Best Programming Languages for Kids

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Published October 12, 2022

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Getting programming experience at an early age offers many benefits for children. Explore some of the best programming languages for kids.

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Learning basic coding languages for kids can improve math, creativity, and problem-solving skills. It can also help children begin to develop an in-demand technical skill set for future education or job endeavors.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects much-faster-than-average growth for computer and information technology occupations between 2021 and 2031. Basic coding skills and an understanding of how programming languages work can prepare kids to consider a future STEM career.

This guide explains why you should consider helping your child learn to code and highlights some of the best kids programming languages. Use our list to decide which programming language is the best place for your child to start.

The Connection Between Coding and Programming

People sometimes use the terms "coding" and "programming" interchangeably. In fact, the two are related but different.

Coding is a subset of programming. Coding uses programming languages to translate directions into something a computer can understand. Programming creates the instructions that tell a computer how to follow the directions.

Coding Versus Programming
Coding Programming
Knowledge Required Basic knowledge of programming languages Advanced knowledge of programming languages, website design, algorithms
Sample Tools Used Text editor Text editor, code editor, assembler, debugger, Integrated Development Environment (IDE), etc.
Programming Languages Used JavaScript, Python, PHP, etc. JavaScript, Python, PHP, etc.
Goal/End Product Completes a specific goal or task. For example, changing font colors or animating a picture. Creation of a piece of software or an application.

Top Programming Languages for Kids

We researched the top kids programming languages to find some of the best options for beginners. These coding languages made the list because they are easy to learn, readily available, and include kid-friendly features. We also prioritized free, open-source options.

To find the right coding language for your family, think about your child's age, interests, and abilities. Some of the coding languages described below are appropriate for children as young as five, while others may be better suited for slightly older kids. All of the programming languages included are beginner-friendly.

This is not a ranking, but an alphabetical list of some of the top kids coding languages to consider for your child.

Java

Java is a fast, powerful programming language used for software engineering, app development, and Android devices.

Kids might be interested to learn that Java built the applications for Minecraft, Twitter, and Spotify. They can use Java to make their own mobile apps for an Android environment.

Choosing Java for your child's first programming language is a good way to set them up for success later on. Although a bit more difficult to learn than some of the other kids programming languages, knowing Java makes it easier to learn other programming languages.

Many websites provide educational training and resources for children wanting to learn Java. There is also a large online community of Java experts and users who can answer questions. You can download and run Java for free on a computer, smartphone, or tablet.

Although some kids as young as about seven can pick up Java, it is an advanced language that may be more appropriate for slightly older children with good reading comprehension.


  • Why it's Great for Kids: Good foundation for learning other programming languages.
  • Ideal Age Range: 7 or 8 and up
  • Level of difficulty: Moderate

Lua

One of the best basic coding languages for kids, Lua is easy to learn. Created in 1993 in Brazil, Lua is a powerful open-source programming language known for its simplicity, speed, and portability.

A simplified text-based programming language designed to reduce the chances of errors, Lua is sometimes compared to Python. If you are looking for an easy way to introduce text-based programming languages to kids, Lua is a strong choice.

Developers used Lua in robotics and to create well-known video games like Angry Birds and Roblox. There are many Roblox tutorials that can teach children how to use the Lua programming language.


  • Why it's Great for Kids: Very simple to learn
  • Ideal Age Range: 9 and up
  • Level of difficulty: Moderate

Python

Python is an easy-to-learn general programming language used in robotics, artificial intelligence, data science, and video games. It is accessible for beginners of any age, including children.

Python's intuitive syntax makes it easier to read and understand than some other coding languages. An open-source coding language, Python is free.

It incorporates simplified text-based commands and is similar to writing plain English. A very beginner-friendly option, you might want to consider Python if you yourself do not have any previous coding experience and you plan to help your child learn.

Kids can use Python to make their own interactive games, create animations, and build websites.

Python is one of the most popular programming languages in the world. Students can find many educational resources and consult the online Python community for help.


  • Why it's Great for Kids: User-friendly and intuitive, easier for children and beginners than other programming languages.
  • Ideal Age Range: 7 or 8 and up
  • Level of difficulty: Easy

Ruby

Ruby is a flexible, open-source programming language with a syntax that makes it easy to read and write. Ruby's creator combined aspects of his favorite programming languages to create a new language that appears simple, but is complex on the inside. Ruby introduces complicated concepts in a natural way.

Ruby is completely free, and one of the most popular coding languages in the world. Children can use Ruby to create their own games and apps.


  • Why it's Great for Kids: Good programming language for beginners because it is easy to read and write.
  • Ideal Age Range: 8 and up
  • Level of difficulty: Easy

Scratch

The nonprofit Scratch Foundation created Scratch, a freel block-based programming language to help children learn to code. Kids can use the basic visual interface to make interactive games, stories, animations, and apps.

