preston wily

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Snap Circuits

I bought my 4-year-old son a Snap Circuits kit because he loves watching science shows and I like the idea of him having a fun toy that actually teaches him something. The package says that the kit is for kids who are 8 so he only uses it with adult supervision.

What I love about Snap Circuits
  • It's easy to use
  • Your kids will actually learn something (see below)
  • You will learn something (probably more than your kids unless you are an EE)
  • Your kids will enjoy playing with it more than watching TV
  • You will feel like a good parent once in a while :)
What my 4-year-old has learned
About a week after getting the kit I went to wake up my son in the morning by turning on his light. His eyes hadn't adjusted to the brightness yet so he put covered them with his hand and said, "Daddy, we need to get a resistor so the light isn't so bright." Come on, that's awesome. I wouldn't have known what he meant if I hadn't been doing the experiments with him. (If you're wondering here is a good overview of resistors for beginners)

Beyond just picking up some of the lingo, though, he really seems to be understanding what's going on. We like to play a game where we do an experiment together, then he closes his eyes while I either remove a piece or add one in that shorts the circuit. He has to figure out what is wrong and fix it.

Sometimes we just play around with the pieces to try to see if we can make something work that's not in the book. More than once I have had to go to the internet to figure out why a configuration doesn't work but that's part of the fun of it. There are certain pieces he loves like the Whistle Chip (I think it's just the name) so we spend a lot of time trying to incorporate those into the experiments in the book.

The experiments are awesome, though, and going through them will give you a lot of ideas about other things you can do with the board. He is good enough now that if I setup the battery pack (and sometimes a few pieces that go on the bottom) he can finish it with the instructions in the book. Pretty much all of the instructions in the book are pictures so your kid won't have to read to setup experiments.

Which kit is right for you?
I got the Snap Circuits JR kit because I didn't know how cool it was (and it is less than $20 shipped on Amazon assuming you are Prime). Knowing what I know now I would probably just drop $80 and get the SC-750 which has way more components, experiments and has a computer interface. There are a few upgrade kits I've seen on Amazon and on the manufacturer's website so I'll probably get one of those next.

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