Learn to Master the Web: JavaScript for Kids

If you want to get your kids learning to code and you think they might be ready for a text-based programming language, JavaScript might be an intriguing option worth considering for your kids.

Widely used in website development, JavaScript can be also used to create games, web apps, mobile apps and more.

It is even considered by many to be the lingua franca of the modern internet.

How accurate that is may be a matter of debate, but what isn’t is the fact that JavaScript is an easy to learn, popular and very capable programming language that can be a useful and intriguing first coding language for budding coders.

What is JavaScript and Why is it Useful?

Put simply, JavaScript is a text-based coding language that has many uses, notably in web browsers and in web design to allow speedy and capable user interaction and engagement. 

Back in the day, when modems still made funny sounds when you connected to the internet, and an incoming phone call disconnected you completely, web developers relied solely on HTML to build webpages.

As a result, the content was static, meaning what was there was there and users couldn’t really interact with web pages. 

Anything fancier than what could be coded in HTML meant the page had to run requests to the server, which meant a long response time and some refreshing. 

With the popularization and use of JavaScript, web pages could now have little instructions or little apps written into them that web browsers could read and then run as needed without refreshing the page or having to query the server (what is known as client-side scripting). 

This sped things up and made websites far more interactive and engaging for the user. Suddenly websites could show or hide information with a click, have quicker and more sophisticated animations, display interactive maps, show countdown timers, have image carousels, zoom in and out…JavaScript essentially helped websites look and feel as they do today.

Because JavaScript is fast, relatively easy to learn and pretty popular, and because of its demonstrated ability to easily create interactive, engaging elements on the web, JavaScript has been (and continues to be) used to develop mobile games, mobile apps and web apps, including Uber Netflix, PayPal and more. 

Why Should Kids Learn JavaScript

There are a lot of reasons why JavaScript should be considered when kids looking to learn to code.

Importance in the modern world 

For one thing, JavaScript is one of the main languages of the modern internet. Nearly every 

web page and web app uses it in some form and so the language holds something of a position of importance in our online world. 

Versatility

JavaScript also has a great many possible uses. While it is best known for its use in web design, working alongside HTML/CSS to create powerful web experiences, it is also commonly used in developing popular web/mobile applications, developing server applications and even video games. 

Runs in Browsers 

Finally, unlike many other coding languages, there is no need to fiddle with development environments or other separate programs to get your JavaScript code running. Once code is written it can run straight from any web browser. 

Can JavaScript be a Good First Coding Language for Kids?

As a first-time text coding language, JavaScript isn’t always at the top of everyone’s list but it actually has a few benefits that make it a contender for kids. 

Easy to learn

While JavaScript is certainly more difficult than HTML/CSS, it can also do a lot more. 

Yet despite its functionality, JavaScript is typically considered pretty easy to learn compared to other high-level languages like C++, Ruby.  

The JavaScript language itself is fairly straightforward and simple to learn, doesn’t require anything more than a text editor and browser, and there are tons of libraries and support. 

JavaScript is also a more forgiving language than most. Unlike other coding languages, JavaScript will try and run code even with minor errors and syntax mistakes – after all, it had to work fairly consistently if it was going to become widely adopted for the web.

Which is also why websites aren’t always crashing despite little glitches occuring in the code.

While more experienced coders tend to complain that this can lead to sloppy programming habits in the long run, this argument doesn’t really hold water with kids as you can’t reasonably expect the same kind of syntax precision out of children and teens that you can out of a professional coder. 

In fact, kids are more likely to become frustrated and turned off by their code throwing out constant error messages because they didn’t type something out precisely. 

Interestingly, because JavaScript works fairly differently than other coding languages those coming into with experience in programs like C++/C, Java, and Python tend to actually find it harder to learn than those just starting out, finding many of the mechanics quite strange than what they are used to as well as discovering that JavaScript has some unique functions that some other coding languages don’t deal with (DOM manipulation, for example). 

