With all of the political shenanigans going on in the world today, it’s comforting to know that we have a completely non-partisan president who is more concerned with dancing than making newspaper headlines – Kid President.
My absolute favorites as a child were the Mr. Mystery Secret Agent Spy ones. (You can find More Mr. Mystery and The Return of Mr. Mystery online as well.) I loved the challenge of the puzzles and the independence that the invisible ink pen gave me to become a detective in my own imaginary world.
I got my daughter one of these a couple of years back for an upcoming trip, and I think she enjoyed them just as much as I always have. Of course, in retrospect I probably should have gotten one for myself, too!
To continue our Gifts for the Gifted series of 2014, I would like to recommend a little robot that looks like a toy but has a lot of educational potential.
I purchased a Sphero for my classroom late last May, and my students barely had time to unbox it before the school year ended. As soon as they returned in August, they asked me when it would make its reappearance. Some of you may remember that it was used by a group during our Cardboard Box Challenge this year. Three groups of 5th graders worked together to make a huge Sphero maze that was several sections. It was a big hit at our Cardboard Arcade!
The Sphero isn’t the easiest object to control. That’s part of the fun. Using one of the “Nubby” covers can sometimes help, but it can also be a hindrance depending on the surface.
If you’re a parent and not a teacher, you may be wondering why I am bringing up all of these educational options. Don’t get me wrong; there are several apps that make the Sphero pure fun without necessarily being educational, and it can inspire creativity in those kids who like to “make.” However, you may also want to consider buying one for your child and offering to loan it to his or her teacher for a week or two once your child starts running out of ideas at home.
You can purchase the Sphero at many retail stores, including Amazon. There is a newer product from Orbotix (Ollie) that may interest you as well. However, I don’t have experience with it yet so I can’t tell you if it’s worth it.
If you are interested in seeing the other gifts I’ve recommended this year, as well as from years past, check out this Pinterest Board.
It’s Friday and it’s December, which means that it’s time for another “Gifts for the Gifted” post!
I have posted about MaKey MaKey a few times, but I was surprised to look back and see that it didn’t make my Gifts for the Gifted series last year. This actually makes sense because I hadn’t used one yet at this time last year. Now that I’ve had a bit of experience with it and watched some of my students use it, I can definitely recommend it as a great gift.
You will need a computer with a USB port in order to use the MaKey MaKey. But the rest is up to your imagination. It looks intimidating, but the directions are a snap (I let my students hook it up and they had no problems).
I have a detailed description in this post. Basically, you can use anything that conducts electricity (including your tongue or your own skin) to power the MaKey MaKey. The most popular demonstrations use bananas. If you’re a bit stumped for other ideas, I’ve collected a few here to get your creative juices flowing.
For today’s entry into this year’s Gifts for the Gifted series (every Friday in November and December) I am recommending the 3Doodler. This 3D printing pen has come a long way since I first received the Kickstarter version around a year ago.
If you know a child who loves to create, then this could be a fabulous gift. At $99 you can currently get a great deal – the pen plus 50 strands of plastic. Although $99 may sound like a lot, it is significantly cheaper than a 3D Printer. Also, a computer is not required in order to start making your designs.
The 3Doodler works somewhat like a glue gun. You stick the plastic in one end, and it heats up. As you squeeze the button, the melted plastic comes out and you can direct it into the shape you like. The plastic cools relatively quickly, but I wouldn’t recommend touching it with bare fingers for about 30 seconds.
Because of the heat involved, the 3Doodler is not suitable for young children. I had students as young as 9 using it in my classroom last year with supervision, but would not suggest it for anyone younger. My daughter, who was 11 when we received it, used it with dexterity, but we both accidentally touched the hot part a couple of times. Using it also requires some perseverance and self-control that come with maturity, as it takes some practice to develop the techniques that will allow you to form the designs you imagine.
Since its Kickstarter campaign, 3Doodler has added a few more accessories, which include a stand, a pedal option that allows you to control the pen with your feet, and a set of different nozzles. It is also available in many more retail stores. In addition to purchasing it online, you can find it at Michael’s and Best Buy plus 10 other stores in the United States.
I would suggest that beginners start with some of the stencils provided on the 3Doodler site. The community offers many ideas, but don’t get too caught up in making what is already posted. Be creative!
For today’s Gifts for the Gifted post, I’m going to rewind all the way back to July of this year. Back then, I wrote about a product called Circuit Stickers from Chibitronics. I realize that the word “stickers” might make you grimace. But don’t stop reading, because these are not your ordinary stickers you can buy in packs of 4 sheets at Walmart. These are stickers that light up – if you arrange them the right way.
1 copy of the “Circuit Sticker Sketchbook” by Jie Qi, an introductory guide to using circuit stickers.
The Sketchbook is very important. It’s kind of a workbook, and very helpful to non-electricians like my daughter and me. I’m embarrassed to say that I never made a circuit in my life until I ordered this kit. The workbook is very good at scaffolding circuitry, and suggesting ideas to build on each little project.
Once you “get” circuits, you can really get creative with the stickers, as the video from Chibitronics will show. You can design cards and make fun jewelry or other fashion statements.
Speaking of cards, you can buy a holiday greeting card kit from Chibitronics here for $25. It includes L.E.D. stickers and materials to make 3 cards.
If you have a child that is in to “making,” then you should definitely check out the Circuit Stickers. For other Maker ideas, check out my Make Pinterest Board.
My Gifts for the Gifted series of posts will appear every Friday in November and December. Here are links to the first two that I’ve done so far this year: Osmo and Shell Game. You can see even more gift recommendations on this Pinterest Board.