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Choose the Best Programming Language for Your Child

Choose a Programming Language for Your Child

Thousands of languages and dialects are spoken around the world each day. While there aren’t quite as many programming languages in existence, with hundreds of options to choose from, it can be hard to determine which one is best for your child.

What is a Programming Language?

A programming language is a specific coded language that’s used to convey instructions to a machine—in most cases, a computer. Since 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 she is to get the computer to accomplish exactly what she wants in the quickest amount of time.

4 Methods for Choosing the Right Language

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 very similar to choosing which foreign language to study. Here are some of the ways you can go about choosing a language:

  1. 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 beautiful apps for his iPhone, he might want to study a language like Swift, which is the go-to for programming on iOS devices.
  2. 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 really easy 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Just choose. 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 language. If your child is interested in coding… just let her get started!

View All iD Tech Programming Courses >

Now that you know a little more about how to choose a coding language for your child, it’s time to dig into the different languages you can choose from. Here at iD Tech, we offer nearly 30 summer programming courses for kids and teens ages 6-18, spanning many programming languages. Keep reading for a short breakdown of the various languages your child could choose from.

Visual Programming Languages – Best for Getting Kids Excited About Coding (Courses for Ages 6–15)

With visual programming languages like Scratch, Stencyl, and Tynker, kids can drag and drop code blocks to animate characters, create games, and build apps. While these languages don’t teach the syntax that’s necessary in most coding languages, they provide a solid foundation of programming principles. Best of all, their simplicity gets kids excited about coding! Visual programming languages can be used to make interactive stories, games, and animations.

A screenshot of the visual programming language Tynker.

A screenshot of the visual programming language Tynker.

Great for:

  • Kids with no programming experience.
  • Showing kids how fun coding can be.
  • Teaching basic concepts, like problems solving and if-then thinking.

What your child could create at iD Tech:

  • A fun animated game or story.

Featured courses:

JavaScript – Best for Reaching a Bigger Audience (Courses for Ages 10–12)

JavaScript is an object-oriented and procedural programming language that’s used for front-end or client-facing applications, meaning that its actions are executed on the user’s computer. The language is very popular, supported by many users (and jobs!), and is native on all web browsers. JavaScript is most commonly used to make complex and interactive web applications. Though their names sound familiar, Java and JavaScript are two very different programming languages.

Great for:

  • 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, 2-dimensional game.

Featured courses:

Java – Best for Intermediate Students (Courses for Ages 10–18)

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 code 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 can be used to make game engines, Android mobile apps, large backend environments, and much more.

iD Tech Programming Tip

Great for:

  • Intermediate coders who want to strengthen their skill set.
  • Kids who want 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, mobile app, or a graphical program for a phone, depending on the course your child takes.

Featured courses:

Python – Best for Beginners (Courses for Ages 10–18)

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. (One of the downsides of statically typed languages is that they can be harder to debug, but this shouldn’t be a huge concern to your child when she starts out.)

Companies like Google and Disney use Python, and it is very popular in scientific fields, where individuals are scientists first and programmers second. This language can be used to create video games, web frameworks, and many scientific and numeric computing projects

Choosing a Programming Language: Java vs Python

A quick comparison between Java and Python.

 

Great for:

  • 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 who are interested in pursuing scientific fields.
  • Learning as a stepping stone to prepare for other languages.

What your child could create at iD Tech:

  • A text-based game, 2-dimensional game, or console application.

Featured courses:

C++ – Best for a Deeper Understanding (Courses for Ages 13–18)

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.

Great for:

  • Teens who want a complex understanding of programming principles.
  • Students who want to program in the Games Industry.
  • Your resume—jobs expect programmers to have a certain level of familiarity with C++.

What your child could create at iD Tech:

  • A text-based game, 2-dimensional game, or console application.

Featured courses:

C# – Best for Learning to Program While Making 3D Games (Courses for Ages 13–17)

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.

Great for:

  • 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 creative elements from scratch.

Featured courses:

Swift – Best for iOS Dev (Courses for Ages 13–18)

If you want to develop a native iOS app, you’re going to need to use Swift. Unveiled just a few years ago by Apple, Swift is a static language that was designed to be compatible with Objective-C. Swift is similar to languages like Python and Ruby in that it’s relatively simple to use and therefore should appeal to teen programmers. In addition to iOS mobile apps, Swift can also be used to create Mac applications.

Teen Programming Languages

Great for:

  • Students who are interested in creating an iOS mobile application.
  • Teens who have experience with Objective-C and want to try the latest and greatest.

What your child could create at iD Tech:

  • A unique iOS application

Featured course:

This Summer, 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 summer program. 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 Program Advisors. They help parents like you every day!