Christmas is near and so is humanity’s digital future. Coverage of Industry 4.0 often focuses on the growing and expected technical skills gap. Deloitte writes that digital skills, technology and computer skills, critical thinking, and working with tools and techniques are all essential skills for future success.
Playing is one of the key ways children develop new skills and learn about the world around them. It’s a key component of development, “because it contributes to the[ir] cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being”. Check out this list of toys, ghost of manufacturing future approved ™. Giving these gifts will both provide them hours of engaging play, and equip them with the types of technical skills they will need in the future.
Lego Mindstorms $$$$: If you’re looking to encourage your kid to learn more about robotics, programming, and building, check out Lego Mindstorms. There are various robot shapes to choose from. Each robot type includes a few core components, such as sensors, beacons, motors, and programmable bricks. You’ll need a tablet or computer to pair with the robot in order to write the program. Based on reviews, the ideal age range varies significantly. When deciding whether or not this toy is right for your family, consider how much exposure your child has had to programming, their attention span, and whether you’re purchasing for supervised versus self-directed play.
Kano Computer Kit $$: According to Kano, “if you can read, you can start” using Kano to learn programming. Kano offers a range of kits, from build-your-own computer to motion sensor kits. The computer kit uses a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B Motherboard, and each kit includes kid-friendly illustrated instructions. Also, each purchase includes lifetime care (support from the Kano team) and a 1-year warranty.
Makey Makey Classic $: Inexpensive and easy to comprehend, the Makey Makey kit lets children incorporate real-world objects with programs for silly fun. Reviewers mention using Makey Makey to turn gummy worms into game controllers, and bottle tops into drum sets. The kit uses banana clips to link materials that conduct at least a “tiny bit of electricity” between the object and the keyboard.
Littlebits Base Inventor Kit $$: This kit lets kids customize a voice-activated gripper arm (very Iron Man-esque). Visual and in-app guides teach kids how to build electronic inventions. Reviewers laud the toy’s ability to encourage tinkering and interest in STEM. They can learn STEM concepts while they play.
Raspberry Pi $: A Raspberry Pi is a basic computer with an SD card. Depending on the type you buy, all you need to do is connect it to a TV or monitor to get started. (Buying based on age and experience? Check out this post by Raspberry Pi for more details on which Pi to buy. Entry level learners are encouraged to purchase a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+.) There are plenty of how-to and getting started guides available from other companies and via the Raspberry Pi Press. Get the “Book of Making Volume 1” for a variety of guided, 1 hour to full weekend projects, along with other tips for getting the most out of your Raspberry Pi.
For the manufacturer in the family, you can always get him or her a Factory Kit and give the gift of digital manufacturing.These are our top 5 recommendations this year, however, there is a growing number of coding and STEM focused educational sites and tools. Let us know if you think we missed any great ones!