Top positive review
7 people found this helpful
After four years - still fun, affordable, easy to use and picked by schools for STEM classes
on December 12, 2015
If you're wondering what to buy your child this year that is not another toy or video game, consider Snap Circuits. Elementary schools in my area have introduced them as part of their STEM curriculum and they have been a hit with the students as they are able to create all sorts of projects, including alarms, fans, lamps, AM radio, doorbells, special sound and light effects, etc. I will compare it to Little Bits and Lego Mindstorm below.
There are materials and training out there to build more elaborate toys that could potentially get your child a Science Fair prize, but if you're looking for something affordable that doesn't require an advance degree, allows kids to have fun on their own and spend hours tinkering with, you'll soon find that the Snap Circuits 750 sets is the best investment. It is the one my child's school picked in the end for ease of use and because - let's face it - kids love it. A Top 10 Educational Toy award and a 5-star overall review speaks for itself.
Don't let the nondescript look and fancy name fool you - this is a high quality, five-star rated toy, voted one of the best of the year. You can buy smaller Snap Circuit sets with the individual manuals, but the price overall will be higher when you buy all five separately. Get the whole set instead - the SC-750 set is a bargain for the hours of fun this will bring your child and your family for years to come. This set includes the 5 easy-to-follow manuals of the smaller sets and all the parts needed to build 750 projects in all, in a sturdy carrying case to hold it all. It's for kids 8-15 but grown-ups love to help as well
This SC-750 set grows with your child. As a learning tool, the projects are meant to be done in some sequence, with each one explaining a part and what happens if you move this or that - at least in the beginning. We started working on the Jr (100) set which is the pink manual (1-101) when my son was five and he was able to do it with our help. Every step is explained, once you learn one project you move to the next and see what happens to a siren when you add a resistor, for example. The descriptions are kept short and to the point - for example, that the resistor lowers the volume.
One reviewer wished each part of each project was explained in detail each time. As one project builds on the knowledge from a previous project, it's impossible to explain what happens with each part in any one project. This would fill the page with tons of text. Rather, it's a gradual learning process and it's assumed that earlier projects have been done.
Four years later my son still loves it but is able to do it on his own, and is doing projects from other manuals. He can skip ahead too as the diagrams clearly show how to put all the parts together - though he might miss some explanations about the "why" of using each circuit part in a particular project if he doesn't do them in sequence. Not a big issue at this age where assembly-type toys with lots of parts are the norm.
My now nine-year old considers the R-750 set to be - in his words - awesome. Seeing how each varies intrigues him to no end. He's still fascinated with the set, more so now that he's also using them in school.
I've also had the opportunity to see other STEM toys in action. A month ago, Barnes and Noble hosted Mini Makers fairs in stores nationwide and one that was featured was Little Bits. It is probably more along the lines of more traditional circuits, where small components are put together to create alarm clocks and moving parts in legos. It is also exorbitantly expensive. Fortunately some libraries are investing thousands of dollars in buying these so you may soon be able to find them free of charge near you. It too ends up creating gizmos and gadgets, but for a lot of $$.
Today I covered another STEM event at a library, this time with Lego Mindstorm. A teacher helped students for two hours to build a Lego robot, starting with the base Mindstorm unit, programming it on a computer, setting up parameters for instructions to make the robot spin, turn lights on and off, etc. This class was free but if you decide to buy it on amazon, a Lego Mindstorm Kit is very expensive and only lets you do a handful of projects. Now the big "BUT" kids have a hard time doing these on their own which is why schools are bringing teachers to train them and companies - not schools, at least in my area - are doing after-school classes and summer camps just to learn how to use this Lego Mindstorm. If the teacher leaves, the kids are left with a bunch of technology they don't know how to use because it can be so complex.
In all, either as an introduction to circuits or simply as an assembly toy, it's a winner.