Python vs. JavaScript

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Forget the fact that there are handfuls of coding languages for kids...even when narrowing it down to two great options - like Python and JavaScript - figuring out which one to learn is still quite the challenge. 

On one hand, both Python and JavaScript are commercially-popular and versatile languages, with a variety of real-life uses and examples.

On the other, each language has its own strengths, weaknesses, and important points that you should consider before diving into either one. 

As a brief primer, Python is known for its readability and flexibility. If you want to frame it in a way your child might better understand, Python is really good at helping tell computers what to do, but in a way that's easy for humans to understand as well. It's a great language for creating fun games, building cool websites, and even teaching robots how to move (learn more about coding and robotics). 

At the same time, JavaScript is used for web development and has an extensive library. Again, in terms a child might be able to relate, it's JavaScript that adds interactivity to websites—as in dynamic website effects like animations, pop-up boxes, buttons, and other functions that respond to user input. JavaScript is also used to create games, mobile apps, and more. 

As you can see, both languages can be used for various applications, but depending on your child's goals and experience level, one may be better suited for your child than the other.

Before Diving In

So with that, today we'll explore the differences between Python and JavaScript, look at the pros and cons of each language, and provide learning resources to help you and your child get started, remain engaged, and hopefully learn a new skill at the end of it all. 

First, though, let's rewind to something mentioned earlier.

While yes, learning a programming language can be a daunting task, it can also open up a world of possibilities. Whether your child wants to develop web apps, use automation and scripting, or create data visualizations and machine learning models, having a solid foundation in one or both of Python and JavaScript can be highly beneficial.

And, let's also state an important note: while we can go through the different ins and outs of each language, the answer will ultimately depend on your child's goals, skill level, and more. We will do our best to paint the picture, but it will be on you and your child to frame it up and make it your own. 

Exploring Python

Python is a powerful programming language that is relatively easy to learn and understand. It's popular among beginners because of its readability and flexibility; its code is similar to English, making it easier to read and debug.

Python's extensive library of modules also provides pre-written code that can save time while developing projects. (Popular libraries such as Django, Flask, and others make it easy to develop web applications.)

Despite its many benefits, there are some challenges you should be aware of when learning Python.

Python tends to run slower than other programming languages due to its interpreted nature, which can cause longer development cycles. This means that, when Python code is written, it is first interpreted and converted into machine code. Thus, more time might need to be spent optimizing code to improve performance. 

With this point above, it's the tradeoff—its a language with simple syntax, but might be slower because of it. Either way, while Python may be slower than some other programming languages in certain situations, it is often fast enough for most applications. 

Python is used for various applications, including web development, automation, scripting, data analysis and visualization, and machine learning models. Modules such as NumPy and Pandas make data analysis and visualization simpler. Additionally, Python's flexibility makes it well-suited for artificial intelligence and machine learning projects.

Exploring JavaScript

JavaScript is another popular programming language that is widely used for web development. Like Python (we will say that a lot!) JavaScript is relatively easy to learn if your child already has some programming experience.

JavaScript can be used for both client-side (website interactivity, etc) and server-side development (web servers and network applications)

Also, its extensive library makes it easy to integrate with other applications. For instance, React and Angular make it easy to develop interactive web applications. Frameworks such as Node.js allow developers to create full-stack applications.

JavaScript is used for various applications, including web development, mobile app development, artificial intelligence, and machine learning projects.

With JavaScript's many benefits, there are some challenges to should consider when deciding whether or not to learn it, and if it should be learned first. 

Debugging code can be complex for beginners due to dynamic typing (and variable types), asynchronous programming , and browser compatibility issues (getting everything to work everywhere). 

Making Your Decision

Whew. A lot to take in, right?

To help make the decision, let's boil things down to the pros and cons between Python and JavaScript. This will flow a bit like a tennis match (or pong?) so stick with me:

On the one hand, Python is easier to learn due to its readability, but JavaScript is more widely used for web development. On the other hand, Python might run slower than other languages, and JavaScript can be more difficult to debug. 

If this does nothing for you, here are some guiding points and questions:

What is your child's experience level with programming?

If your child is a beginner, Python may be the better choice thanks to that relatively simple syntax and easy-understandability. JavaScript simply has a steeper learning curve and more complex syntax.

However, if your child is interested in web development, and if they're already familiar with programming concepts, JavaScript may be a more relevant choice.

Which leads us to...

What are your child's interests?

If your child is interested in developing web apps or interactive websites, they may find it more valuable to learn JavaScript first. On the other hand, if your child is interested in data analysis, scientific computing, or artificial intelligence, they may find beginning with Python more useful. 

What is your child's learning style?

Ok, trick question (kind of). Meaning, kids of all different learning styles including visual, auditory, kinesthetic, logical, social, and more can find success with either Python or JavaScript. 

For instance, Scratch, while a different programming language and block-based at that, can help visual learners who aspire to learn either Python or JavaScript. Through teaching basic programming skills, building confidence, and instilling a love for coding, Scratch can help get kids going in the right direction, no matter which way that is. 

Same goes for auditory learners, who can find recordings or podcasts to help them, kinesthetic learners who can find hands-on activities, and social learners, who might benefit from coding classes, coding camps, and more. 

Survey Says?

In the end, there might not be a wrong choice, and/or the best choice for your child will be different from their friend, neighbor, classmate, etc.  

To start learning either language, take advantage of the many available online coding classes, or online practice areas for both Python and JavaScript for kids

Additionally, dozens of books provide in-depth explanations of either language's syntax and concepts. By taking the time to explore both languages' pros and cons and understanding which language suits your specific needs best, you'll be able to make an informed decision when choosing between Python and JavaScript.

A photo of Ryan

Ryan has been in EdTech and with iD Tech for 13 years—building experience, expertise, and knowledge in all things coding, game development, college prep, STEM, and more. He earned his MBA from Santa Clara University after obtaining his Bachelor’s degree from Arizona State. Connect on LinkedIn

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