Not a surprise, I get a lot of requests for christmas gift recommendations for little engineers. For the last two years I have kept a list that I can just easily email out. After doing so several times just this week already and sending it to my husband to send onwards to others as well, I decided maybe I would just post it!
Sometimes I think I should run a blog for maker kids! So here are some things that I like and we have as well as given to others often. I am always interested in creativity, teamwork, fun, laughter, easy to start with instructions, good customer service, and well made (hard for kids to break). Frustration level should be low in my book - but creativity possibilities should be high. I can't stand toys that have only one play mode and doesn't last a kid only one age period of their life. It should be as interesting to an adult as the kid. I have tried to post these in increasing order of difficulty and age. But I will let you figure out where the kid in your life is and what they can handle. I was buying Technic sets (14-18 yrs old) for my five year old so I know that ages are just a guide.
1. Lift-it Deluxe: We found this game last summer in Sweden in local languages and brought it
home. We love it and it is so hilarious and works for all ages. We pull it out for Thanksgiving with groups, use it to train the robot kids on teamwork and generally laugh like crazy. Everyone straps a little crane to their head and trys to lift pieces to make the structures seen on cards in pairs. Great family game!
Actually, make sure you have your camera ready as the pictures will not only be good for blogs but blackmail, weddings, and other uses!
Here are some robot guys doing it for a break!
2. Little-Bits. I just love these and their new package (Gizmos and Gadgets) is great with all the cute video that gives you an idea about what these magnetic electrical parts can do.
projects. We have used these more than any other electrical engineering set we have had (and we have them all). They are so well thought out and not surprisingly, these like several on the list have come out of the MIT Media Lab. They are expensive, but just like Legos, very expandable and you never grow out of them. I have had my kids use them to prototype controllers for their FLL projects, make an automatic hamster feeder, and many other hilarious devices. They are reusable and have adaptors to connect them to LEGOs. Product designers are buying them to use them to prototype device concepts and they are in these great and friendly colors that work well for boys and girls.
3. Oz Bots - again another real winner! Not too bad price wise, I have donated many of these in the inner city, tiny two inch robots that can follow any line you draw. The super cool thing about them is that you can color code the lines and dashes and circles to make the oz bot do things. So it is a early way of learning programming and includes art. There are online resources for them, print out games to use as well as games on your iPad that the oz bot can drive on. There are then little paper decorations and game pieces you can use to expand on the ozbot. If you have a kid that doesn't like to build want to encourage to get into robots, this is a fantastic first step. As well as a good 'purse toy'. The BIT is the original for drawing and now they have another type EVO which is a more connected social one (haven't tried yet). They are hard to break.
4. Chibitronics Circuit Stickers. These beginner kits are amazingly reasonable in price, especially
for what they are! I have loved these and have known the developer since she was a graduate student, had a wonderful dinner with her the other night and told her how some of my students are playing with them to back their embroidery so they will light up. So the kit contains a little guide book, conductive adhesive backed copper tape and these amazing little stickers that are LEDs. They are reusable and you can go through the book making many different paper art projects that light up. A fantastic way to teach kids about basic circuits and then do art with them.
5. Circuit Scribe - this is another development from my alma matter and another research lab. The
There was a very cool commercial for BMW made using this ink pen - worth a quick watch to see what is possible.
6. Mindstorms. Hands down most fantastic extension of LEGO. There is no end to what people do
7. Make Block. This is now one of my older child's favorite robot building systems. We met the
8. Actobotics - Only go here when you have a true total gear head on your hands. As I have those, I
9. Make Magazine - the only magazine that comes to the house and the adults and all kids grab it and
I have a lot more that we have tried, are trying this Christmas or haven't made the cut because this blog is just too long. But if it is made, we have it and otherwise, I have already pledged on Kickstarter for it or am part of the test crew (both my son and I work on developments with STEM projects or test for companies). If this resonates - I can put more up later on getting little kids started.