If you are a last-minute holiday shopper like me, here are some great gifts for kids who are into gadgets, or if you want to expose them to the world of creating new things, instead of just playing with apps on their iPad or iPhone.
Note: These toys are for girls, boys, AND adults.
One year, my brother gave me an electronics kit that came with a breadboard, 555 Integrated Circuit, two PNP and NPN transistors, speakers, LEDs, diodes and an LDR. That’s all it took to get me hooked on the world of electronics.
The point of sharing this story to encourage you to expose your kids to new fields, new areas, new worlds that may trigger the creator, the maker in them.
That’s exactly what littleBits (or any other kit in this story) does. LittleBits comes with electronics modules, like a power supply, wireless board, main processing unit and so on. They use magnetic connectors to plug modules into each other. No wiring or soldering is required. Also, thanks to magnetic polarity your kid can’t connect the wrong sides and fry the modules. This could be the perfect starter kit for your child because it is easy to use and also very creative. It was amazing when my four-year-old son created an IoT device where the light on the device turned on when he clicked on a button on the website.
Find littleBits kits on Amazon.
Adafruit Arduino Starter Kit
Arduino is a fully open source board that can be used in a wide range of projects, including building your own robot, 3D-printer, self-driving car… the possibilities are endless. You can also combine Arduino with Raspberry Pi to get the computing power that you need to create even more complex projects. There is a ton of documentation around Arduino that will help any child (or adult like me) get started with it. Since the board operates on 9volt DC, there is no risk of high-voltage.
The big difference between the Arduino kit and littleBits kit is that with this kit you do learn how to make connections, something your kid should learn about. It’s a step above littleBits. I heavily recommend the Starter Kit from Adafruit that will expose your child to the magical world of electronics. Arduino goes beyond electronics and helps them learn basic programming skills.
Find Adafruit Arduino kits on Amazon
Raspberry Pi is nothing short of a revolution. There are more than 11 million Raspberry Pi boards sold to date. It’s an amazing device that puts a full-fledged computer in your hands for a mere $35. It’s the most advanced product in the list and heavily recommended if you want your kid to learn about computers, IoT, programming, hardware, software and robotics. In a nutshell, Raspberry Pi opens up a new universe for exploration and creativity.
Find a Raspberry Pi kit on Amazon
4M: DIY kits
If you don’t want to go as advanced as Arduino or litleBits kits, then you can go with some of the 4M kits. The only down side is that unlike Arduino or littleBits, these are not open-ended kits. These are a DIY kit to build one device. Earlier this year I bought a walking robot and a dynamo kit to explain the conversion of energy from one form to another. My son got to build the toy and now he plays with them. So if you are looking for something easy to gauge your child’s interest, 4M can be a good starting point.
Find 4M science kits on Amazon.
Conclusion: These are some of the best products that introduce your child to the latest world of electronics, DIY and maker’s culture. If you have more ideas about such gadgets for kids, please let me know about them so I can include them for future follow-up.