The Snap Circuits Jr Electronics Kit Makes a Great Fun and Educational Gift for Kids
The Snap Circuits Jr electronics kit for kids is a big hit in our house. It's recommended for children ages 8 and up but my 7 year old has been using it with supervision and has got a lot from it already. He's has it for a year now and it comes out regularly - his younger brother loves to watch and I can see that he will be wanting to build his own circuits soon too!
The Snap Circuits range uses sturdy snap together components that fit onto a plastic board to make it easier to follow the instructions and understand your circuits. The set comes with lots of projects to work through and some explanation of the components and what they do.
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Elenco have done a great job of making this set fun. There are lights and sounds and even a propeller that whizzes into the air when placed on the motor.
I'm also impressed with the packaging. All the pieces have a place to go which means that kids can easily spot if there's a piece missing when they are putting the set away. My son actually voluntarily packs this set away and checks the pieces.
The basic introduction set is the JR SC-100. You can buy an upgrade set to extend this set with the additional parts and projects you get with the larger SC-100 set. If you're fairly sure the child you're buying for will enjoy snap circuits then check the prices and see whether it works out cheaper to buy the larger set straight away.
Note that these kits do require batteries or you can buy an additional power supply so you can just connect to the mains.
As well as the basic sets there are also themed sets that focus on green energy, light and sound. We decided to start with the basic set and then add some of the themed ones in future for some more variety and so that we'll have enough for both of our kids to build circuits at the same time.
This is the larger set which allows you to build more projects.
If you think the basic set might be a little dry for the child you have in mind or you want to make sure the set is seen as a fun gift then Lights version of the kit is worth considering.
I think it's very important that kids growing up today have an understanding of the technology around them. I'm an IT professional myself and studied basic electronics at school. Even if kids aren't going to go on to have a specifically tech-centered career it's good to demystify technology as it will be popping up all over the place.
Snap Circuits is a very good tool for teaching the basics of electronics. It doesn't require soldering or complex mathematics but it has enough depth for children to really learn a lot and even start designing their own circuits (with supervision.)
The sets are also excellent value for money. Snap Circuits has maintained interest over a long period of time in our house. Every now and then something will spark (ahem) my son's interest in electronics and the set comes back out and he works through the projects and discovers something new.
It's a great kit for parent (or grandparent) and child to work together on too. If you didn't learn electronics as a child or you're a bit rusty then why not join in and work through the projects together. It's a good idea for parents to understand the principles as once kids start designing their own circuits you'll want to be able to check them to make sure they are correct and won't damage any components. (There is a free replacement parts service, but obviously you want to avoid having to use that!)
Photo credit: DinosaurEgg