But, as computer scientist Bjarne Stroustrup, one of the developers of C++ said: there are only two kinds of languages: the ones people complain about and the ones nobody uses. 

Solid development of coding concepts 

Despite being web-oriented and a little easier to learn to use than some other languages, JavaScript is still a full, text-based programming language and kids will have to learn the essentials of coding – variables, functions, conditionals, logical operands and more. 

From there kids can continue to develop their knowledge, gaining skill in more advanced concepts such as inheritance, asynchronous JS, server side JavaScript and more. 

Relatability

Alongside web development, which kids may not care all that much about, JavaScript is pretty widely used (alongside HTML5) in many mobile and web games…something that kids probably do care about. 

Since much of coding success comes not from the language learned but from the feeling of creating something that’s interesting, parents can frame learning to code in JavaScript as a way of giving them the tools to build their own first real video games

At What Age Should Kids Start Learning Javascript

As with other coding languages, there’s no real set age for when kids can or should start learning to code JavaScript. 

Unlike Scratch, and maybe basic HTML/CSS, JavaScript and other text-based coding languages can get pretty complex, with more precise and involved coding, and while far more capable of letting kids run wild with their creativity, these languages can become very frustrating very quickly. 

For these reasons, we don’t generally recommend JavaScript or other text-based coding languages much before the age of 11 or so as around that age kids starting reaching certain cognitive milestones that lend themselves to more involved coding activities such as: 

  • Greater attention spans
  • Stronger math skills
  • More fluent reading skills
  • Stronger understanding of longer term action & consequence
  • Ability to see multiple perspectives and approaches
  • And a greater ability to understand abstract and symbolic concepts

That said, certain kids may be able to handle it earlier than others. Parents can look for the following clues to determine if their child is ready to try text-based coding: 

  1. They are starting to show an ability to learn the basic but somewhat abstract concepts and logic behind the code if explained carefully, such as loops, variables, and if-then statements. 
  1. They can demonstrate stronger letter recognition and reading skills, ideally knowing their way around a mouse and keyboard…which isn’t something to take for granted in today’s touchscreen world.
  1. The child demonstrates some patience and resilience to failure. This is an important trait in coding (as well as life), since code can and will fail to work frequently and sometimes spectacularly. 

Where to Start Learning JavaScript

As we mentioned, JavaScript is one of the most popular coding languages out there and is widely used in many areas. As such, there are tons of resources out there for learning it, some of which are specifically designed to help kids (and parents) get into coding. 

To begin with, much like with professional programming development, there are books of various kinds that you can pick up that, with a little (or a lot) of help and guidance from parents, can take kids step by step through learning JavaScript. 

These coding books are usually extremely thorough, written as they are by experts and, especially with the ones developed for kids, are usually quite inexpensive. A popular and well-regarded one is JavaScript for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming

The problem that parents often have with this kind of book-based learning is that:

  • It often requires some skill and knowledge on the part of the parent to help guide the child through the learning and work through the textbook in general, and some parents may not themselves be all that comfortable with coding.
  • Kids may not have the patience or reading ability to learn diligently from a 300+ page textbook, even if it is engagingly written and the projects well thought out. 
  • As with other coding languages, JavaScript is often changing and dynamic and written textbooks may not always be up to speed.
  • Perhaps most importantly, they’re not all that interactive or stimulating for kids, who often need greater production values and entertainment to stay interested in coding

As a result, many coding classes for kids have popped up over the years, with some designed to reach kids as young as 7. 

Recognizing JavaScript as a noteworthy coding language, some have included it in their curriculum options alongside Python and Java. 

These coding classes for kids often assume zero prior coding knowledge, guide kids step by step through an essential curriculum, and explain concepts simply, clearly and usually with some enthusiasm. 

Most are usually self-paced, which means they easily slide into any schedule, and they often include interactive projects or activities for kids to work on that might be of interest to them. 

For these reasons we believe that coding classes for kids can be probably the best first step in a child’s coding journey, and so below we’ve included a couple of our recommendations that have some standout JavaScript coding classes. 