Scratch is one of the top kids programming languages. It's one of the easier coding languages to master, and makes a great first choice for introducing your child to programming.

Scratch is available in over 70 languages and includes a global online coding community where kids can share their coding creations with each other.

Parents and kids can find various tutorials and activity guides to get started. Beginner projects with instructions include animating a name, making a chase game, creating music, and animating a character. Kids can also explore starter projects and use them to make their own new creations.


  • Why it's Great for Kids: Designed specifically for children and has a simple visual interface that is easy for young kids to use. Choosing a visual interface instead of a text-based one makes it less likely that kids will introduce errors into the code.
  • Ideal Age Range: 5 and up
  • Level of difficulty: Very easy

Snap!

Designed for both kids and adults, Snap! is another block-based programming language. It evolved from Scratch, and lets users drag and drop to build their own blocks.

Students can run Snap! for free from their own internet browser without downloading or installing anything.

Snap!'s goal is to encourage teenagers to learn computer science. Applications for Snap! include creation of interactive games, stories, and animations.


  • Why it's Great for Kids: Created with kids in mind as a visual-based programming language, which reduces the chance of introducing coding errors.
  • Ideal Age Range: 12 and up
  • Level of difficulty: Moderate

Swift

Swift is a programming language designed for iOS, meaning it functions with anything within the Apple ecosystem: iPhone, Apple TVs, iPad, and Mac.

Swift offers a flexible learning environment. When it comes to kids' programming languages, Swift enables them to choose to build their projects from scratch or from a template from Swift Playgrounds.


  • Why it's Great for Kids: Works puzzles and interactive walk-throughs into the curriculum as it introduces coding concepts. The training program builds on itself, gradually incorporating advanced concepts.
  • Ideal Age Range: 5 and up
  • Level of difficulty: Fluctuates

Benefits to Kids Learning Programming Languages

Learning programming languages can improve critical thinking, problem-solving, logic, and math skills. Learning basic coding and programming for kids can foster creativity, be a fun extracurricular activity, and set students up to succeed in the future.

  • Fosters Problem-Solving Skills

    Learning to code using programming languages can help kids break down a big, complex problem into more manageable smaller problems. Solving a coding problem often requires practice testing strategies, failing, and trying again. Children can apply lessons learned from problem-solving in coding to other areas of life.
  • Encourages Creativity

    Learning programming languages can open the door to all kinds of creative endeavors. Children can use their coding know-how to create video games, make a website, and bring other ideas to life. The sky is the limit once you understand how programming languages work.
  • Future Advantages in Education and Careers

    Coding is an in-demand technical skill. By learning to understand programming languages from an early age, kids who code get a head start. It may help them consider pursuing higher education in a STEM field like computer science, or help them see that they could succeed in a technical career using programming languages professionally.

Resources for Parents and Kids

Kids can get help learning a programming language through various educational resources, including apps, online courses, and games. Explore our list of suggestions for parents who want to get their kids involved in programming.





Questions About Basic Programming and Coding for Kids

What is the best programming language for a child to learn?

One of the best programming languages for a child to learn is Scratch, which was created specifically to teach kids coding. Scratch is a block-based programming language, potentially making it easier to learn than text-based programming languages.

Are coding languages basic enough for kids to understand?

Yes, some coding languages like Scratch are simple enough that kids as young as five can begin to learn them. Older kids may be able to start with a more advanced programming language, like Java.

Will learning the top coding languages help kids with programming?

Yes, learning the best kids coding languages can help children develop the perspective and skills to understand the fundamentals of computer programming. Learning various programming languages is an essential part of coding and programming.

What is the right age for kids to start programming?

The right age for kids to start programming depends on the child and their level of maturity, interest in programming, and motivation to learn. Parents can introduce screen-free coding games and toys in preschool.

Starting around kindergarten or early elementary school, many children can begin learning the basics of coding and programming. For text-based programming languages, seven or eight is usually a good age to start.

Reviewed by:

Portrait of Monali Mirel Chuatico

Monali Mirel Chuatico

In 2019, Monali Mirel Chuatico graduated with her bachelor's in computer science, which gave her the foundation that she needed to excel in roles such as a data engineer, front-end developer, UX designer, and computer science instructor.

Monali is currently a data engineer at Mission Lane. As a data analytics captain at a nonprofit called COOP Careers, Monali helps new grads and young professionals overcome underemployment by teaching them data analytics tools and mentoring them on their professional development journey.

Monali is passionate about implementing creative solutions, building community, advocating for mental health, empowering women, and educating youth. Monali's goal is to gain more experience in her field, expand her skill set, and do meaningful work that will positively impact the world.

Monali Mirel Chuatico is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.

Page last reviewedOct 4, 2022

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