Holiday (or anytime) Gift Ideas for Cool Kids (12)

It’s the tech shopping time of year, so I thought I’d share some holiday gift ideas for the cool kids in your life. I’ve had personal experience with everything on this list except the last item! Let me know if you have any favorites you would add in the comments.

Chibitronics Love to Code Interactive Binder

chibi clip2

Picture from Amazon

This microcontroller from Chibitronics and Jie Qi is super accessible since it can be programmed with MakeCode AND uses the audiojack to send programs from your device to the controller. It’s a game changer! With the addition of this supercool interactive binder, your cool kids can learn to craft paper circuits, write code, and program those paper circuits alongside some wonderfully illustrated characters by K-Fai Steele. My full review on this starter kit is coming soon!


Picture from Amazon

Scratch Coding Cards – Only $10 bucks on Amazon right now!


Yes, you can download and print these cards from, but this deck is durable and super fun for kids interested in Scratch. In fact, I bought these for my 8 YO last year! I’ve given these cards out as gifts for other cool kids too. Scratch is a hit with kids age 6 and up. (And don’t worry, your young ones can still start coding with Scratch Jr. It is a hit with kids under 8.)


Organizing my #Microbit sets this am. #makerlibrarian #makered #photostoragehack

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Micro:bit is another entry level microcontroller that can be programmed with Makecode! It’s super easy to use, fun, and kids love the scrolling LEDs on the front and the ability to program music (but a separate speaker component will have to be bought a la cart!) It is programmed through a USB, so a computer is needed, but it can be used with a Chromebook. (In fact, I prefer having my students program Micro:bit on the Chromebook since they can then save their programs easily in Google Drive.)


Picture from Amazon

Kano Computing System (without monitor) Kano Complete System (with monitor)

I bought my 8 YO the Kano system in 2015  when she was 6 and she STILL loves it!  Plus, Kano has done some great upgrades in the last two years. It’s a great first computer that will focus your kid on creating fun stuff, rather than just surfing the web. (But as a warning: I never did let mine connect to Wifi full time because of the Youtube app.)

Makey Makey paired with our #evilmakeybook and the Inventor Booster Kit


I know I’m biased on this one, but if your cool kid doesn’t already have a Makey Makey, this would be a great pairing for getting started! Throw in our #evilmakeybook, and the Inventor Booster kit and mischief is sure to be managed.

Lilypad Sewable Electronics Kit


If you know someone who wants to start sewing circuits, this is a great kit to get started. Since I recently reviewed this, see the full review and projects I made with it here.

Cozmo Robot by Anki

And last but not least! Something just for fun! I don’t have a Cosmo Robot by Anki (YET!), but this little AI driven robot looks pretty amazing. I’m not sure how educational it is, but it looks like a great robot toy for the 8-14 year old set.

This review talked me into getting one this holiday season!

If you are looking for some books for your cool kids, check out my post on coding books  and I hope to add a post just on my favorite books soon!


#LufkinLearns Invention Literacy Workshop – Wrap Up (10)

Last week I was stoked to lead an invention literacy workshop for educators in Lufkin, Tx. Thanks to Rafranz Davis, I was able to teach this group about some of my favorite things: Invention Literacy, Makey Makey, and the Maker Mindset.

Inventor’s Mindset

One of my favorite things about this workshop is Tom Heck’s icebreaker where we talk about an inventor’s mindset. Here are some aha moments from that morning:

  • Inventors are not risk takers, but rather inventors take calculated risks.
  • An inventor looks at the world as something they can change or make better. They constantly ask the question, “How does this work?” or “How can I make this better?”

Paper Circuits

Since most of these teachers had never used a Makey Makey, I wanted to refresh them on the concept of a simple circuit. ( I packed all of the materials needed in these handy photo storage boxes so resources were distributed easily to each table group.)

Table group resources in a handy photo storage box! #makered #hacks

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I loved that after getting a working circuit, learners begin to find other applications. Rafranz hacked her simple circuit into a parallel circuit, and most of the table groups begin to make holiday cards.


Fairy Tales

After circuits, we began to dabble in the Sketch it Play it activity. (Sketch something with a pencil, hook it up to Makey Makey and play a piano.) Normally I have my educators make blackout poetry, but since this was a room full of awesome elementary educators, I adapted this part of the workshop to creating illustrations for our favorite fairy tales.


A lot of educators never get #beyondthebanana with Makey Makey, so even though they only just started playing with this little invention kit, I had educators make a switch. For me, I didn’t know how to make a switch for Makey Makey for almost A YEAR after the first time I played with one. Making switches and finding ways to make everyday things into switches, is one of the most inventive and fun ways to create projects with Makey Makey.  (In fact, Aaron and I made a whole book of wacky projects based on this concept!)

Invention Literacy

I spent a lot of time during this workshop sharing how I incorporate invention literacy into my library programming. If you haven’t read these posts, you should check them out!

Design Challenge

The last part of the day is MY FAVORITE PART! The workshop participants are challenged to make something useful by going through the design thinking process. They have a limited amount of time. A design challenge is a great maker activity, but there are three important things that have to happen for a successful challenge.

  • Relationships- Since the group worked through so many things together on this day, they felt comfortable working on a more challenging project together. If you were to attempt a design challenge straight out of the gate, it might not be as successful.
  • Open Ended/open-middled/open beginning – A challenge should be open ended enough so that every group creates a different product at the end of the designated time. You can open any part of your directions. For more on the open middle and open beginning concept by Jay Silver, read the Challenge Based Learning Book.
  • Time Constraint– The time constraint is what helps makers focus and get finished (hopefully) with their project. If a full working prototype doesn’t happen, proof of concept is okay too!

Check out all the awesome ideas these educators had:

Group 1

Portable Christmas tree ! #lufkinlearns

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Group 2

A super simple solution to an alarm for a water leak. #lufkinlearns @makeymakey #scratch

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Group 3

1st grade alphabet sensory board ! #lufkinlearns #inventionliteracy design challenge

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Group 4

Group 5

If you’d like to bring me to your school district, conference, museum, or other informal learning space for this workshop, please use this contact form below.

I host other maker education workshops too! Browse my workshop menu, or contact me to develop a workshop based on your needs.