the network for radical unschooling families
So far I've found Snap Circuits to be limited-duration sorts of fun. Mo likes doing things from kids and instructions and then springboarding from that to her own projects, but hasn't found Snap Circuits facilitate the "springboarding" part of her process. She liked doing the various projects in the books, but lost interest quickly. We've had better luck, so far, with Lego kits, and I'm currently looking into dumping some serious money into some of the robotics stuff.
When buying online, I tend to go through Amazon but I also deliberately look to purchase from smaller vendors whenever possible. Often those are small family businesses - "mom and pop" type arrangements and I like to support that kind of business whenever I can. It does cost a little more - the bigger companies will set up their account with Amazon to underprice other sellers automatically - but usually only a few dollars, and I'll also go and browse the seller's "storefront" and see if they have anything else I'd like to add, to save on shipping.
I got these for DS8 when he was 5. He was able to follow the instructions and make things and by 6 he was improvising. The set we got seems closest to the SC-500 kit there, but if I remember right it was around $35 on sale at radio shack, not $63.
I don't think we've ever replaced the batteries, so getting the expensive solar one might be overkill.
Sometimes he will pull these out and spend a few hours with the kit. He spends more time at legos though.
When I was a kid I had the kits with the spring terminal connections and real wires. I think those were more interesting. The fixed length geometry of the connectors and such is a restriction that doesn't exist with wires.
I would probably get them again if I had it all to do over again. He and DS6 do understand about circuits and electricity now.
I am looking forward to when we eventually get to the Lego Mindstorms stuff.
We enjoy the Snap Circuit kits in our house. My son got his first kit (the Jr. Circuit set) when he was about 6 and enjoyed it so much that he asked for additional sets for his birthday and Christmas this past year. He now has the Green kit, the rover, and the extension kit. He really enjoys the Green kit; although, his interest in them all goes in spurts.
In my research for them, I found Amazon to be the lowest price. Although I have also purchased from some of the local, independent toy stores in our area even though the price was slightly higher.
Thankyou all for sharing your experiences.
Raghu has been interested in electric circuits and stuff from an imagination perspective for a long time. For e.g. he broke apart our old laptop and took out the sound-source-speaker (kwim?) and stuck it on his body with tape and came down and declared that he was Ironman :-) He connects wires to different things and creates imaginary projects. I use the word imaginary to express that he is more interested in the imagination and putting together of electric stuff/magnets/bits of machines etc... than making them really work.
At a local lab he attended for several weeks... he discovered their one and only snap circuit set (the owner bought it in the US) and he was hooked. Every class he asked to work with it. After 3 sessions the instructor and Raghu had a small falling out... as the instructor felt it was a waste of Raghu's time to keep doing teh same project/kit. Raghu stopped going to the lab. I did have a talk with the instructor... saying its my money, raghu's time, please let him work on what he wants etc... but this went against the schooly mind of the lab owners. Anyway Raghu misses access to that kit.
To satisfy Raghu's need for understanding electricity and connections... i'd have to find someone willing to do these kinds of projects with him. Neither me nor dh have an inherent ability so we depend on kits and such to meet Raghu's needs. A lot of kits in India are poorly made and require some skill to work.
We did buy the Lego Mindstorm kit about 2 years ago. But around the same time we opened up to computers/internet/wii and the DS. Raghu is passionate about gaming. So perhaps our timing was off... but the mindstorm sits in a cupboard for now. We did make a robot and Raghu enjoyed it immensely.
So meantime i feel the guaranteed results of putting together snap circuits makes for a neat experience. At present Raghu is quite excited that we are getting the kit. Perhaps if he looses interest and such we could re-sell for a decent amount? Also thinking actively about finding an electrician locally who might be happy to be paid for a session in making circuits. I will chk Radio Shack (we are visiting NJ/NYC for a few weeks soon) and perhaps see some local retailers. Otherwise Amazon is always an option. And perhaps only the extreme kit and adaptor is enough for now.
Since he is so obsessed with it you should probably just get it!
I checked the RadioShack site, the prices are similar to amazon's now. Maybe I got ours during a clearance sale or such. One thing about them that wasn't ideal was the manual that came with ours didn't explain much theory. For example, there would be a circuit with transistors but no discussion of how it really works. But maybe the purpose of these kits is not to teach at that level, but rather make electronics fun.
When he gets a little older I am sure he will get into the Mindstorms, it's cool since you can write programs for Mindstorm robots in a C like language.
After mastering Mindstorms in a few years, he might be interested in learning to design his own circuits getting him an Arduino kit. Various companies make them, probably the best for kids are the kits from SparkFun. Their latest is this one:
The kits get upgraded and changed around continually so by the time he is interested in this level of doing things there will be different models. Google has decided to make Arduino the standard microcontroller for Android phone accessories. There are tons of people doing all sorts of interesting projects using Arduino microcontrollers. I'd have assumed you'd need to be about 12 to get into this level of electronics and programming, but they say 10 and up there, so who knows.
Also, you can download and print the manual to that arduino kit. It's real good.
Thanks Scott :-) for the mail and for checking radioshack's site. wow... had no idea that there were so many more things to look forward to in the world of electronics fun. I shall share these sites with Raghu.
I forgot that i could check prices on line for radio shack. our local stores in India are rarely well set up online. Forgotten my US days. The recent site here that is of high quality is Flipkart. http://www.flipkart.com/
i'll be looking more into this topic and the sites you mention.