Choosing A Programming Language for Kids: Scratch, Python, Java, or C++

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When taking coding classes for kids, many people are overwhelmed by the many programming languages available to learn. Because each language has its own uses and syntax, it’s important to make the right choice when deciding what language to learn. Almost everyone has their own opinions on which language is best depending on what they use it for, but in this article, we’re going to be exploring more about the complexity, advantages, and uses of each language to figure out which is best for you!

Programming Language for Kids

What are Programming Languages?

Before we get into the specifics of each language, it’s important to understand what exactly programming languages are. Programming languages are the way that people can interact with the computer. Each language has specific syntax or “rules” that make it unique. Some languages such as Python, Java, JavaScript, C++, C# and Lua are text-based, meaning programmers type out code to create a program. Other languages like Scratch are block-based visual languages, meaning programmers can drag coloured blocks together to form sequences and programs. The languages mentioned in this article are only seven of the hundreds of languages available to learn, but they are some of the most commonly used and each has many applications.


1. Scratch

Programming Language for Kids Scratch

As mentioned previously, Scratch is a visual-based programming platform that allows users to drag coloured code blocks to create simple programs and applications. Because of how user-friendly and simple it is, most people start programming with Scratch to learn basic concepts. Because Scratch is the only language in this article that is block-based, it has the most simple syntax. Students don’t need to worry about typing errors or missing semicolons or brackets, the only errors you may find in Scratch code come from logic errors.

Hint: This means that the logic of the code does not make sense, so some sections may need to be re-arranged.

This simple syntax makes it easy for even very young children to learn and understand.

Scratch also has a wide variety of uses, although because of its simplicity it is not quite as flexible as others. However, this doesn't stop it from being a fun and interesting language for young kids or those new to programming. Scratch can be used for projects such as:

  • Video Games: Scratch’s online platform makes it easy to make many fun and simple games, from platformers to roleplay online games.
  • Animations: Many people use Scratch to edit animations using code to add effects and control when frames are displayed.

Overall, Scratch is the best option for anyone new to programming who wants a simple and fun language to help them understand the essential basic concepts.

2. Python:

Programming Language for Kids Python

Python is one of the best programming languages for kids or students who want to learn to program because of its simplicity and many uses. When it comes to syntax, Python does not rely on semicolons and brackets but instead uses indentation to separate lines and loops. This makes it very simple to type and understand, as there are fewer syntax errors due to odd numbers of brackets or missed semicolons. Python is also a dynamic programming language, meaning you don’t need to define every variable’s data type before using it. This makes it more simple than statically-typed languages like Java, C#, and C++. Its’ functions and variables are able to be used outside or inside of classes. This makes the code much simpler and easy for kids to understand. However, one of the major factors to consider when choosing a language is its compiling speed. Python is slower than many languages because it uses an interpreter to execute code, which slows it down. 

Hint: An interpreter is a program that reads and executes the code directly without using the compilation process. Because of these factors, Python is often considered one of the best options for beginners, although it may not be as powerful when it comes to some more high-performance tasks.

Python also has a wide variety of uses. Here are just a few:

  • Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI): Python is great for machine learning and AI because it is easy to create algorithms that will gather data and make predictions based on previous results. Because Python is a relatively new language as well, it is gaining popularity within these fields. 
  • Data management: it’s simple to learn and makes it easy to handle large amounts of data. Within data management, Python is used for gathering and organizing data, analyzing statistics, data visualization, and making predictions based on prior results and data, making it a must-have for any data analyst.
  • Backend web development: Python can be used with frameworks to help speed up and simplify the web development process. Because Python is dynamically typed and simple to use, it’s perfect for backend web developers to use when they need to efficiently make web apps or webpages.

Overall, Python is what we believe to be the best language for beginners who want to learn to code complex and sophisticated programs in a simple and fun way.

3. Lua:

Programming Language for Kids Lua

Lua is a very lightweight and high-level scripting language. It is great for kids or students who are new to programming, because, like Python, it is simple and easy to learn. Lua is a scripting language like Python, which means that it is interpreted as well, and tends to be slower than a compiled programming language such as Java or C++. It is also more lightweight and simple than Python, making it easy to learn and a fast program that doesn’t take much memory. It is also a dynamically-typed language, which means that variables’ data types can be changed within the program. This makes it more simple and easy to comprehend and learn quickly. All of these attributes contribute to making Lua one of the best languages for new programmers to learn. 

Lua is used for many projects such as:

  • Game development: Lua is used for developing games and is used in creating game engines. Many popular games such as Angry Birds or World of Warcraft use Lua in their game engines. Lua is used alongside another language such as C++ or C to increase functionality and add extra features to a game.
Hint: Game engines are essentially the core software that allows the program to run and lay the foundation for the rest of the game’s code.
  • Industrial programs: Lua can be integrated into other projects such as Adobe Photoshop/Lightroom or MySQL Workbench. It works alongside existing code to create a functional and efficient program. 
  • Networking: Although this is not a beginner concept, Lua is used in many networks to help strengthen them and add functionality.

Overall, Lua is the best programming language to use for those who want a simple scripting language to help them in game development.

4. Java:

Programming Language for Kids Java

Java has a more complex syntax than Python, Lua, or Scratch, as it relies on semicolons and brackets to separate functions, classes, loops, and lines of code. This leads to more possible syntax errors than a very high-level and simple language, but it is still relatively user-friendly. Unlike Python or Lua, Java is a statically typed language, meaning that each variable’s data type must be declared. This also means that the variable type cannot be changed. For example, in dynamic languages, a variable could change from an integer to a string, but in Java, it needs to stay as an integer. Java also differs from languages such as Python and C++ when it comes to classes. In Java, every part of the code needs to be inside a class, making the code a little longer and more complex to read and understand. Because Java is a compiled language, it uses a compiler instead of an interpreter to run the code. Compiling is always faster than interpreting, resulting in Java being a bit faster than an interpreted language like Python.

