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Mary Poppins* fans may have caught the quote in the title for this post. In the “Spoonful of Sugar” song from the movie, she makes the point that one can lighten a chore by adding a little fun.
Our boys aren’t working graveyard shifts in a factory, but we do see practical applications for teaching them about electronics. Tonight’s gifts come from the series of educational toys from Elenco, Snap Circuits.
Snap Circuits do great job of easing a task that some would categorize as work. They are packaged sets of pieces that allow kids“from 8 to 108” per the boxto do experiments with real, working circuits without any messy, skin-singeing soldering.
Go on: ask me why I’m concerned about singeing oneself with solder. No, don’t, because I’m clumsy and easily distracted, and burning flesh is gross. I loved my electrical engineering classes, but lived in fear of implementing what I learned. I would’ve enjoyed these Snap Circuit sets in college!
Instead of soldering wires, the connections are made with oversized snaps like you would find on common garments. They’re as easy to click together as Lego bricks. Unlike a simple Lego connection, however, one must develop an understanding of how electricity flows in order to create working circuits that make electronic projects work.
Never studied electronics? Don’t worry! There’s a very specific manual to walk kids through the different projects.
The boys have had a Snap Circuits starter set for years, and the SC-100 Junior Starter Set is a fine place to begin at any age. Once
you have your kid has a grasp on the basic working of the components, you can add on additional kits that either continue with a general education in electronics, or follow a particular theme that might appeal to the user.
As a parent, one of my favorite things about this company and these kits is the commitment to keeping the sets modular and re-combinable to extend their value. I really appreciate having the choice to buy just the additions I need to move from a beginner’s set to one with more advanced experiments and projects.
Unlike some other company’s products, I’m not forced to either:
- pay extra for parts I don’t need, or
- carefully work through lists in tiny print on the back of the box for multiple, similar sets to determine whether or not I’ve missing anything that sounds fun and/or important.
And it isn’t all work with no play! The kids genuinely enjoy fooling around with Snap Circuits kits because they can make real, working models that do stuff. Lights will light up and buzzers will sound, and they will do so more reliably than most kids can manage with regular electronic components even in an educator supported environment.
Naturally, the stuff my boys want to do usually includes “make a loud, obnoxious buzzer in Mom’s ear” or “try to launch the spinner into my brother’s face,” but Elenco isn’t selling magic beans or the promise of more perfect kids. With Snap Circuits, they are selling appealing sets that let children experiment with—and learn about—real electronics without too much muss or fuss.
A supportive adult could be helpful for a total novice or a younger child, but no supervision is necessary to make these kits diverting for kids who like to take stuff apart and/or build things.
Our Eight Nights of Hanukkah Gifts are generally things that we can enjoy as a family. These fit the bill because they give the kids something to play with that leads naturally to learning experiences we like sharing with our boys.
How does that project work? Why did it fail before? What else can you do with those elements? What does that inspire you to try next time? What’s the correlation between this toy and the circuits you can see in household electronics?
I worried a little about ending eight days of holiday giving with the “educational” present, but I shouldn’t have. Snap Circuits are too good. The boys were genuinely pleased to expand their collection.
*If you’ve never read P.L. Travers’ novels about Mary Poppins, which served as inspiration for the popular 1964 Disney film, please consider doing so. The books were much darker and weirder than the film version, and I loved them as a little girl. This is a case where I think the film is a real classic, but almost a completely different creature from the original work.
Some people on GoodReads seem to find old-fashioned child rearing methods so inappropriate, they can’t even enjoy the books. All I can say is that none of it bothered me as a girl. I would gladly put up with an imperious guardian to enjoy magical adventures; why not let today’s children make that choice for themselves, too?