Selecting the first coding language for kids can be overwhelming. But we're here to help! Today, we'll reveal whether Scratch, Python, or Javascript is the best first programming language for your middle schooler.

The push to educate students in computer science has grown rapidly, as the benefit to learning a coding language early is huge. Helping your child select the best language for them is vital to their immediate success and ultimately, their interest in computer science.

Choosing the first coding language for kids

Here, we’ll discuss three of the most common languages new coders learn: Scratch, Python, and Javascript. We’ll outline several considerations for choosing a language, and help you pick the best first coding language for your kid, based on their interests and previous experiences.

1. What’s your child’s previous learning experience?

Scratch, Python, and Javascript present varying levels of initial difficulty. For students with little-to-nsco experience, Scratch is a great place to start.

Scratch coding is a block-coding language, meaning that students code by dragging and arranging logic “blocks” onto a canvas. While its applications are ultimately more limited than the other two languages, Scratch shares many coding fundamentals such as loops, conditionals, and variables.

Spending at least four hours per week for about one month will be valuable in developing your child’s intuition, logical thinking skills, and excitement for creating their own projects.

Classes can help your child pick up Scratch quickly as well. Middle schoolers will do well with advanced Scratch, while elementary students should explore Scratch coding for kids (and they can get started with our free Scratch class).

Unlike Scratch, Python and Javascript are written languages, meaning children type out all their code. Typing is often more of a natural barrier for many children: there is more room for errors and the coding syntax can be a higher initial hurdle. Middle-schoolers can experience a lot of success in Python and Javascript, but it is recommended that they have previous coding experience with a language like Scratch.

That being said, if your middle schooler is committed to learning a written language, Python is more user-friendly in terms of its syntax than Javascript. Python is known for being one of the more human-centric languages, and “reading” the code will be easier in Python than in Javascript.

A final note regarding Javascript - as a web development language, it tends to be used in conjunction with formatting languages like HTML or CSS. If your child is already familiar with HTML/CSS, Javascript will allow them to expand what they can already do.

2. Which learning style does your child prefer?

Another factor to consider when choosing between these languages is your child’s preferred learning style. A big selling point of Scratch is that it is incredibly friendly for visual and kinesthetic learners. The blocks are color-coded and designed to move easily on the screen.

A tricky Python concept like “nesting code,” for example, is more accessible in Scratch. If you child is less confident with coding concepts like logic and structure, he or she will benefit a great deal from Scratch’s colorful, fun approach.

Does your middle-schooler love logic puzzles and analytical thinking? Python or Javascript are great options, allowing them to tweak the logic in their code, and control exactly how it behaves and ultimately have more creative control of the end product.

No matter what language you choose, your child will get practice with major computer science fundamentals and skills, using both sides of their brains to build projects.

3. Why does your child want to learn coding?

Learning computer science is most meaningful for students when motivated by its applications in the real world. Thus, it is smart to choose a first language that enables them pursue their interests and create projects they care about.

Does your child love the arts of storytelling? Scratch is a great choice, because it will inspire them to build games, animations, and other highly visual projects.

If your child really wants to build a website or app, Javascript is a good language to learn. Javascript enables all of the dynamic (read: moving, changing) content online, and can be used in conjunction with HTML/CSS to create fun, extremely customizable pages. Javascript can also provide a great jumping off point for students who are excited about app development.

Is your child excited about data science or software development? Python for kids is a great place to start. Python, and Python libraries are the gold standard for data analysis, and can be used for everything from creating graphs for a science project to developing advanced data models.

Select the first coding language for kids and set them up for success

We hope this guide helps you better understand potential opportunities for your child’s coding future. No matter which of these languages you and your child ultimately choose, you can get started with a free coding class.

Written by Sarah Rappaport, who graduated from Northwestern University with undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering and music. She's now working on a masters in data with Georgia Institute of Technology. She taught math and computer science with Teach for America for two years, and now works as a Systems Engineer.