PBS KIDS ScratchJr

App review by
Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Media
PBS KIDS ScratchJr App Poster Image
Create with coding blocks and a mash-up of characters.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn how block programming works as they drag commands into place. They'll work with motion blocks and triggering blocks as well as control blocks, such as repeat for looping, to control the characters in their story. They'll develop creatively as they create their own narratives by directing the characters and create original drawings to incorporate into their programs. There's no step-by-step instruction, however, and no training modules, so it's more about the creative process. PBS KIDS ScratchJr does a nice job of combining storytelling, art, and coding to give kids a fun introduction to programming.

Ease of Play

Tutorials show how to play, but there's not a right or wrong way to play.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism

Link leads to other PBS Kids apps.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that PBS KIDS ScratchJr is a collaboration between PBS Kids and the MIT developers of the Scratch programming language, which was designed to introduce kids to coding. The story-making tool features characters from Wild Kratts, Peg + Cat, Nature Cat, and WordGirl, along with blocks of code that kids use to direct the characters' actions. No personal information is requested from kids, though geolocation data is collected. The privacy policy highlights all the information collected and how it's used.

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What's it about?

In PBS KIDS SCRATCHJR kids can start with a blank screen or choose a story starter. From the blank screen, they choose characters and backdrops or create their own and then click together commands to direct each character to jump, move, turn, look, and more. They can record custom sounds, too, to make their characters speak. The story starters have characters and backgrounds chosen along with preset commands, but kids can make changes to customize it. Projects are automatically saved.

Is it any good?

Favorite characters from familiar kids' shows work alongside kid-friendly block-programming language to introduce kids to coding. Kids will easily pick up on how to use the blocks to direct the characters, and the backdrops and story starters give them a jump start in creating their own programs. The options for creating custom scenes and characters extend the fun and educational opportunities beyond PBS Kids characters. The interface is a bit busier than other block-programming apps, so it may be overwhelming to some kids to be faced with so many choices. Also, if you're looking for coding instruction or training modules, you won't find it here; instead, it's more about the creative process and having fun. Parents who want their kids to focus on the programming aspects may want to guide kids to focus on the code blocks rather than simply moving characters with their fingers, which is possible (and fun) but does not reinforce learning to code.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the language of programming to help make sense of what kids are doing -- calling the repeating command "looping," for example.

  • After kids create a program, have them tell you a story to go along with it.

App details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love coding and STEM

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