The world of DIY and the world of children are quite compatible. To prove it, we offer you this selection of gifts to transform all those little geeks who demand the latest game console into apprentice makers who learn the rules of tinkering by doing.
Makery dug up a few gift ideas for DIY tech toys that teach kids how to become perfect little makers. From the customizable robot to electronic bricks to build connected objects or even organic rabbits, this international selection stretches beyond borders (so mind your delivery dates).
Tinkering for all
Littlebits: Catch them all!
These are the Lego of electronics that snap together magnetically. Each module has a specific function (motor, sensor, switch, wifi, etc) to teach the ABCs of prototyping. Color-coded, solid and safe.
Price: 185 € for the Young Inventor kit
More: Makery lists it among the top 10 rapid prototyping kits
Makey Makey makes bananas sing
Jay Silver’s Makey Makey borrows bright colors from childhood memories and is delivered in the form of inventor kits. Each kit contains a card or a key that is used as a central unit to which you plug in wires to send commands. Basically, you replace the keyboard with any conductive object, including fruits and vegetables. Many experiments have been documented in tutorials, starring the banana. Who says we shouldn’t play with our food?
Manufacturer: Makey Makey
Price: 50 € for Makey Makey Classic and 25 € for Makey Makey Go (programmable USB stick)
More: read Makery’s articles on the Makey Makey Go kit and the “Burn the keyboard” workshop at Scopitone festival
Kano, the accessory to Raspberry Pi
The Raspberry Pi nano-computer is pretty fundamental, but delivered raw, not necessary appealing to kids. The Kano computer accessorizes it with everything they need to start having fun: keyboard, build-your-own speaker, even a simplified code book to make their own games. Kano hooks up to a monitor and is available through the end of the year with a holiday discount.
Price (holiday special): 137 €
Of drones and robots
Drones made in France
No doubt drones will emerge as one of 2015’s greatest hits under the tree. Makery recommends two, from France. Parrot’s Rolling Spider and Jumping Sumo do a little more than fly, they roll, jump and bump into everything without getting hurt. Here, nothing to build, just master piloting while filming through the camera underneath. Hide the vases! The ride won’t last longer than 8 minutes, due to limited autonomy.
Price: around 70 € for Rolling Spider and 100 € for Jumping Sumo
More: read Makery’s articles on drones
Dash & Dot, the robot-ball that wants to make friends
Dash & Dot is a programmable robot with a big eye in the center of its head, to which you can add a number of accessories to augment its experiences—wheels, instruments, etc. Dash & Dot speaks, follows paths, interacts with a rich library of applications. Its head alone lets you program your own games from a smartphone.
Manufacturer: Make Wonder
Price: 45 € for Dot (head only) and 139 € for Dot & Dash (Dot with wheels)
Ohbot, the little maker’s head to dress
Ohbot won’t win any beauty contests, but he’s a funny fellow with his googly eyes. The objective is to bring his expressions alive by programming him. Made by British makers, Ohbot isn’t dressed up like a mainstream toy, but you can count on his community to prolong his life, as raised eyebrows and other programmed smiles are shared.
Price: 137 € (original version of kit), 165 € (latest version), and 25 € more for the pre-assembled version
For “maker babies”
Rabbits of the eco-neighborhood
The “Rabbits of the eco-neighborhood” are a family of rabbits made from 100% organic cotton and hand-sewn in India during a workshop to reintegrate women. Henriette, Fernand and Augustine’s burrow is just as eco-friendly, with a vegetable garden and windmill. A pretty picture (sold separately) raises awareness of a lifestyle that respects natural resources: “Rainwater falls into the box and waters the vegetable garden, the wind turns the windmill, which produces electricity to turn on the suspension.”
Manufacturer: Encore Jouets
Price: 25 € for a rabbit, 35 € for the vegetable garden
Once the gift is unwrapped, everything remains to be done…
If you’re aiming for a purely DIY Christmas, better to prepare the materials in advance. The Hong Kong company 4M offers box kits that contain (almost) everything you need to carry out experiments and build robots using daily objects (lamp and solar robot, weather station…). Inexpensively priced at an average of 15 €.
Price: from 12 € to 22 € depending on the kit
3D printing, child’s play
Thingiverse offers in its Open Toy section files and tutorials to 3D print elements that will transform your onions and carrots into helicopters and jets. Of course, for this type of gift, it’s best to have your own 3D printer at home (or at least a membership to a nearby fablab).
Reclaiming materials as a fun concept
Increasingly DIY, this resource page on Instructables points to key projects to build vehicles and other projectile launchers using… popsicle sticks.
As an alternative to the official Star Wars franchise, we offer you this tutorial to make your own BB-8, the series’s newest robot.
More info: read Makery’s Bricole it Yourself BB-8
Why not make a makerspace?
And what if the ultimate dream for a budding maker was to have her own makerspace? Lance Akiyama, whose website offers all sorts of DIY workshop tips for future engineers, made a meticulously detailed tutorial to make your own treasure trove with little drawers and lots of knick-knacks. Note that it might be a bit tight to make it in time for this Christmas…