December 6, 2009

FOLLOWUP: So in yesterday’s discussion of hands-on toys, numerous readers thought my five-year-old nephew could probably handle the Snap Circuits Electronics Kit even though it says it’s for 8 and up. I asked my brother about it — and he reported that they gave him that very kit for his birthday last month and he’s using it with glee, and even improving some of the designs that come with it.

Okay. So now I’m thinking the Snap Circuits radio-controlled rover. Or maybe I should just send him off to help debug the Large Hadron Collider . . . .

UPDATE: Reader Jeff Weimer writes:

We bought the Snap-Circuits kit last Christmas for my then 6 year old son, who immediately began to build the most complicated diagram – the AM radio on the cover. He only got one thing wrong – a diode backwards. We later bought the rover and an expansion kit. It’s a great tool for teaching electronics hands on. And the helicopter fan will go up at least 20 feet if you wire the motor in series with both battery packs. And some of it is surprisingly easy to repair; if you know how to solder, you can fix the wire connectors lickety split.

That was when we thought maybe he was too smart for his age and we needed to look at skipping the second grade or gifted programs. He’s now beating his fellow third graders in school, mostly. He still complains that school is too easy.

Full disclosure – I’m an electronics and weapons system tech in the Navy, so I’m intimately familiar with the concepts and items in the kits. It lets me teach a little bit to my son what I do on an everyday basis.

Well, my nephew’s mom is getting her Ph.D in AI, and my brother’s become — under my evil influence — an electronics geek, so I guess this all makes sense. I’m sending him the rover this year.

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