Learning to code can seem intimidating a first, especially for kids who are just getting started! Fortunately, there are plenty of options out there and a range of languages for every skill and experience level.
In this guide, we’ll break down the advantages, level of challenge, and unique capabilities of each coding language.
Best Kids Coding Languages for 2021
If you’re wondering, “what’s a programming language?” don’t worry, you’re not alone.
A programming language is a specific, coded language used to convey instructions to a machine—in most cases, a computer. Because machines work in a specific way, programmers must use formal languages to communicate with computers and develop software programs, express algorithms, or provide specific instructions.
The better a programmer understands one of these languages (including its syntax and grammar), the more likely they're able to get the computer to accomplish exactly what they want in the quickest amount of time.
Keep in mind, while there are some things you can do to accelerate the process and learn programming fast, relatively, it's not unlike other interests and crafts. Learning to code requires dedication and iterations to reach your goals. The first step, though, is choosing a language.
Here are the best coding languages for kids, followed by detailed descriptions for each, and suggestions in terms of the best coding classes for kids:
1. Scratch & other visual programming languages:
Best to get kids excited about coding
When it comes to coding for kids, visual programming languages like Scratch provide a solid foundation of programming principles, with kids being able drag and drop code blocks to animate characters, create games, and build apps.
Best of all, their simplicity gets kids excited about coding! Visual programming languages can be used to make interactive stories, games, and animations.
- Kids who don't have programming experience and/or are younger
- Showing kids how fun coding can be
- Visual learners
- Teaching basic concepts, like problem-solving and if-then thinking
What your child could create at iD Tech: A fun animated game or story!
Featured courses and lessons:
- Scratch Tutoring (ages 7-9), Online Private Lessons
- Scratch Game Design with Visual Coding (ages 7-9), Virtual Tech Camps
Best for reaching a web audience
- Students who are interested in web development and design
- Kids who want to start learning the fundamentals of programming
What your child could create at iD Tech: A web-based, two-dimensional game!
Featured courses and lessons:
3. Java (Minecraft coding language)
Best for intermediate students
Java is one of the most widely used programming languages in the world, with analysts saying that about 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies leverage Java. So it’s a great option for students who want a rich understanding of coding that can be built upon for years to come.
Java is a statically typed language, meaning it requires you to specify a variable type. While this means that apps built with Java are known to be more scalable, stable, and maintainable, it also means that Java can take longer to master than other languages.
Java is good for kids because it can be used to make game engines, Android mobile apps, large backend environments, and much more.
- Intermediate coders who want to strengthen their skill set
- Kids to learn Java principles through a fun game like Minecraft
- Teens who are preparing to take the Computer Science AP Exam
- Teens who want to develop a strong understanding of programming concepts
- Patient students who don’t mind taking time to learn the language’s syntax
What your child could create at iD Tech: A text-based game, app, or graphical program, depending on the course!
- Minecraft Modding with Java Online Private Lessons (Ages 10-19)
- Java Tutoring Online Private Lessons (Ages 10-19)
- Coding Apps with Java Virtual Tech Camp (Ages 13-19)
4. Lua (for Roblox)
Best for game programmers
Created in Brazil, Lua (which means "moon" in Portuguese!) is a lightweight coding language designed to be embedded in applications. It's a multi-paradigm language, meaning it has a set of general features that can be applied to many issues. With a short learning curve (like Python, below), ease of embedding, and rapid execution, it's an ideal choice when it comes to learning how to code a game.
In fact, Lua was the most popular language to use in game engines, according to GameDev.net, and it won the Gamasutra Frontline award for best programming tool. The number of developers using Lua is steadily increasing, which means your student can pick up a tool that can serve them across a number of careers; Adobe Photoshop, World of Warcraft, and Angry Birds all utilize Lua code. (Learn more about Roblox coding for kids, specifically.)
- Kids and teens who want to pick up a language quickly
- Students interested in game programming
- Getting knowledge in a language that spans careers
- Learning how to make an Obby in Roblox!
What your child could create at iD Tech: A 3D world in the wildly popular online game called Roblox. They can publish their worlds to the Roblox site and even monetize their creations!
- Roblox and Lua Coding: Online Private Lessons (Ages 7-19)
- Roblox Game Design: Make Your Own Obby : Virtual Tech Camp (Ages 7-9)
- Roblox Game Design: Coding and Monetization: Virtual Tech Camp (Ages 10-12)
Best for beginners (and for versatility!)
