If you’ve been looking at coding programs for kids at all, you have likely heard about MIT’s online program called Scratch. It’s a massively popular beginner-friendly block-coding tool, with over 200 million students using it over the course of the last year alone. With so many students using the tool, you may be wondering: what grade level is Scratch for? There are a few different points to consider when answering this question, which will be elaborated on below.

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What grade level is Scratch for?

There are two different Scratch tools, each targeted at different age ranges. Scratch Jr. is for students grades pre-kindergarten to first grade, while Scratch is targeted primarily at students grades 2 through 8. Both tools utilize block coding and have similar functionality; however, Scratch has more advanced coding concepts than Scratch Jr. It should be noted that these ranges are not hard cutoffs, as advanced young students may be able to start off right with Scratch, and high school students with no prior experience can benefit from learning Scratch block coding too. With these tools, students are able to create their own games and animations.

Scratch is the best fit for these younger age ranges or those who have no coding experience because it utilizes block-based coding, as opposed to text-based coding. Text-based coding languages have complex syntax that is difficult for beginners to grasp, which can lead to unnecessary frustration. By utilizing block code, students can abstract this complexity away, and instead focus on fundamental concepts such as conditional logic, variables, functions, and more.

All these skills will transfer over to text-based languages like Python when they are old enough to use them effectively. If you still aren’t sure whether your child should take Scratch or Python, check out this article. This visual should also help you select the right language for starting your student out on their coding adventure.

How to select the best programming language for your student

Get started with Scratch free

Scratch and Scratch Jr. are both 100% free to use because they are supported by donations to Scratch Foundation. Students will have full access to all Scratch features (with no ads) forever! Scratch Jr. is a mobile app where as Scratch is better accessed via desktop.

Help your student set up their Scratch coding account for free by following these simple steps:

  1. Go to Scratch's website into your web browser.
  2. Click Join Scratch in the top right corner.
  3. Create a username. Keep in mind that if you choose to share your projects, others can see your username.
  4. Create a password. Make sure your password is unique and hard to guess. We wouldn’t want you to lose your hard work.
  5. Click next. Questions will pop up asking about your location, date of birth, gender, and email address.

If you would like a more comprehensive guide for creating a Scratch account, check out our article on the four steps to get started on Scratch.

How to code on Scratch

Then it’s time to start coding with blocks!

  1. To start coding, drag blocks from the toolbar and snap them together to create a program. There are different blocks for different functions, such as controlling the movement of a character or playing a sound.
  2. To test your code, click on the green flag button in the top right corner of the stage. This will run your program and show you how it looks and behaves.

Here is a brief overview of each category of Scratch blocks:

  • Motion blocks (Blue): These blocks allow you to control the movement of a sprite (character or object) on the stage. For example, you can use motion blocks to make a sprite move in a certain direction or go to a specific position.
  • Looks blocks (Purple): These blocks allow you to change the appearance of a sprite, such as by changing its costume or size.
  • Sound blocks (Pink): These blocks allow you to play sounds or music in your program.
  • Events blocks (Yellow): These blocks allow you to set up events that trigger your program to run, such as when the green flag is clicked or when a certain key is pressed.
  • Control blocks (Tangerine): These blocks allow you to control the flow of your program, such as by repeating a section of code or stopping the program.
  • Sensing blocks (Teal): These blocks allow you to create programs that respond to input from the user or the environment. For example, you can use sensing blocks to check if the mouse is clicked or if a sprite is touching another sprite.
  • Operators blocks (Green): These blocks allow you to perform mathematical operations or compare values in your program.
  • Variables blocks (Orange): These blocks allow you to create variables (named values that can change) in your program and use them to store and manipulate data.

Explore Scratch games

The best way to get a feel for Scratch coding is to get out there and try it! For students brand new to coding we recommend tackling these Scratch coding exercises first. Then, here are some examples of fun game tutorials for Scratch to try:

  1. Make a game on Scratch: This simple tutorial will walk you through making your first game.
  2. How to make a sprite jump in Scratch: Learn how to make any character jump - a feature you can add to any game or animation you want to create.
  3. Make a piano in Scratch: Love music? Give your hand at making your very own playable music device online.
  4. Make a Mario game: Everyone loves this classic video game! Create your own variation.
  5. Catch game in Scratch: Make a fun catch game on Scratch with any character, and keep score!

What grade level is Scratch for?

Scratch is a powerful, free block-coding tool that’s fantastic for introducing kids to fundamental coding concepts. Students can have fun channeling their creativity into games and animations, while learning important coding skills. Kids in Pre-K through 1st grade should utilize Scratch Jr, while those in 2nd grade and up should use Scratch. If Scratch seems like an interesting tool you’d like your student to try out, enroll in the free Scratch Ninja intro course at Create & Learn, to learn from live expert guidance and a curriculum designed by professionals from Google, Stanford, and MIT!

Written by Create & Learn instructor Dominic Occhietti. Dominic is a graduate of Michigan State University, where he studied music performance and computer science. He thoroughly enjoys teaching, whether that be coding classes, French horn lessons, or even downhill skiing lessons!