Scratch concepts and skills empower children to create incredible games, animations, stories, and more.
Scratch is an online coding platform that covers a wide range of coding concepts for kids using code blocks. To make their ideas come alive, Scratch coding teaches children some of the most fundamental coding concepts that even veteran programmers use daily.
In this article, we will cover 10 Scratch concepts and skills that kids can pick up as they move through various Scratch projects.
Explore Scratch concepts for kids
Let’s begin by covering five coding concepts found in Scratch: event listeners, sprites, motion, control, and variables. Each of these concepts are the foundation to most Scratch projects and are crucial if you want your young coder to create games or animations.
1. Event Listeners
Event listeners are code blocks that allow a program to run. The first event listener your child will learn to use is “when (green flag) clicked.” By starting with this event listener, Scratch waits for someone to click on the visible green flag found in all Scratch projects, in order to react.
It is important to have at least one event listener “when (green flag) clicked” so that Scratch knows the program is being asked to begin.
Sprites are characters or objects that a user can interact with. Sprites can also interact with each other, which is great when making an animation as opposed to a game.
The first time kids enter the Scratch coding world, they are automatically introduced to their first sprite known as Scratch the Cat. It’s important to learn what sprites are because it’s what a user sees in the frontend of a game or animation.
Motion is a concept in Scratch that allows for sprites to come alive. If your child is making a game that allows for the player to control a character or a tool like a paddle, without the motion code blocks, their sprite will not be able to move.
Most kids learn the motion concept the first time they try to make a character walk.
Control is a key concept in all Scratch projects. Under control, you find unique code blocks that will tell your sprites how to move, for how long, and what they need to do after their task is complete.
The majority of kids that first try to make their character move will discover that when they click the green flag, their character might only move once instead of the 10 steps they were expecting. Under control, we can find a code block called “forever” which will give the sprite the effect of moving on its own. Without control, sprites become static and uninteresting.
Variables are invisible (by choice) boxes capable of holding information that can be affected by a coder, a user, or other variables in the program. This concept becomes a game-maker’s best friend, as variables are used to keep track of high scores, sprite’s health meters, and just about anything that involves a number that can change.
The first time kids encounter variables will be when they are creating a game that involves keeping score of some kind, such as a ping pong ball hitting a paddle. Variables become increasingly important as young coders start to develop more complex programs.
Discover Scratch skills for kids
Now that we’ve covered a few scratch skills, let’s take a look at some skills that your kid can pick up when using Scratch.
6. Pattern Recognition
As kids use Scratch more and more, they eventually say something akin to, “Oh! That’s like my other project where we…” This is the point in a young coder’s life where they begin to recognize patterns more consistently. The more they code, the more they will realize that code often gets reused in other programs. In turn, this will cause them to code future projects faster, as working with similar patterned code blocks will be second nature to them.
Recognizing patterns in code is one thing. But sooner or later, kids will begin to discover what type of code they enjoy working with the most. This part of their journey is known as self-discovery. While some kids will like the back-end of things, dealing with variables, event listeners, and controls, others will prefer working with sprites, design, and visual aesthetics. The latter is known as front-end development. Scratch is not only used to create games; but also it can be used to create short animations. This is perfect for the front-end developer in kids.
8. Inquiry-Based Learning
Once coders know what kind of programer they enjoy being, they will then ask the famous question of, “I wonder what will happen if…?” This is a wonderful question to ask yourself as a coder because at this stage, you are learning by asking questions. It is the best kind of learning to do, as this type of learning is a higher order thinking skill. This skill not only applies to coding, but also it transfers to other aspects of their life as well.
9. Problem Solving
Coding is nothing if not finding a problem and solving it. There is even a name for doing that type of work: debugging. Problem solving is a crucial skill that feeds off of inquiry based learning. One of the most well known memes in the coding world is when a coder solves a problem in their sleep. Kids will be able to start thinking of creative solutions to bugs they encounter in their code.
10. Intrinsic Motivation
It is easy to work when someone offers up an incentive. It is more challenging to be intrinsically motivated to do something simply because you can or want to without a reward. Kids will develop intrinsic motivation skills as they find more and more success. When there is a halt in their progress, their pattern recognition, problem-solving, and inquiry based learning skills will kick in until they find success again. Small bursts of success create intrinsic motivation and it's a wonderful thing to observe in a kid. Even better, they will learn to apply this skill in other areas of their life as well.
Learn new Scratch concepts for kids
As explained, many Scratch concepts such as event listeners, sprites, and variables are easily picked up after just a few Scratch classes. These concepts, together with Scratch, will help your child develop transferable higher order thinking skills that will put them above your average outside-the-box thinker.
If you want your kid to become a young coder even if you aren’t sure if they’ll be interested in coding, have them try a free Scratch coding for kids class here. If your child is on the younger side (2nd or 3rd grade), learn more about fun ScratchJr project ideas for kids.
Written by Noe Monsivais, a lifelong learner with over 12 years of teaching experience. He is also the 2016 Teacher of the Year at Valley View Early College Campus. In 2000, he set a goal to learn one new skill yearly. He has kept up with this goal. All of these skills have formed an amalgamation of the person he is today: Señor Renaissance. To see the projects he is currently working on, follow him on Twitter @MrMonsi. B.A.E, Full-Stack Certified.