Named after the comedy series Monty Python, Python is considered one of the easiest coding languages to learn, in part because of its simplified syntax and focus on whitespace. Python requires fewer lines of code to get up and running, so even beginners can start creating relatively quickly.
Companies like Google and Disney use Python, and it’s very popular in scientific fields, where individuals are scientists first and programmers second. This language can be used to develop video games, web frameworks, and many scientific and numeric computing projects.
- Kids and teens who want to get their ideas up and running in little time
- Creating easy-to-read code that looks a lot like regular English
- Students interested in pursuing scientific fields, especially artificial intelligence
What your child could create at iD Tech: A text-based game, a two-dimensional game, a console application, or a cybersecurity program.
- Python Tutoring Online Private Lessons (Ages 7-19)
- Python Coding and Intro to Machine Learning Virtual Tech Camp (Ages 13-19)
- Advanced Python Coding with Machine Learning & Cryptography 2-Week Virtual Academy (Ages 13-19)
And now that you've read about the two languages, check out the comparison of Scratch vs. Python.
Best for a deeper understanding of computer science
Pronounced “see plus plus,” this programming language is used to create applications that run locally on machines such as your computer.
Despite the time and complexity required to learn C++, this language will provide teens with a very deep understanding of programming. C++ can be used to create systems software, games, and a variety of other programs.
- Teens who want a complex understanding of programming principles
- Students who want to program in the gaming industry
- Your student’s résumé—jobs expect programmers to have a level of familiarity with C++
What your child could create at iD Tech: A text-based game, a two-dimensional game, or a console application.
- C++ Game Programming with Algorithms and AI 2-Week Virtual Academy (Ages 13-19)
- C++ Tutoring Online Private Tutoring (Ages 10-19)
Best for learning to program while making 3D games
Pronounced "see sharp," C# is an extremely popular programming language that’s used to develop most third-party applications for Windows. It’s the fourth most in-demand programming language for jobs, and can be a great starting language for people who are new to coding.
Syntactically, C# is very similar to Java, so experience in using one of these languages will make it easier to pick up the other. C# has even been called the Microsoft clone of the Java language. It can be used to create web applications, games, and other programs.
- Students who are interested in creating applications for Windows
- Teens who have Java experience and are looking to learn a similar language
What your child could create at iD Tech: We leverage C# in the Unity environment to teach your teen how to create a video game without having to create most of the elements from scratch.
- Unity with C# Tutoring Virtual Tutoring (Ages 13-19)
- Hackathon: Team-Based App and Game Development 2-Week Virtual Academy (Ages 13-19)
So with all of that, how do you go about making your coding language selection?
How to choose the right programming language
- Choose based on output
- Choose based on transferability
- Choose based on skill level
- ...Just choose!
Many students are required to study a foreign language at some point in their academic career. So how do you decide which foreign language to choose? Will it be Spanish or German? Mandarin or Cantonese? Or maybe even Swahili?
Choosing the right programming language for your child is similar. Here are some of the ways you can go about it!
Choose based on output
If your child is planning for a long vacation in Germany, he might want to study German. Similarly, if your child dreams of designing video game elements, he might want to study C++ or Blueprints, which is Unreal Engine’s visual coding language.
Choose based on transferability
People often recommend studying the romance languages, as they all come from the same root language, and learning one of these languages can make it easier to learn the others. Similarly, sometimes learning one programming language, like Java, can set you up to learn others more quickly and efficiently down the line.
Choose based on skill level
Learning to write in Spanish, which features an English-like alphabet and grammatical structure, is much easier than learning to write Japanese kanji, which includes thousands of unique characters.
Likewise, learning a coding language like Python is great for beginners, as it’s easier to get up and running without worrying as much about syntax.
Sometimes there’s no clear direction on what language your child should start out using. That’s okay! Students can learn important programming principles from any coding language, so you don’t need to worry about choosing the wrong one. If your child is interested in coding, just let them get started!
Give your child a creative edge!
There are numerous reasons why kids and teens should learn to code. Improve your child's computational thinking skills, creativity, and if-then reasoning with a week of programming instruction at an iD Tech program, with a wide range of summer programming courses for kids and teens ages 7–18 (and online coding courses for kids and teens), spanning many coding languages.
(Available Now! Spring break camps for kids and teens. )
While this guide should give you a good understanding of which programming languages might be the best fit for your child, remember that when in doubt—just choose!
Every one of these languages will help students better understand programming principles and get excited about coding. For more help selecting a course, you can reach out to our Camp Specialists. They love helping families like yours every day!