If you’ve been in any way involved with CoderDojo or have just happened to search for the phrase “coding for kids”, you will undoubtedly have come across a game called “Scratch”. This is the software of choice used by most coding mentors to introduce kids to the concepts of coding. Scratch Junior is it’s little brother; an an intuitive programming language aimed at children aged 4-7 years and available on Android and iOS. If you are a PC / Macbook fan check out this article on running the app on your desktop system. There really is a great amount of flexibility with Scratch Junior.
Young players create animations and simple games by tapping, selecting and arranging the coloured blocks of simple code to make the fun characters move, make sounds and disappear. There are definitely many opportunities to learn and explore with Scratch Junior.
Setting Up Scratch Junior
After installing the app and starting a new project your child will be greeted with a simple interface. On the left side of the screen you will see the sprite panel, initially containing only the Scratch Junior character. In the middle of the screen is the stage. The pages area is located on the right. Each page has its own set of characters and a background. Finally, the lower section of the screen contains the programming palette and other instructional blocks of code. I’m intentionally not going to explain all sections of the interface here as I want you to download the app and start the explore yourself!
Additionally, an extensive library of characters is available by clicking on the plus icon below Scratch Junior characters. Each character can also be transformed by selecting the brush icon located on the top right of the graphics editor character screen. Once editing is completed, tap on the tick button (or the x button).
Having set up our character, it may be fun to select a background. Select the backdrop image above the stage and pick your favourite. You could also draw your own!
If, upon editing, that you decide that the character is not useful, it can be removed by holding your finger on the image and selecting the red X that pops up. The character will disappear.
Cool! Now we have prepared our scene and it’s time to code. Take note of which sprite you have selected – its image will be marked with a yellow border. We will place the code in a horizontal fashion joining different coloured blocks. Scratch Junior offers six different types of blocks as shown below. Try each one out! You and your child will have fun working out how blocks fit together (or not!) and seeing different combinations come to life in your characters.
Scratch Junior really is a great way to expose younger kids to programming concepts like sequencing and conditional statements. It really is fantastic! The friendly, simple and colourful layout, coupled with a very intuitive interface will ensure that the little ones will cope well with the application.