We’re always on the hunt for fun educational experiences that promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in our home for our two children- ages 7 and almost 10. They’re naturally curious about how things work, love dismantling broken electronics (in a safe way and with our permission, of course!), and enjoy open ended toys that allow them to be creative. One of our new loves is littleBits.
Called an “open-source library of magnetically connected circuit boards, from which kids can construct simple electronic devices” in a piece about whether toys can create future engineers by The New Yorker, littleBits aims to kids to explore electronics in a safe and open ended way. littleBits are sets of wired building blocks that simply snap together thanks to magnetic pieces that great way to learn about circuitry.
We have the littleBits Base Kit ($99) that consists of 10 color coded pieces (power= blue, output= green, input = pink, wire = orange) that allowed our kids to create a circuit in seconds. Ready to use out of the box, our kids had created working buzzers, figured out how to wire a light to a dimmer switch, and attached a paper airplane to the DC motor to make it spin within minutes. A helpful project book, the projects and blog sections of their website, and littleBitsTV YouTube video can be a great way to get started serve as endless sources of inspiration as kids connect the 9 volt battery that comes with the kit and start putting pieces together.
There have been endless creations in the week that we’ve had our Base Kit. With over 150,000 possible combinations with the 10 pieces, the possibilities are endless for simple and even more complicated circuits. Adding additional modules, accessories, or individual pieces such as the vibration motor, inverter, fork, fan, pressure sensor, or motion trigger allows for further customization for more complicated circuitry and inventive products like a Morse Code Machine, glow- in-the-dark puppet, or bubble flute.
I think that one of the reasons why our kids can’t get enough of littleBits is because the design promotes their success thanks to magnets that can only be snapped together the correct way so there’s never any frustration during the building process. The color coded pieces are also helpful in getting started and teaching about input, output, power, and wiring. It’s amazing how quickly kids figure out which bits do what and how to arrange them to get them to do what they want but of course we want to add to our collection!
In addition to the separate modules and accessories that you can purchase, there are also other kits that feature more pieces. Don’t tell our seven year old music lover but we’ve pre-ordered The Synth Kit ($159) to make his own synthesizer! I can’t think of a better way to encourage his love of music and engineering! Even pro musicians like Reggie Watts have used littleBitts’ limited edition Synth Kit to create music!
The price point of littleBits may induce sticker shock at first glance but we’ve had Snap Circuits (and purchased many additional kits and modules for quite a sum of money over the years) and I honestly think that littleBits is easier to use for young ages because the pieces are so easy to put together. Both littleBits and Snap Circuits are worthwhile investments but from a lack-of-frustration standpoint for kids and parents alike, littleBits wins hands down!
If you’re interested in purchasing littleBits, get 10% off any Exploration Kit with code “savvy10” when you purchase directly from the littleBits site. This discount expires on 12/31/13 and there’s free shipping on orders of $75 or more until 12/24. Just be sure to order before 12/18 for holiday delivery within the United States.
I received a littleBits kit for review and was compensated for my time in writing this post however, all opinions are my own and based on my family’s experience. Additional littleBits modules and The Synth Kit were personally purchased using the discount code above. Affiliate links are included in this post.