5 Best Programming Languages for Kids

Kids Coding Languages

Coding for kids can be hard to navigate — especially when it comes to choosing a first coding language to learn. With so many different programming languages available, where should you start?

From teaching coding classes for kids ages 8-18, we’ve learned tips and tricks for choosing what language a child should start with. Read more about our top 5 recommended programming languages for kids, to help you decide which one is best for your student.

Block-Based Computer Programming Languages

For young kids in the 8-11 age group, a text-based programming language may not be a great starting point. Block-based programming languages instead offer a way to learn basic coding and problem-solving without the need to worry about syntax, error management, and other more complicated programming concepts.

These visual programming languages offer drag-and-drop interfaces where your student can assemble their app using building blocks instead of text, similar to legos. Often, these interfaces even work right in your web browser!

Scratch, Snap, and Blockly are all examples of block-based coding languages. While Blockly is great for adults and coding real-world tools, we recommend Scratch and Snap to kids for more intuitive and visually-engaging learning.

1. Scratch

Scratch is an excellent way for kids in the 8-11 age group to start coding. It was developed in 2003 as an open-source project at MIT. 17 years later, Scratch is still one of the most popular block-based coding languages, and its online community has continued to grow — making any problem you run into readily answerable with online Scratch tutorials or a simple Google search.

A fun game coded with Scratch blocks and characters!

▶ Read more: What is Scratch: Easy Coding for Kids 8-11

Scratch’s popularity is largely thanks to how it allows kids to create interactive video games, animations, and creative stories with a large variety of background images and characters. Kids can jump right into creating fun and engaging coding projects, while also building life skills like creativity, storytelling, and logical thinking!

Another advantage of Scratch is how readily accessible it is. You can use it in your web browser or it can be downloaded onto several devices. This includes Android (tablet only), macOS, Microsoft Windows, and ChromeOS. The only limitations are that it isn’t available as an app for iPad or iOS or Android smartphones.

▶ Try it: How to Make a Game on Scratch: Step by Step for Beginners 8+

2. Snap

Snap is a variant of Scratch, developed by UC Berkeley. It was built to include some more advanced programming concepts, and thus acts as an excellent intermediate step if Scratch is too simple, but your student is not yet ready to advance beyond block-based coding. On top of that, Snap apps can be converted to Javascript, Python, and other text-based coding languages — further simplifying the transition to these languages.

Because Snap is newer and less widely-used than Scratch, there is a significant disadvantage in terms of online resource availability. You can still find help with Snap, but it may take more effort than it would with Scratch.

Text-Based Computer Programming Languages

Children in the 11+ age range are likely ready to start with a text-based coding language. Compared to block-based coding, text-based languages require that kids be more comfortable with a keyboard and have a better understanding of logical thinking and high-level arithmetic concepts.

For kids that are ready for them, text-based languages offer the ability to tackle a wider range of projects and gain a deeper understanding of computer science concepts. Text-based coding languages are also a natural next step for students already versed in block-based coding.

Python, Java, CSS/HTML, Javascript, Swift, and Ruby are all examples of text-based coding languages.