|Gakken EX-150 denshi blocks. via flickr user Collin Mel. |
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Learning Kits teaching children how to program have been around since the 60s. However, today's learning kits take into account better understanding of how children learn, better aesthetic and utilitarian designs, improvements in technology, and ease of access (thanks to electronic stores) to provide better learning experiences. What's most noteworthy about today's generation of learning kits is how its become so much earlier for kids to learn to create their own devices. Even if they're not old enough to be allowed to solder, they can start programming and assembling their own toys. This philosophy has also been expanded to other kinds of toys, so we'll look at a few of the learning kits available today
Littlebits has been featured in this blog before. Littlebits are electronic modules that connect to each other via magnets. This clever little solution provides kids the flexibility to think outside the box and enables experimentation.
Littlebits are made possible due to the sudden lowering in costs of microcontrollers, a technology that has been around since the 70s. Microcontrollers are what runs our TVs, microwaves, VCRs, etc. Each Littlebits module contains a microcontroller, offering scalable miniaturized power. Each module provides different functions, like LED lights, motors, etc., and so the potential to make practically anything is there.
Nerdkits are a very similar product to Littlebits, with enough differentiation between them to be a viable alternative.
If Littlebits give you the freedom to make what you want, Nerdkits are designed to have everything you need out of the box. Nerdkits also provide complete instructions, a USB cable to connect it to the computer for programming and even a miniature LCD screen that provides feedback as you create your projects.
Nerdkits are for those who need to learn via organized structures. Although this initially seems limiting, what it really amounts to is a different teaching style, and one that may fit your child's better than the Littlebits approach. So, for example, if you find your child doesn't understand Littlebits enough to make them work, or get frustrated by them, they may prefer to take learning one step at a time, as Nerdkits will let them. Of course, both kits are flexible enough that you can adapt your child's learning experiences with them to however it best suits them.
Roominate is a new generation of science oriented girls toys. In spite of my glowing praise for Computer Engineer Barbie a while back, there are limitations to how forward looking that toy was. Particularly, it would be beneficial to have more progressive and science oriented toys for girls.
Enter Roominate: Toys for Girls. Roominate encourages children to design rooms from scratch, but more than arranging furniture, they get to install the electrical lines. It gets exciting when they connect the rooms to each other and add in gadgets that actually use the power, like miniature fans.
Roominate makes the business of building rooms fun with brightly colored, attractive looking pieces. What makes Roominate really progressive is that boys can play it, but its clear that it was designed for girls. By virtue of a conceit what looks like the job of a homemaker actually is closer in approach to interior design, even engineering.
Lastly, we come to Little Librarian. Why get your child a toy about making a library, some of you may ask. Aren't libraries going to go the way of the phone booth soon enough?
But this toy isn't about turning back the hands of time. Whether libraries are obsolescenced in the next decade or not, there's some real learning children can get from thinking about their books as not just a personal collection, but a library.
Playing librarian will make your children feel more responsible for their belongings, and also teach them to organize and take care of their things. There's also an opportunity to play with friends and family as they lend our books and even host storytime sessions.
What learning kits have you bought for your kids and would recommend? Share your favorites with us below.