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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Program Computers to Talk - Coding with Speech Synthesis for Kids


Home voice assistants and toys that use voice interaction are everywhere at the moment. How can kids code their own apps and programs that use speech synthesis?

In our house we make daily use of Amazon's Alexa Echo and Dot and Google Home. There are also lots of toys that use voice interaction to communication with kids.

It's great for kids to use the latest technology (with due consideration given to privacy and security issues) but we think it's even better for kids to have a go at creating with those technologies. In this article we'll have a look at how children can code using speech synthesis - getting computers to talk to them.


What is Speech Synthesis?

Speech synthesis is computer generated speech, it turns typed text into spoken words. Modern speech synthesis uses samples of human speech and then combines sounds to generate increasingly natural-sounding artificial voices. 

In this post we're just going to look at ways that children can code using speech synthesis - turning text into speech. 

This can be used to:
  • Create an exercise assistant that talks kids through a custom exercise routine
  • Create a spelling test app that tests children on their spellings by saying words
  • Create an interactive assistant that can give information
We'll save voice recognition (understanding spoken speech) and voice-based services (using artificial intelligence tools to create responses) for future posts. There's a lot you can do with just speech synthesis and it's approachable for young children so it's a great place to start.

We'll start with the simplest options and move on to move advanced approaches. 


You might also like:


 Recording Your Voice

Actually, even before speech synthesis, comes being able to record your voice and play it back. This is something young children absolutely love. 

We use simple voice recorder boxes for projects at events - children love recording their voice and then triggering its playback. This allows you to create interactive projects that use old-style precanned voice recordings.



Scratch Jr (for Android, iPad, Kindle Fire and ChromeOS) allows little kids to record their voices and play their recordings back using code blocks. This is a lot of fun!

Voice recording and playback is also a popular activity in Scratch. Kids can record their voices and then use code to play it back using Scratch 2.0 online. When Elbrie's youngest son was learning phonics we got his older brother to record letter sounds and made a Scratch phonics app using MaKey MaKey and play dough


ScratchX

Scratch itself doesn't support speech synthesis yet, but there's a Scratch text to speech extension that does. You can use the extension online at ScratchX.org (a site that hosts unsupported add-ons to Scratch.)

This extension adds a 'speak' block to Scratch. Children who are used to using Scratch will get the idea quickly.



OhBot

OhBot is a programmable robot head that does a lot more that speech synthesis. But it does do speech synthesis rather nicely with synchronised lip movements. 

OhBot has a block-based programming environment that allows kids to easily generate speech. It uses the Microsoft Windows text to speech features. 

We use OhBot as an interactive assistant at events. It's also a big hit at kids parties for programming jokes! OhBot is great for getting kids thinking about how people interact with robots.

Here's a video of a project we made using OhBot:




And the code:


Pocket Code

Pocket Code is a drag and drop programming environment for Android devices. I keep Pocket Code installed on my phone for when my kids want to do some unplanned coding when we're away from their other devices! Yes, that happens. 

Pocket Code is great for creating apps that work well on touchscreen devices.



The Everything Machine

The Everything Machine is an awesome app from Tinybop. The Everything machine allows you to turn an iOS device into all sorts of amazing gadgets that make use of the inputs and output son the device. 

One of the output options is the 'Type Talker' which turns text into spoken speech. It has options for changing the speed and pitch of the speech which is lots of fun. 

Here's an example project from Tinybop:


Pencil Code

Pencil Code is a block-based online coding environment that's a bit more advanced than Scratch.

It supports speech synthesis so you can create apps like this spelling test:


Here's the code:



Talking Web Pages with Trinket

Trinket is an online coding editor that you use in a browser. It supports the development of interactive web pages with HTML, CSS and JavaScript. This only works in supported web browsers.

Minecraft

Minecraft 1.12 (just released) has support for a text-to-speech voice narrator.

If you combine this feature with Command Blocks (or the new functions) then you can code with voice in Minecraft which is pretty neat.

Swift Playgrounds 

Swift Playgrounds is an iOS app that teaches Apple's new programming language. Swift Playgrounds can be used with Siri Text to Speech to create apps that talk.

More Options

These options are more advanced and we'll look at them in more detail in future, just a quick mention for now. Note that some APIs have age restrictions. 
  • TJBot from IBM is a fun Raspberry-Pi based robot that can be used with the Watson conversation API to create a talking robot
  • The AIY Projects Voice Kit is another Raspberry Pi based kit and was recently included as a free gift with the MagPi magazine. It turns a Raspberry Pi using Google Assistant. 
  • You can program using the Amazon Alexa API and even create new Alexa skills. This works on a Raspberry Pi too. 


Roundup

Voice recording playback and speech synthesis are great ways to get kids having fun with coding and creating useful projects too. 

Voice-based toys and gadgets are becoming more and more popular and it's important for kids to understand the tech around them.

There are loads of really cool options for kids with different experience levels to try creating apps and projects that talk to their users.


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Tech Age Kids | Technology for Children: Program Computers to Talk - Coding with Speech Synthesis for Kids
Program Computers to Talk - Coding with Speech Synthesis for Kids
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