NEWS$show=/search/label/news

Here's where you'll find all the latest news about technology for children. We love to follow cool new inventions on Kickstarter and we hunt out all the latest announcements about tech toys and gadgets for the coming Christmas holidays. You'll also get our take on children's technology stories in the media.

REVIEWS$show=/search/label/review

Our kids technology product reviews are intended to help you work out whether a toy, gadget or kit is a good fit for your child or family. There's lots of cool stuff available, but is it the right choice for the child or teenager that you are buying for? We'll help you make the right choices and get the best value for money.

GIFT GUIDES$show=/search/label/gift%20guide

Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends assemble. We create gift lists to help you make good choices for kids technology which helps them develop the right skills for the future. We research the best in Coding Toys and Games, Making / Craft Tools and Kits, STEM/STEAM related gifts, Programmable Robots, Electronics Kits and Gadgets for Tech Age Kids and Teens.

PROJECTS$show=/search/label/project

Get crafty with technology. Here we'll post all our ideas and projects using technology to get creative and making with kids. You'll find anything from making a lemon battery to a glow-in-the-dark Minecraft sword. Our projects are tried and tested on our own kids or at events we run, so we are sure you can have a go at home with your kids. Some of our projects use specific tech gadgets which we provide links for you to purchase.

STEM$show=/search/label/stem

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. In recent years there is an increased focus in these areas of study. We like to include Art and Design too, so we often talk about STEAM (A stands for Art). At Tech Age Kids we believe Coding is a new literacy and children need to understand how technology works, practice making skills and grow in their curiosity to make a better future for us all.

CODING$show=/search/label/coding

Coding is increasingly being recognised as an important skill for children to learn. Some will learn to code at school or at a coding club, but it's brilliant if they get support at home too.

ELECTRONICS$show=/search/label/electronics

We think it's really important for kids to get hands-on with electronics and learn how to make circuits and write code to control hardware. Younger kids can start with conductive playdough. For kids who like to combine craft and tech, littleBits are fab. And we love SAM Labs wireless electronics components for making it easy for kids to make Internet of Things inventions. Lots of electronics kits for kids have support for the Arduino microprocessor environment. The DuinoKit Jr is one of our favourites. Arduino is a fab skill for older kids and teens to develop.

ROBOTICS$show=/search/label/robotics

We love robots at Tech Age Kids, especially programmable ones. We've got lots of them and write reviews and projects that use them. Our programmable robots for kids buying guide is a good place to start if you're not sure what's available. Roby the mBot Meccano robot dog is one of our popular projects and has been with us to lots of events. Our Ozobot LEGO trailer is fab for kids who love LEGO and robots.

MAKING AND CRAFT$show=/search/label/making

We're advocates of the creative use of technology, but this needs to be balanced with developing physical skills such as papercraft, woodwork, clay modelling, technical drawing and soldering. If children don't develop these skills as they grow up then physical making projects can become frustrating rather than fun. The Maker Community uses the term 'making' as a broad term to include all sorts of artisan skills or craft activities. Being able to make things can lead to life-long hobbies or even careers. It's a great feeling to be able to take a project from an idea in your head to a real object that does something. We're particularly interested to explore products that combine maker skills with tech skills such as electronics but others focus purely on the physical making skills that are still important to modern making.

littleBits Review

We've been having fun with our littleBits set. It's a range of modular electronics components that kids and designers can use to build fun projects with lights, motors, sounds and other fun effects. We like it very much, but it's important to understand what it is and isn't before deciding whether to buy a set.

There are a few different sets you can buy and you can buy components individually if you have a particular project in mind or want to add to a set.



Parents
We have a small set and we've been using it to automate projects for the kids. My kids are under the recommended age range of 8+ so we've been working together with close supervision. (The sets contain small strong magnets which can be very dangerous if swallowed.)

So, we love the idea completely. Small components that are very easy to understand and are intended for making stuff rather that just learning about concepts. My 6 year old quickly understood the color coding - each category of component has a different color - power, output, input (control) and wire.

Magnets stop you connecting the bits the wrong way around and make the pieces snap together in a satisfying way. There's no wondering if you've got it right.

There are some nice touches like an included small screwdriver for adjusting the amounts of red, green and blue in the RGB LED, and a switch to change the direction of the motor.

littleBits are brilliant for adding an extra dimension to junk models and LEGO® creations. And if you've got a 3D printer or a laser cutter you can design some very cool projects. The whole thing worked really well and we have been able to build some fun projects (which I'll be writing about.)

From an educational perspective, littleBits is a good first step to understanding electronics, kids can learn about motors and switches and even how to control RGB leds to mix colors. Though I realized when we were playing with another kit that it gave my son the idea that electricity would just work if you connect things in a straight line from a power supply - littleBits makes the circuit automatically so you don't need to worry about that.

Underside of the motor bit
You can see individual componentry on the undersides of the bits which gives kids a hint of what is going on inside. And the circuit diagrams are available on line as open source if you really want to find out what's going on. But you would probably move to a kit that aims to teach more about electronics first.

For me the key point about littleBits is that kids can control electronics and make it do what you want and use it in projects of your own design. It demystifies how it all works and opens up the box just a little bit. You won't get all the details, but you'll get enough of a taster to know if you want to find out more. And you'll be able to make cool stuff happen without knowing any more.

I think the days of stringing together a few cardboard tubes and calling it a snake are gone. Now they'll want its eyes to light up and its tail to wiggle. 

 Don't buy littleBits expecting a traditional kids course in electronics. Buy it because you want your kids to be able to make amazing things. It's certainly done that for my kids. They are full of ideas of what they would like to make next.

The whole idea is so good that I feel a bit petty pointing out issues, but there were some things that weren't perfect.

One of our bits arrived with a plastic foot loose. We can easily fix this next time we have a packet of Sugru open but still, I do hope the bits are durable.

It's very expensive. If you want to start making more complex circuits you'll be spending a lot of money. If littleBits really inspires your kids then this could well be worth it, but it will be out of the reach of many families and schools. But, I expect this price will come down over time.

The name is driving us crazy. "Little bits" is a phrase that gets used a lot in our house to refer to LEGO, Playmobil, puzzle pieces and all the other, well, little bits, that kids leave around the house. This has caused much confusion when trying to refer to littleBits. We've had to talk about the electronics bits instead.

Another minor point is that the motor just has a bare metal shaft, it doesn't come with any kind of fixings or suggestions. I did track down a useful tips and trick about attaching to the littleBits motor.

We would have preferred AA batteries to the 9V battery, though you would need some kids of enclosure which would add more cost. We have loads of gadgets that take AA batteries and always have rechargeable ones ready to go. But we don't use 9V batteries for anything else. We have a power supply we can use, but it's nice to have a wireless solution that will run for a while.

But on the whole, I can see we're going to be using littleBits a lot. You can use the same components over and over for lots of different projects. We're being careful not to fix anything permanently and make sure we can pop the bits in and out of projects. 

I can definitely see them being used in the same way as LEGO to make, adapt and remake things.

If you decide to buy littleBits look for the updated version 0.3 sets, the design has changed a bit though they are compatible with the 0.2 sets with a free adapter.

You can see the full range of littleBits on their website: littleBits.com


Name

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Tech Age Kids | Technology for Children: littleBits Review
littleBits Review
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Tech Age Kids | Technology for Children
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