I'm doing something slightly different this month for our featured game. Technology Will Save Us, a London-based company that specializes in diy kits for kids that combine engineering, technology and fun sent me their DIY Gamer Kit. (Note: They sent me a review copy, but all opinions are my own.) At first I was hesitant, because my boys have a bit of an obsessive problem with screens. So much so, that we had to limit it to 30 minutes a week (which greatly improved their behavior and ability to entertain themselves -- but that's another story).
Anyway... I quickly realized this gamer kit is completely different than typical screen time and I am now wholeheartedly for it.
What's in the Kit. The DIY Gamer Kit comes in two manifestations. You can purchase a kit that is already soldered and ready to be quickly assembled, or you can buy an unsoldered kit and break out your home soldering tool. Guess which kit we put together?
Putting it together. While the directions are not at all difficult I had to put most of the gamer together because my son had trouble with the small pieces. There are comprehensive, easy to follow instructions on their website.
Playing the gamer. The gamer comes loaded with 2 games: Snake and Pong. Both my kids figured out how to play the gamer while I was still scratching my head thinking, "How does this work?" So, ha ha on the old lady of the house! My younger son tried playing one of the basic games but his motor skills got him into trouble, and it is recommended for kids ages 10 and up, so that's fair.
My 10 year old son LOVED the gamer. In my opinion the best thing about the kit is that it encourages kids to hack it and code their own games. This is pretty awesome. It runs on Arduino, an open source electronics platform and the Tech Will Save Us website has loads of help and tutorials to get kids started with coding and designing their own animations.
The DIY Gamer Kit does have a high price tag, but here's why I think it's worth it. My son was less focused on "cool" and often distracting graphics that normally accompany "screen time". Holding a Gamer that he physically helped to make helped focus him on the engineering aspect and the design -- something my son doesn't always think about -- and encouraged him to "hack" the gamer. He became very interested in the coding aspect, something he hadn't really done before. It was great to see him at work!
There's a lot more to say, so take a look at all the resources available on the Technology Will Save Us website.
For younger kids, we loved the DIY Electro Dough Kit, and you can read our review here.
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