animation and games.

Who uses Scratch?

People of all ages can use Scratch! Anyone who has internet access can use this programming language anywhere in the world. You can use Scratch anywhere -- in homes, schools, libraries, offices and more. It is specially created for young people ages 8 to 16, but anyone can practically create and share with Scratch. 

For much younger users around ages 5 to 7, parents may want to try ScratchJr, a simplified Scratch version.

How to use Scratch?

When you go to the Scratch website or use their app, you will first see the Scratch interface. It is divided into three sections: the stage area, the block palette, and the coding area. 

Stage area. It contains the results from your project (animations, graphics, small or normal size, and full-screen feature. It also contains all the sprite thumbnails listed in the bottom portion. 

Block palette. It is an area that contains different blocks that you can mix and match. You can drag the different command blocks from the block palette and drop them into the coding area. 

Coding area. You arrange all the blocks into scripts to run the program by clicking on the Green Flag or in the code itself. 

There is also a Sounds Tab where you can attach different music and sounds into a sprite. The Costume Tab allows you to change the look of the stripe so you can create certain effects such as animation. You can use the stripes and backgrounds to create your stripe manually by choosing a stripe from the library and uploading an image. 

In Scratch 3.0, there are 12 categories of programming blocks. Kids can move these blocks based on their colours.

Categories of programming blocks in Scratch. 

Categories of programming blocks in Scratch. 

  Reference: Scratch 3.0 Technical Discussion 

How to make a game on scratch? 

Several games and animations are available on the Scratch page. Once they click on an activity, the Scratch page will introduce a tutorial video and two different PDF, such as coding cards and educator guide. 

As for the video, your child would learn how to create a Scratch game. They will receive a tutorial on how to make a game on Scratch step by step. The PDFs will also help your kid and educator to understand more about the background of the game. It would teach them well how to do the Scratch coding one at a time.

You can choose from a variety of games and animations throughout the page. Kids may try the following games, so please check out the activity that suits them well.

Animate a Game. If your kid loves to animate letters of their name, invitations, and favourite words or terms, they will enjoy animation. It would also allow them to learn simple techniques to create movements of a letter.

Make a Chase Game. Another exciting activity for kids is when you allow them to make a game that chases a character. Moreover, it would be extra interesting for children as the chase game includes score points.

Create a Story. If your child prefers to narrate a storyline, it would be great for them to create a Scratch story. This activity includes characters, conversation, and animation. 

Pong Game. Besides creativity, pong games would let kids enjoy bouncing ball games with corresponding points, sounds, and effects.

Video Sensing. Another fantastic game for children is sensing extension as it helps them to interact with the video game. 

Imagine a World. To help your child expand their imagination, it would be perfect for them to begin the Imagine a World game. Through this, any kid’s ideas can come to life.

Make Music. Besides arts and crafts, your child would enjoy making music using Scratch. They can add sounds, choose instruments, and even press keys to navigate more music.

Make It Fly. One thrilling game for kids is to make their characters fly. In this game, your child would enjoy their character’s flying adventure. 

Animate a Character. Besides the stories, music, and adventure, your child could also bring characters to life using animation. Other than those letters, characters are also possible to learn kids to Scratch coding. 

After choosing the activity for your child to try, you can now start with the tutorial. Help them understand the step by step instructions to build their character, games, and animation.

Other than the main pages, different Scratch coding activities are also present online. Some offer driving games, dress-up games, shooting games, room scapes, and other activities with different difficulty levels. 

Check out the Ideas page to know more about how your kids can get started with Scratch. They can choose to have a tutorial to help them create their first project or directly try it for themselves.

Is it Scratch easily to learn?

Scratch is easy and simple, making it possible for kids to learn it right away. With the simple drag and drop functionality, kids could begin understanding coding and programming. Moreover, they would be able to experience building new projects independently while enjoying their gadgets and laptops

Is Scratch for beginners? 

Beginners in the world of programming and coding can start learning with Scratch. It has simple instructions and tutorials that would help someone understand coding for the very first time. Moreover, the simplicity of Scratch would prepare kids and beginners for the complexity of coding and programming. 

In this case, it is better to understand the basics before jumping into more complicated features of coding, programming, and fields under computer sciences such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning

Other than that, beginners would quickly register coding principles using visual block programming rather than text-based programming. Through this, they understand how coding and programming work without too much pressure. 

Scratch is also capable of attracting kids and beginners’ interests due to its colourful blocks and various activities. As a result, they see Scratch coding as a lesson but a playtime. 

Scratch helps kids to see how coding takes place. It includes the scripting and formulation of codes. It also provides a different experience for users to connect codes and transform them into actions. 

For example, after the kid adds a code or instruction, the character in the Scratch game would move. Like coders and programmers, they create codes and programs that would give the computer commands to perform.

Not just that, Scratch coding also trains your child to acquire coding skills and life lessons such as problem-solving, computational thinking skills, maths, resilience, creativity and other essential 21st Century skills.  

As your kid understands this concept through Scratch coding, it would help them have a valuable head start to the world of coding and programming. 

What are the system requirements for Scratch?

Scratch will run in most current web browsers on desktops, laptops and tablets. You can also view your kids' Scratch projects on mobile phones, but creating or editing projects is currently unavailable on phones. Here is the list of officially supported browsers for the Scratch programming language.

  1. Chrome (63+)
  2. Edge (15+)
  3. Firefox (57+)
  4. Safari (11+)
  5. Internet Explorer is NOT supported.
  6. Tablet
  7. Mobile Chrome (63+)
  8. Mobile Safari (11+)

Note:

If your computer specs don’t meet the requirements above, you can try the Scratch app editor.

If you are using your tablets, note that you cannot right-click context menus and "key pressed" blocks.

If you encounter a WebGL error, try to use a different browser.

Are there extensions that I can install for Scratch?

Yes, there are extensions that you can use to add extra features and blocks when creating your projects. You can add software-based extensions like BBC Micro: bit, LEGO Mindstorm EV3, Video Sensing, LEGO Boost, LEGO Education WeDo 2.0, and much more.

Is there a downloadable version so I can create and edit Scratch projects offline?

Yes. There is a downloadable version of Scratch. The Scratch app (previously called Scratch Offline Editor) allows you to create projects without an internet connection. You can download the Scratch app on your desktop or laptop directly from the Scratch website. You can also download Scratch from the app store for your mobile and tablet devices.

Can I still upload the previous projects created with older versions of Scratch to the website?

Yes. You can still upload your previous projects created from the earlier versions of Scratch. Your kids can still view and play with their projects. Note: You can’t download projects made in later versions of Scratch and then open them using the earlier versions. For instance, you can’t open a Scratch 3.0 project using a Scratch 2.0 version on your desktop. It is because the Scratch 2.0 version doesn’t know how to read the .sb3 project file format.

How much does Scratch cost? Do I need a license?

Scratch is a free programming language. You don’t need a license to use Scratch in your home, school, or anywhere you want your kids to use it. The maintenance of Scratch is paid for by various grants and donations. You have the option to contribute to Scratch if you want. You can check out. Donate page for more information.

How can my child learn more about Scratch?

If you want to know more about how Scratch works and what can it do for your kids, you can read more about it in A Guide to Parents: What is Scratch Coding? Furthermore, you can also include Scratch coding books, workbooks and even download the game itself or play it on the browser.

However, to make the learning concrete and organise, you may enrol your child in a kids coding school like Skill Samurai. It offers after school coding classes for kids that highlights Scratch coding in levels 1 to 3. 

Learn more about the Scratch coding lessons of Skill Samurai here.