Although Java is a bit more complex than Python, it is still a strong and relatively beginner-friendly language, making it a great language to learn. Java is also the language generally used for the AP Computer Science A and AP Computer Science Principles courses, making it great for anyone who plans on taking these courses and exams. 

Java is used for a wide variety of projects as well, such as applications (apps) for phones and computers, backend web development. Like Python, it is used to store and manage user data, interact with APIs and libraries, and much more. 

Note: APIs are connections between computers or applications that allow them to “talk” to one another. For example, weather apps make use of APIs to gather weather information for your specific location. 

(Web development image) Here are its’ most common uses:

  • Backend web development: This aspect of web development deals with creating and maintaining all the components of a website that users can’t interact with, and languages such as Java are some of the most commonly used languages for developing this aspect of web development.
  • App development: Java is also used for app development because its syntax and compiling speed make it efficient for creating apps, whether they be web-based or on mobile devices. Because Java can be used for object-oriented programming (OOP) and is a powerful language, it is great for developing apps. It is also a very popular programming language, which has contributed to its frequent use in developing these applications.

Overall, these qualities contribute to making Java the best language to learn for intermediate students who want an introduction to object-oriented programming.

5. JavaScript:

Programming Language for Kids Javascript

JavaScript is a programming language that is often used along with HTML and CSS to make websites and web apps. 

Hint: Although its name sounds similar to Java, JavaScript and Java are two very different languages, as you will soon see.

It is the main language responsible for a website’s responsiveness. Like Lua and Python, it is a lightweight, interpreted language that is often used alongside other ‘heavier’ languages such as Java, Ruby, or Python when making a large project. It is native to all web browsers, meaning anyone can learn it, and is used for almost any project involving web development. JavaScript is dynamic and object-oriented, making it very flexible and easy-to-use.

As mentioned above, JavaScript has tons of applications, such as:

  • Adding functionality to web pages: JavaScript is used to make HTML elements responsive, which creates functions such as having a button reveal more options, or displaying animations.
  • Creating web apps: Much like in website development, web apps also rely on JavaScript to add functionality to the program. 
  • Web servers: JavaScript can be used along with Node.js to develop backend infrastructure for programs as well as simple web-based servers.
  • Game development: Although it cannot be used to make games in the same way as C# or Scratch, JavaScript can be used to create simple web-based games, such as the well-known “Chrome Dinosaur Game”.

Overall, all of these attributes make JavaScript the best option for any student wanting to learn to develop web apps or websites.

6. C++:

Programming Language for Kids c++

Next, it’s time to have a look at C++ (pronounced “see plus plus”) and its complexity and syntax. Like many of the languages mentioned previously, C++ relies on semicolons and brackets quite heavily, making its syntax slightly more complicated than a language like Python. This leads to a higher potential of syntax errors as well. C++ is also a statically typed language. This also contributes to its complexity and the length of the code. For example, code in C++ is approximately 1.5 times shorter than the same code in Java, but Python is easily the shortest, being 3-4 times shorter than Java. It is also a compiled language, meaning it often runs faster than interpreted languages such as Python. C++ also takes less memory than Python or Java, making it more efficient to run. Because of how powerful C++ is and because of its fast compiling and relatively low memory usage, C++ is one of the preferred languages for the CCC or USACO coding competitions. Solutions written in C++ often have better speed and lower storage consumption than solutions written in Java or Python 

C++ is arguably one of the most powerful languages, and also has a very wide range of applications. It is often used for game development, app development, and embedded systems. Like Java and Python, it supports object-oriented programming and allows developers to easily create servers and functionality in their applications. Here are the most common applications of C++:

  • Embedded systems: Embedded systems are microprocessors with hardware and software components that work within a larger system. Some examples of this include smartwatches and medical devices and machines.
  • Game development: Because of its power, C++ is also used a lot in game development and is great for 3D and multiplayer games. Some popular games developed using C++ game engines are Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed. 

Overall, these examples go to show the wide range of applications for C++ and how it can be used in real-world situations, and why it is the best language for computer science in school.

7. C#:

Programming Language for Kids c#

Finally, we’ll look at C# (pronounced “see sharp”) and its qualities and syntax when it comes to beginner programmers. C# is a very powerful programming language that is often used in game development. It is very similar to Java in terms of syntax. Like Java, it is a statically-bound and object-oriented language. This means that it does have quite a complex syntax, but it also has many applications and can be used for a wide variety of programs. C# is a very powerful, high-level language, which allows it to power complex programs such as video games with lots of graphics and animations. 

Like the other languages mentioned in this article, C# has a variety of uses including: 

  • Game development: C# is often used with a program called Unity to create and develop complex and professional video games. These games can then be published and played by anyone who downloads them!
  • Web applications: Similar to game development, C# can also be used in the development of web apps along with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to add increased functionality and additional features that would not be possible otherwise.

Overall, these characteristics make C# the best language for anyone who wants to learn more about game development.


Now that you know about the complexity and uses of these popular languages, we hope you have an idea of what language you would like to learn. Any of these would be great options for kids who want to learn how to code either on their own or by taking coding lessons, and based on your interests and preferences you should have an easier time choosing a language to learn based on the information covered in this article. 

Geek Team

Geekedu is an expert in Coding and Math learning. Our goal is to inspire and empower youth to use their knowledge of technology to become the influencers, inventors and innovators of the future.

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