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Today we are going to be reviewing one of my favorite apps to teach kids coding. The Scratch Jr app is perfect for kids age 5-7 who want to learn the basic concepts of coding. We’ll go through the easiest way to get started with scratch programming for kids.
ScratchJr. It is built off of the online platform similarly named, (Scratch) but is much friendlier for the youngest coders. Scratch coding was a collaboration project with MIT, and is very innovative when it comes to getting kids engaged in coding.
The Scratch App hits all the marks for me and my kiddos. They love the characters, easy-to-use platform, and the ability to record their own voice. I love that it is available on Apple, Google, Android, and Amazon devices and that it’s FREE! (One note – ScratchJr is NOT available for iPhone – just iPads)
How to get started with Scratch Jr
Teaching your kids to code with ScratchJr is as easy as downloading the app! My boys were able to figure things out pretty quickly, but there are also intro videos and sample projects kids can look at to get inspiration from.
When you open the app, you have the choice of clicking on a home, or a question mark. If you have not used ScratchJr before, you might want to click on the question mark. This “tips and hints” page might be helpful as well!
It was my experience that while I wanted to be sure I was “doing things the right way”, my boys were willing to just play. There are so many way to teach kids coding, so I just went with it. They had a blast! I don’t think any of us could recreate what they came up with, but it sure was fun!
Once I gave up on trying to take them through the app step-by-step, they were adding, changing, and exploring on their way to ScratchJr professionals! If you are someone who (like me) would like some kind of process to follow, here you go:
Step By Step Instructions for the Scratch Junior App
- Tap on the house to open your projects page.
- Tap on the empty canvas with the plus sign to open a new project.
- Take a look at the top of the screen – this is where the scene is set – and where you can adjust it. You can change the background, apply a gird layout, add text, or reset everything.
- The left-hand side is for your characters. (Scratch calls them “Sprites”) You should see a cat there to start off with. You can personalize him by clicking on the paintbrush icon. You can also add more “sprites” by hitting the plus button under the cat. There are lots of options to choose from!
- The right-hand side is for your scenes. You can add or take away scenes as you would like. This is getting into some more advanced coding blocks, so feel free to leave this alone to start off with.
- The bottom of the screen is the actual coding blocks. This is where you can add start, movement, sizing, sound, repeating/time-based or ending blocks. If that seems like too many choices, know that you can tap and hold on any block to make its purpose appear overhead.
- Start adding blocks! Once you have a sequence of blocks in your coding area, simply tap the first one to see what the movements you have created look like!
- Add a “Start” block at the beginning, then an “End” block at the end. This way, you can add more than one character, and they all will start at the same time! Simply click the green “start” flag at the top of the screen to start everyone at once!
Now, there are a whole host of other things you can do with ScratchJr. If you click over to the “Teach” tab, you will find activities that can help expand your little coder’s skills. (Or yours, no judgment here!)
Whatever you choose to start with, know that ScratchJr is a great way to get your child started with coding. The coding blocks are a great precursor to the more advanced Scratch platform, and the creativity will keep little ones engaged and having fun. How will you Use ScratchJr to Teach Your Kids to Code? What are you most excited to try first?
Other Programming and Coding Apps We Love
When I consider that teaching kids to code is a long-term process, I tend to look for apps that are a one-time purchase so I am not continually spending. Free is, of course, even better!
I also check to make sure that whatever app I am looking at is compatible with many different devices. Even though we may have an iOS device right now, (iPad or iPhone) we might switch to an Android device or even a Chromebook eventually. I like the idea of a programming app or coding app that my kids can use on any kind of device.
Katie is mom of two rambunctious boys and a self-proclaimed super nerd. With a background in neuroscience, she is passionate about sharing her love of all things STEM with her kids. She loves to find creative ways to teach kids computer science and geek out about coding and math. You can find her blogging at Teach Your Kids Code.