All About Scratch - The World's Most Popular Programming Language For Kids

Updated: Apr 23


Scratch Logo with Cat

In the early 2000s, a group of researchers from the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab was working on developing a visual programming language for young children.


The research was being conducted at The MIT Media Lab, a research lab established in 1985 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the topmost tech universities in the world.


This team of researchers under the leadership of Mitchell Resnick, Yasmin Kafai, and John Maeda were awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a programming language that helps children learn and express themselves through writing code.


Finally, in 2003 came about the prototype of Scratch, a block-based programming language to help kids learn to code.


Creators of Scratch

Mitchell Resnick - Creator of Scratch
Yasmin Kafai - Creator of Scratch
John Maeda - Creator of Scratch

Do check out this great TED Talk by Mitch Resnick titled "Lets Teach Kids to Codes"

What is Scratch Programming?

Scratch is a block-based visual programming language that allows anyone to create programs through its drag-and-drop interface. Today children in around 200+ countries are using Scratch to create games, animation, and projects of all types. The language is available free of cost in over 70 languages and is today the world's largest coding community for kids.


As of December 2021, the Scratch has:

  • More than 92 million projects shared

  • By over 82 million users

  • Over 638 million projects ever created

  • And over 100 million monthly website visits

Early Days of Scratch

The First Version

After the first few years of being in prototypes, Scratch programming was launched for the public around 14 years ago in May 2007. This was based on Squeak, an object-oriented programming language based on SmallTalk-80 by a team of original developers from Apple and Walt Disney where it was meant to be used for some of Disney's projects. At this time, the interface has no categories as well as the green flag. The file extension for Scratch 1.0 and another later version 1.4 was *.sb

Scratch 1.0 Editor

Scratch 2.0

The second version of Scratch programming was launched around 8 years ago in May 2013. This was based on ActionScript, an object-oriented programming language created originally by MacroMedia Inc later acquired by Adobe Systems. This version saw the user interface of the Scratch editor change to a more user-friendly design and the Scratch editor was now available both online and offline. All the blocks were now arranged into categories. Among other improvements was the ability to create custom blocks. File extensions for Scratch 2.0 files were *.sb2

Scratch 2.0 Editor

Scratch 3.0

The latest version of Scratch programming has been around since January 2019. This is based on Javascript, the language of the web. The latest version saw a complete redesign of the user interface. Besides the new design, a lot of bugs from Scratch 2.0 were removed. Scratch 3.0 does not require Flash and is now compatible with many mobile devices making it more accessible. Many new blocks and extensions such as Text to Speech, Translate, Microbit, and Lego were introduced allowing children to do much more with Scratch and helping them transition from programming to physical computing.

Scratch 3.0 Editor

Scratch Jr

Scratch Jr was released in 2014 to help early learners aged years 5 - 8. The first version was for iPad and another version was launched in 2016 for Android users. The basic editor and programming concepts are based on Scratch.

Scratch Jr Editor

Why is Scratch so Popular?

Scratch is by far the most popular programming language for kids around the world. Since its public launch around 14 years ago, it is today used by young children from over 200 countries to create hundreds of thousands of projects every day. Today it is the world's largest coding community for children with millions of active users creating games, animation, projects, and digital stories on it every month.

In January 2022 alone, the Scratch website had over 50 million unique visitors that visited over 600 million pages.

So what makes it so popular:

  • Simple Visual Interface - Scratch is a visual block-based programming language that has an extremely simple user interface. The simple layout allows young learners to only focus on the logical aspect of creating programs without having to worry about the syntax. Scratch was possibly the first programming language to have such an easy interface making it popular.

  • Created for Children - Every programming language is created for a specific purpose. Javascript, the world's most popular programming language, is popularly known as the language of the web and is used to make web pages interactive. Similarly, HTML and CSS are popular programming languages used for giving structure and styling of web pages. Scratch was possibly the first programming created to teach kids to program. For this specific reason, the developers focused on creating a language that did not have any syntax so that the children could simply focus on logically solving a problem.

  • Available in 70+ languages - Children can choose from over 70 languages to write their code in the Scratch editor making it one of the most multilingual languages out there. This has helped increase its usage and acceptability amongst students all over the globe.

  • World's Largest Coding Community for Kids - Over the years, Scratch has evolved into the largest community of coding for young children making it extremely popular all over the world.

  • Focuses on All the Core Concepts of Programming - Scratch has different categories of blocks using which children can be introduced to all the core concepts of programming such as sequencing, variables, events, loops, conditionals, functions, etc. So through Scratch, children can learn the fundamentals of coding which are common across all languages. This helps create a strong foundation for them when they transition to other languages such as Javascript or Python.

