Why Scratch is perfect for kids 7-10 to learn programming

Published by SG Code Campus
9 Aug 2019 · 5 min read

Scratch is a widely popular programming language for kids. But don’t just follow the crowd. Read on to find out what exactly is Scratch programming, how it is effective in coding education and why kids just keep coming back for more.

When kids start learning how to code, they will be entering a familiar yet strange world. Familiar because kids consume so much technology every day without any friction. Strange because this may be the first time they are being asked to produce technology, and not just consume it. So how do we ease them through this transition from technology consumer to creator? By choosing the perfect coding language to start this learning journey!

This article will focus on:

1. What is Scratch

2. The difference between Scratch 2.0 and Scratch 3.0

3. How does Scratch programming work

4. Why Scratch is perfect for beginner coders

If your child or teenager is older than 10, you should probably consider a different programming language to start with. You can read more about our recommendations on how to get your (older) child or teenager started on coding here.

What is Scratch?

Scratch is a free a block-based programming language created by the MIT Media Lab for children ages 7 and up. By enabling children to program their own stories, games and animations, Scratch is intended to help “young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively — essential skills for life in the 21st century”.

Scratch has both an online platform, as well as an offline editor. It is a programming language, a creative tool, as well as a community of Scratch creatives willing to produce and share their wide-ranging creations.

If you’re wondering what a block-based programming language is, and why blocks is the way to start the younger kids coding, we go into greater depth on blocks programming generally and the journey from blocks to python programming here. But here, the focus is on Scratch – the world’s most popular block-based language (so says the Tiobe Index)!

What’s the difference between Scratch 2.0 and Scratch 3.0?

The newest generation of Scratch is the Scratch 3.0 that was officially launched in January 2019. In a nutshell, here are the key differences:

  1. Scratch 3.0 is a more visually rich experience than Scratch 2.0 with a wider collection of built-in visual assets such as adorable sprites, costumes and background images.
Scratch 2 vs Scratch 3 differences
Scratch 2.0 vs Scratch 3.0
  1. Scratch 3.0 has more blocks, including new motion blocks (to increase the variation in how sprites can be controlled to move on the stage) and new extensions (Scratch 3.0 can now connect to micro:bit, text to speech, Lego Mindstorms and more!). Scratch 2.0 extensions were purely in Beta and not as stable.
Scratch 2 vs Scratch 3 differences
More motion blocks in Scratch 3.0 than Scratch 2.0
Scratch 3 extensions
Scratch 3.0 Extensions
  1. Scratch 3.0 is written in HTML 5 and JavaScript, which is the modern language of the web and therefore works much better for programming online within a web browser. Scratch 2.0 was written in Adobe Flash and therefore needed a Flash Player in order to work (which also meant it didn’t work with iOS devices like iPads and iPhones).
  2. Scratch 3.0 was a collaborative effort between MIT Media Lab and Google to redesign and recreate Scratch blocks based on Google’s Blockly (which we also use in Basics 1 to Basics 2 to control our beloved Dash robot!). Scratch 2.0 was developed by MIT Media Lab entirely in-house.

How does Scratch programming work?

Scratch programming at work
Drag code from the green area into the code editor and see it run in the stage (in red)!

When coding in Scratch 3.0, students would drag out code blocks from a drawer (outlined in green below) and drop them in an editor (the centre panel). These blocks would then be arranged in a sequence of code instructions. When they are ready to run their code, the children will get to see the output of their code right away on the stage (outlined in red). Based on the observed output, the kids can then test their code, or further develop it.

That’s all there is to it!

Why is Scratch perfect for beginner coders?

There’s a pretty straightforward answer to this question – these are the top 3 reasons why:

1. it’s easy

2. it’s fun

3. it’s robust

1. Scratch programming is EASY

It’s easy because all a young coder needs to do is to drag and drop the blocks in the order in which the child desires. The order of the blocks is the order in which the code will be executed by the computer. To further assist the young coder, the shape of each block already hints to the child how and when you can use each block. If there is a groove either on top or below, other blocks can connect with using that groove. If there are no grooves, then no connection is possible to that part of the block. The colours of the blocks also help young coders associate certain blocks with certain computing concepts.

Scratch block programming explained
Find the groves; understand the shape; interpret the colour; read the words.

2. Scratch programming is FUN

It’s fun because any code can be immediately demonstrated in real-time within the same interface. The stage is where all the action happens! In the recent upgrade to Scratch 3.0, the brilliant team at MIT Media Lab also added many adorable and endearing sprites which will capture the imagination of any child. Make them, talk, dance, laugh or sing – the possibilities are endless!

Scratch allows you to preview your work instantaneously
See your code come to life immediately!

3. Scratch programming is ROBUST

It’s robust because as a programming language, Scratch not only has rich and engaging features but it very strongly mimicks/resembles how full-featured, full-syntax languages like Python, JavaScript and Java work. Under the hood, Scratch 3.0 is made using JavaScript and HTML in a collaboration between MIT Media Lab and Google – so a product of only the best tech minds of the day!

So whether your 7 to 10 year old child is a budding artist, or an avid computer game designer or an aspiring animation creative, Scratch programming is the perfect place to start!

If you're convinced  but want to see more projects that kids can make using Scratch, you can check out more Scratch projects here!