10 things to try right now with your child on Scratch and ScratchJr

PHOTO CREDIT: PBS SoCal (KOCE)

By Saskia Leggett, Scratch Outreach Manager, and Kaitlyn Leidl, DevTech Research Lab Program Coordinator at Tufts University

Creating projects with Scratch and ScratchJr can be a way to reflect on experiences that you and your family have shared. Here are 10 things to try with your Scratchers right now before you get ready for the next school year. Use these hands-on activities and accessible tips to dive into new and creative projects together!

Things to try on Scratch

1. Browse the Getting Started page

Aptly named, the Getting Started page is a great place to start! This resource includes 12 Scratch project tutorials, each with an accompanying educator guide and set of downloadable, free Activity Cards (see #2). On this page, you’ll also find a link to Scratch Starter Projects, which you and your child can remix to add your ideas.

Try this: Use the Animate Your Name tutorial and to create a lively project that makes your nickname, surname, or initials come to life!

2. Download Scratch Coding Cards

The activities on the Scratch Coding Cards provide an “inviting entry point into Scratch”, corresponding with the 11 tutorials on the Getting Started page. As noted on the Scratch Store site, “each card includes step-by-step instructions for beginners to start coding with Scratch. The front of the card shows an activity kids can do with Scratch — like animating a character or keeping score in a game. The back shows how to put together code blocks to make the projects come to life!”

Try this: Download the entire set for free, or purchase a boxed set on the Scratch store.

3. Participate in Scratch Camp

From July 24th to August 13th, Scratch is hosting an online “camp” that invites Scratchers to create, animate, remix, and share. During this year’s camp, themed “Down Deep,” you and your child can design deep-sea creations of anything you might find in the ocean, like a monster from the depths, a cute little starfish, a taco-eating shark, or anything else you can imagine. The camp takes place in three parts, where participants are invited to create an aquatic character, animate it, and create a project that incorporates others’ sea sprites.

Try this: Create a project with a deep-sea character and submit it to the Main Camp Cabin Studio.

4. Explore the community

Get inspired by what the community is creating! Browse trending, popular, and recent projects in the Scratch community by visiting the Explore page. You can search projects and studios by category, such as “art”, “stories”, or “tutorials”. Try out other Scratchers’ projects, see inside the projects for insight into interesting animations or effects, and try creating your own projects.

Try this: Visit the “Games” category on the Explore page and check out another Scratcher’s game. Discuss ways you might add to or modify the game, such as changing sprites or adding levels, then remix it and make it your own.

5. Remix a project

On Scratch, you can remix other Scratchers’ projects to build upon and modify ideas. First, search for things that you and your child love on Scratch (like “tacos” or “cats”). Then, choose an interesting project, click “See inside” and then “Remix”, and add your own features and flair. Make sure to modify the original project in some way and credit the original Scratcher before you share your work!

Try this: Check out Scratcher StormyRaven’s Remixable Projects studio to remix a project by drawing your own sprites, experimenting with the code, or adding sound!

Things to Try on ScratchJr

1. Try out the activity cards

Even though ScratchJr is available as a tablet application, there are many free learning and teaching resources on www.ScratchJr.org! A great way to start coding with ScratchJr is to follow the steps on one of our many ScratchJr activity cards. Each printable card walks through how to create a scene in ScratchJr, integrating more and more complex blocks and programming concepts. These cards also include creative ideas for expanding the story, and are a great way to get started on a project!

Try this: Start out with the Drive Across the City activity card to learn how to make characters move a certain distance. From there, you can create a story set in a city!

2. Explore sample projects

Have you ever tried tapping the big “question mark” button in the ScratchJr app? When you do, you will find 8 sample projects provided by the ScratchJr team, meant to showcase all the creative ways you can code in ScratchJr. Watch these to brainstorm ideas, learn the function of unique blocks, and discover ways to incorporate creative storytelling into your projects.

Try this: Check out the “Friends” sample project to learn creative ways to program a “choose your own adventure” story!

3. Create with the Paint Editor

The majority of characters that are used in ScratchJr projects are actually created with the Paint Editor tool. The Paint Editor allows programmers to show their creativity by editing the appearance of characters and backgrounds in the ScratchJr library, or creating new ones altogether. Use this tool to rename characters and backgrounds, change their color, take pictures and use them as characters and backgrounds, and more!

Try this: Add yourself into your story by tapping the paintbrush icon at the top of the character list screen. Draw a shape, like a circle or a square, and tap the camera icon on the right side of the Paint Editor. Tap inside the shape to activate your device’s camera, and take a picture of yourself to add as a character!

4. Incorporate screen-free activities

Programming with ScratchJr takes place on-screen, but that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate screen-free activities to enhance learning! For example, brainstorming techniques like storyboarding and collaborative planning can be done with paper and pencil before beginning to create programs in ScratchJr. Our large printable blocks can also be used to learn how to put together programs before trying them on the app!

PHOTO CREDIT: Lisa Harrison
PHOTO CREDIT: Stephanie Bullock

Try this: Using the large printable ScratchJr blocks, play a game of “Simon Says” by putting together syntactically correct and incorrect program sequences and having your kids act them out! This is a great screen-free activity to get them moving and learning how to put together working programs at the same time!

5. Experiment with new blocks

Within the six categories of programming blocks in ScratchJr, there are many opportunities to incorporate more advanced coding concepts into projects. If you have never used a certain block before, or if you aren’t sure about a block’s function, the best thing to do is try it in a program! Use the block descriptions page on the ScratchJr website to help guide your understanding about each unique block.

Try this: Have you ever wanted to create your own video game? Try using different yellow Triggering Blocks like “Start on Tap” and “Start on Bump” to control when characters do certain actions to make your own game! You can even create your own “joystick” by drawing directional arrow characters in the Paint Editor, and programming them to only start their action when tapped!