For kids learning to code for the first time there are few better tools than Scratch.

Scratch is a visual programming language that makes it easier for children to get started by offering a gentle introduction to the basics via a drag-and-drop interface.

The rewards when learning Scratch are more immediate than those offered when typically learning programming, for example, users can animate a cartoon character by slotting together blocks of commands and tweaking values that determine how far it should walk or turn.

Now the latest version of the Scratch desktop application, running Scratch 3, is available for the low-cost Raspberry Pi computer.

Scratch 3 revamps the look and feel of the visual programming language, rearranging the interface, offering new paint and sound editing tools, adding new types of code blocks, and making blocks larger and easier to read.

The Scratch 3 desktop application requires the latest version of the Raspbian operating system, based on Debian Buster. Due to being more demanding than earlier versions of the app, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is recommending users run it on a Raspberry Pi 4 with at least 2GB of memory. The app will run on earlier versions of the Pi, but the foundation warns of reduced performance and instability due to the constraints of the boards’ 1GB memory.

If you’re wondering what to do with Scratch 3, the Raspberry Pi Foundation and Coding Dojo have updated their Code Club projects — ranging from coding musical instruments to chatbots — to support the latest release.

Not only can Scratch be used to code software, the release for the Pi can also read data from sensors or control electronics attached to the Pi.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation guide to the new interface in Scratch 3.
Image: Raspberry Pi Foundation

This capability is thanks to a general purpose input-output (GPIO) extension that allows Scratch to interact with the Pi’s GPIO pins, as well as the simple electronics extension, and another extension for the Sense HAT add-on board, which offers code blocks dedicated to interacting with the board’s sensors, display and more. Further extensions that work with the micro:bit board and LEGO are planned at a later date, once Scratch Link software that allows Scratch to talk to Bluetooth devices is available for Linux-based operating systems.

The Pi Foundation has full instructions on how to get the Scratch 3 desktop app on the Pi.

You can check out TechRepublic’s review and benchmarks of the Raspberry Pi 4 here, along with an interview with Raspberry Pi co-creator Eben Upton.