January 23, 2018
I have enjoyed hobbyist electronics since I was a child, starting off with the venerable Dick Smith Funway kits, and progressing onto simple designs of my own. (I really must finish that door timer; it’s been sitting in pieces in a bag since we moved house two years ago).
Anyhow, since having children of my own, I’ve tried several different approaches to introducing them to electronics. The Funway kits are no more, the Short Circuits kits from Jaycar are awful (assembled on springs that are bloody fiddly for adults), and modern breadboards are inscrutable to children (conductors hidden away inside).
To my delight, though, I have discovered a new range of kits that is perfect for young children, the 698-in-1 Snap-On Electronics Kit:
It really is as easy to use as it looks. Components are colour-coded, numbered and where appropriate have electronic symbols and voltage ratings silk-screened on them. The whole thing is held together with poppers, like those you find on kids clothes!
The book itself has colored diagrams to assist with easy assembly. My eldest (five and a half years old) was able to pick up the book and assemble a kit without assistance. No fiddling with screws or springs, and no frustration when things didn’t work out as intended.
Finally, it’s really obvious how the circuit is connected, just by looking - something that isn’t always true even of spring or screw based systems. He intuitively worked out how to open the circuit to stop the noise, just by disconnecting one of the conductors.
That led to a conversation about open and closed circuits, and finally to him wandering around the room connecting things to a simple LED circuit to see if they conducted electricity well or not.
I’ve never seen him this excited about anything electronics-related before. It is really heart-warming to see him getting into something I loved as a child, too.
That said, there are a few cons to the kit.
Firstly, the description “698-in-1” is a bit of a stretch; many of the projects are slight changes to others. But there really are at least 698 functioning projects you can build with this kit, even if many are similar.
Secondly, the supplied instruction book is very light on theory. I’m 100% okay with this for younger kids - the point is to get them excited, help them realise they can build things from their imagination, and show them the basic principles. Older kids might benefit from a theory book as well.
Thirdly, the English in the book is a bit patchy in places. Not wrong, that I’ve seen, but in places it’s not idiomatic.
All in tall though, I can’t praise this kit enough, especially at the price (AUD69.95). Very highly recommended.