Scratch Coding Cards review: get your kids programming

Have you heard of Scratch? It’s one of the most popular ways that children have been learning to code in recent years: part programming language and part online community where kids can share their projects and get inspiration from others.

It’s a website – and a spin-off app called ScratchJr – where children create animations and games by dragging and dropping ‘blocks’ of code into their program, then running it to see what happens.

Scratch is great, but for children (and parents!) who haven’t used it before, it can feel a bit intimidating at first. Now there’s a new way in: a set of Scratch Coding Cards from educational publisher No Starch Press.

Scratch Coding Cards

The cards cost $24.95 in the US and £17.99 here in the UK, and were created by Natalie Rusk, who is a lead researcher on the team that created Scratch at the MIT Media Lab.

It’s a set of 10 tutorials presented not as a book, but as a deck of 75 laminated ‘activity’ cards. Each set focuses on a different project for children to work on within Scratch, from animating their name or creating a story to making Pong, catch and virtual pet games.

Each set comprises a title card, then a selection of cards for specific sub-tasks. For example, the ‘Animate Your Name’ set includes cards showing how to make a letter change colour; get bigger and smaller; spin when clicked; play a sound when clicked; move to a beat; glide around; and change when a key is pressed.

On the back of each card is a set of instructions taking children through the programming process. Everything is clear and easy to follow, but it’s just a starting point.

The fun comes when kids use this base knowledge to start experimenting with their own ideas. They might decide to put different characters in the race game, for example, or write their own story.

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This is a great set of tutorials to get up and running with Scratch, although one caveat is that most of them are already available for free on the Scratch website, via the ‘Tips’ section that pops out from the right hand side of the screen.

Still, having them in physical form next to the computer might be preferable for some children: it means they have more space on-screen for their program. These coding cards are a great way in to Scratch for anyone who’s new to the language.

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