Javascript Coding Classes For Kids that Will Help You Get Started

Tynker – Learn by Creating Video Games

Price: From $7.50 per month

Recommended age: 12+

With over 60 coding courses and well over 4,000 modules, Tynker has a well-deserved reputation for its wide range of courses that teach coding to kids.  

As well as visual coding, Python and more, Tynker offers a fairly comprehensive three-part JavaScript course, as well. 

With 120+ programming activities and over 48 coding puzzles, it does a pretty good job at taking kids through all the way from the very basics of coding concepts and typing practice all the way through to making their own 2D games. 

Along the way, students learn important concepts like conditionals, variables, expressions, event tracking loops and patterns, coordinates, and more. 

Lessons are taught in text through Tynker’s internal environment, with an inbuilt text editor and does a good job at breaks larger concepts down into smaller, easy to understand chunks, usually using small 2D interactive video games and activities to help kids learn step by step and keep them interested. 

Courses generally culminate in having kids create their own increasingly complex video games as projects, which they can then share with the wider Tynker community. 

While these aren’t cutting edge 3D masterpieces, being more like mobile games, they do give kids a sense of accomplishment, are kind of fun and addictive and are more easily customized and styled by kids using Tynker’s inbuilt tools.

For parents, Tynker also offers robust progress tracking through the parents dashboard that can give them a pretty good idea of what kids are up to and how they’re doing with their lessons.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a fun, project-based way to get kids into JavaScript that requires very little prior knowledge of coding, Tynker’s Intro to JavaScript may be right for you. 

Their courses take kids from absolute beginner to completing their very own mobile game-style project in an engaging, step by step manner, giving them the tools and understanding to continue their learning of more complex coding.

For more information, you can read our in-depth Tynker review.

CodeCombat – Learn JavaScript In A RPG-style Game

Price: From $99 per year

Recommended age: 9+

CodeCombat offers schools and homeschooling parents a way to learn coding that is a little more unusual than most: the ability to learn the basics of JavaScript (or Python) coding by playing an expansive online role playing (RPG) video game. 

Essentially, CodeCombat immerses its students in a fantasy role playing video game (RPG) made up of over 400 levels. By following instructions that appear on the screen, kids interact with it by inputting basic Javascript code and learn to code while exploring and playing these levels. 

As they progress, kids begin to explore more complex environments with more advanced missions that subsequently require them to use more complex JavaScript commands and even create their own custom scripts which, in the more advanced levels, can teach them things like string comparison and relational operators. 

While kids won’t learn to program their own games as they do in other courses, CodeCombat does let kids learn the fundamentals of JavaScript in an immersive (but guided) way, and by requiring kids to type in code to interact with the environment  they are drilled on their syntax and code inputting as well. 

In this way, CodeCombat gives kids far more hands-on coding experience and practice with actually inputting and using JavaScript than many other courses, even if they don’t build their own larger projects to show off. 

To top it off, CodeCombat has introduced a so-called AI league, where kids can form clans with other students and use their programming skills to challenge other clans in battle, which is kind of cool. 

Bottom Line: 

If you want to let your child learn JavaScript in a way that gives them tons of hands-on practice, and if your child is more into playing video games than building video games, CodeCombat might be the right JavaScript coding course for you.

For more information, you can read our in-depth review of CodeCombat.

Conclusion

Javascript is one of the more versatile and widely-used programming languages out there and a popular first language for those looking to develop their coding skills. 

Despite being a text-based coding language, it is somewhat forgiving, relatively easy to learn and used in many popular web apps and mobile games, making it an attractive and logical option for kids looking to either start learning to code or move up from visual coding. 

And with many options out there to help kids learn to code, including quite a few interesting coding courses for kids, there is no reason that your kids can’t learn practical JavaScript skills in a fun, meaningful and engaging manner. 

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About the Author

David Belenky is a freelance writer, former science and math tutor and a tech enthusiast. When he’s not writing about educational tech, he likes to chill out with his family and dog at home.