Yes, we’ve all heard coding is a big deal. Where do you start though? We’re going to run through simple free ways to get coding today.
After two years teaching kids to code, I’m convinced more than ever that the perfect starting place is a website called Scratch (www.scratch.mit.edu). I’ve seen eight year olds, eighteen year olds and many a parent have a great time exploring Scratch and creating their first project.
It’s universally popular because it can be whatever you want it to be - a place to make games, to make art, to create your own tutorials for others, and an arcade to explore the millions of shared scratch projects out there. It’s a place to translate creative ideas - for example, let's make that ball bounce and sparkle - into structured instructions dealing with colour, movement, logic, and maths.
Scratch is a website, where you can code characters - called sprites - to do something. Code is created by clicking together simple commands like turn, or move, or change size, to create sequences of actions. Think of it like an online version of lego with infinite possibilities.
But won’t it cost a lot to get my kids coding?
Scratch is totally free. No subscription, no free trial with a credit card that quietly slips over into a monthly charge, just straight up free. You can create an account to save your work, at no charge. No ads either. Sitting down today and exploring scratch with your child is a great holiday activity you’ll both enjoy.
Don’t I need to be technical myself?
You don’t need any sort of a tech background to dive into coding. We’re living in a golden age where free tutorials abound. The great thing about coding is that trial and error is a key part of developing a project. Nothing’s right the first time. Refining an idea and working on it incrementally leads to great results. Fear of failure is widespread amongst our children. Coding on scratch encourages them to explore, try different approaches, and learn from mistakes.
But I don’t want to install software on my computer.
No need. Scratch is simply a website that any modern browser (chrome, safari, edge, internet explore or firefox) can run. Sadly, it won’t work on ipads or tablets just yet - you need to be at a computer.
But I don’t know what to DO.
Luckily scratch comes with some starter tutorials to get you going. They’ll give you a taste of the potential of scratch. From there? Program a two player game with your kid and make sure you’ve got time to play together! How about using two characters in an animation to tell a knock knock joke? Is someone’s birthday coming up? Make an animated birthday greeting with sound, colour effects and a personal message. Have a favourite TV show? Make a quiz about it in scratch to challenge your friends.
Am I going to break my computer?
Hands up if when you think of coding, or programming, your fist thought is an image of a hacker in front of black screen full of green text infiltrating the CIA servers? Hollywood has a lot to answer for. Coding in Scratch is totally harmless. Nothing can happen to your computer by writing code in scratch! At best you’ll make an amazing project and have fun along the way. Worst case scenario - a few hours on a rainy day and you can now shrug and say “yeah, coding, I’ve done a bit.”
Let us know what you’ve been working on with your kids. Any great game ideas to share?