Start simple, preferably some game, pong is good example. As language I would recommend to start with JavaScript. 5 years ago I would have recommended Java but JavaScript is nowadays better for beginners.

After you have made pong, overengineer it, put new mechanics into it.

So why games? You can make them as simple or complicated complicated you want. As developing them try to use as little external libraries as possible. With JavaScript you can make everything, even required libraries simply by yourself, web clients handle hardest stuff. But you learn basics of many things (graphics, audio, logic, AI, input) while making pong.

And because we're talking about kids here I think games are good because they can easily see what they have done, that helps them to keep motivated to tinker.

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