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Scratch for parents and kids

Scratch is a drag-and-drop programming platform that makes coding fun. Even if you know nothing about programming, you can enjoy creating animations and games with Scratch. Here are a few pointers so that you can help your kids get the most out of this highly recommended STEM product. I recommend you test your child to see how many of these they know.

1) Blocks are colour coded based on their function.

Motion blocks are blue, blocks that altered the appearance of a sprite are purple, sound blocks are pink etc. So click on a category first to make finding the block you want faster.

Some of these catagories may seem a bit vague at first glance (like, what is control?). but the more you use Scratch, the more sense these catagories make.

Control blocks are all the blocks which control the flow of the script. If you want to repeat code, only run code under a certain condition or pause the code, you'll find what you need here.

2) What is a sprite?

A sprite is just an image that represents an item in the game. The player is a sprite, collectible items (such as coins and diamonds) are sprites, projectiles (like bullets or bubbles) are sprites, UI like buttons and text are sprites, and even the start screen and end screen can be created as a sprite. Sprites in Scratch can be drawn, uploaded or chosen from Scratch's bank of sprites.

3) Click it to see what it does

Any code block can be clicked to see what it does. Of course not every code block will do something (an empty forever loop for example will nothing forever).

4) Making scripts

A script is a "stack" of code blocks and all the scripts together make up a computer program. Scripts are read by the computer in the order that they are stacked (starting from the top). Scripts all start with a start block (such as when green flag is clicked) and you can run many scripts (although you will eventually have lag if you run too many).

5) Start blocks and end blocks have a different shape

Most of the code blocks have an indent in the top and a bump in the bottom so that they can stack together like lego. However start blocks (AKA hat blocks) are shaped differently to indicate that they must be at the top of a script. Also, forever loops cannot be connected to at the bottom because it will do what is inside the loop forever and never get to the code after it. Blocks that stop the script also cannot be added to.

6) Round blocks and long hexagonal blocks fit inside other blocks

Round blocks (AKA reporter blocks) all represent a value. this value could be a number or a string (letters). They can be dropped into any block that has a round hole to complete that block.

Long hexagonal blocks (AKA boolean blocks) all represent a true or false answer. They can be dropped into any block with a hexagonal-shaped hole to complete that block.

Finally, some blocks have drop-down menus inside them to give the kids options, some you can type a value and some you can use a color-picker.

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