  • Fun Software Extensions - In addition to the core Scratch editor, it also has a host of extensions such as:

  • Music - Add music, play instruments and drums

  • Pen - Draw and add creatives along with your sprites

  • Video Sensing - Sense motion using the camera of your computer

  • Text to Speech - Created by Amazon Web Services, this extension allows you to add a voice in a lot of popular languages including Hindi to your projects.

  • Translate - Created by Google, this extension allows children to translate text into many languages.

  • Bridges the Gap Between Software & Physical Computing - Scratch is not just amazing at helping children learn the foundations of programming but is also the perfect tool to help them move from software to physical computing. In addition to a host of extensions shared earlier, it has some great extensions that help kids transition to physical computing without worrying about complex syntax. These extensions are:

  • Makey Makey - Helps a child convert almost anything into an input device

  • Micro:bit - Helps connect the projects created by a child with the world

  • LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 - Helps build interactive robots and many other projects with compatible LEGO kits

  • LEGO BOOST - Helps bring Lego robots to life

  • LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 - Children can use this extension to build using motors and sensors

  • Go Direct Force & Acceleration - Created in collaboration with Vernier This extension helps you create projects that sense push, pull, motion and spin

  • Free for Life - Scratch was created by MIT Media Lab to keep it free forever so that young learners all over the world can benefit from it irrespective of their financial limitations. Learning code can be a life-changing skill and therefore a language available free helps young learners who are keen to learn.

Why Should Children Learn to Code in Scratch?

Scratch programming has many benefits for children such as:

  • Scratch Teaches Life-Skills - Learning Scratch online or through Scratch download helps children learn important life skills such as:

  • Problem Solving

  • Reasoning & Creativity

  • Teamwork & Collaborative Working

  • Computational Thinking

  • Scratch is Enjoyable - Creating projects, animation and games in Scratch is an enjoyable activity that lets children express themselves creatively. All the Scratch versions have been popular however it has taken off since Scratch 2.0 and Scratch 3.0 came about. Scratch download is convenient for children in low connectivity areas.

  • The Future is Technology - With the use of technology almost everywhere, one can only imagine that the future will be even more tech-driven. To prepare them for this future, children need to be imparted with the right skills such as coding. Scratch helps you take that first step.

  • The Jobs of the Future will be Different - Children in school today will go on to work 10-15 years later and the nature of jobs will be very different then. All traditional jobs change and will prefer people with technical skills as compared to those without them.

  • Better Academic Performance - Studies have proved that children who code regularly outscore their peers who don't by up to 30% on average. Educators in many countries have been regularly including Scratch in their classes resulting in an overall improvement in the grades of the entire class.

How Can Your Child Start Learning Scratch?

There are many different resources if you want your child to start learning Scratch.

  • Scratch Online Editor - One of the most popular and easy ways to start coding in Scratch is through the Scratch Online Editor on the Scratch website. The Scratch Online Editor has an easy user interface for first-time users. The website also has many other resources such as tutorials as well as millions of studios and projects created by other Scratchers. All you need is good internet and a popular browser such as Chrome or Firefox.

  • Scratch Offline Editor - A lot of children across the world do not have access to the internet and are not able to access the online editor. For all such students, Scratch provides an option for Scratch download through which they can download and install an offline editor and create amazing projects on their computers even when offline.

  • Starting From Scratch - We at CodeTigers have one of the best Scratch courses available online free of cost. The beginner-friendly course is ideal for children who have never coded and equally good for those who have some experience. This 10-hour course is available on Youtube. You can start by checking out the first episode below.

Scratchers in India vs Rest of World

The table below shows the number of young Scratchers in India vs some other countries. Scratchers is a fun term used for young coders who use Scratch.

​Country

​Number of Scratchers

​USA

​28.8 million

UK

4.9 million

China

3.1 million

Poland

2.9 million

Australia

2.6 million

Spain

2.3 million

India

1.3 million

All the above numbers are updated till Jan 2022.


Conclusion

Since its origin in 2003 and its subsequent public launch in 2007, Scratch has evolved as the number one programming language for kids in the world. Every day thousands of kids all over the world create projects, games and animation. Scratch programming helps them express their creativity and learn skills that are important for life. Encourage your child to start learning code by Scratch programming. It's fun, free and futuristic.

 

CodeTigers is a premier ed-tech startup based out of New Delhi, India focused on

Making Young India Code-Literate.


We work on these 3 tenets:

  • Provide World's Best Coding Courses

  • At Affordable Prices

  • Through India's Most Experienced Mentors

Over the years, we've helped thousands of children in K12 across the world fall in love with programming.


CodeTigers is the First International Partner of Code.org in India and possibly the Second Largest Partner of Raspberry Foundation in India after the Government of Orissa.