Holiday (or anytime) Gift Ideas for Cool Kids

 

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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

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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!

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Picture from Amazon

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

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Yes, you can download and print these cards from Scratch.mit.edu, 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.)

Micro:bit

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.)

microbit

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

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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

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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!

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Graphic Novel Review- Secret Coders Series

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I love graphic novels, books about gaming, and books that promote problem solving.

Other Gene Luen Yang Graphic Novels

When I was in the English classroom, one of my favorite books to recommend to students was Gene Luen Yang’s Level Up. I loved it and so did my freshmen students. It was one of those books that I could hand to a hesitant reader and they would just gobble it up! American Born Chinese was also a favorite because it was such a quirky bildungsroman story about being an awkward teenager. Even though it is about being a Chinese American, the heart of the book is about being uncomfortable in your own skin. (AND ISN’T THIS WHAT EVERY TEENAGER FEELS?!?!?)  But I digress…

Secret Coders Series

So you can see why I was stoked when First Second offered to send me the first four books of the graphic novel series Secret Coders.  I read them quickly and then passed them on to my 8 YO. As I’m writing this review, she is re-reading them. She just LOVES this series.

I asked her, “What do you love about it?”

She said simply:

  • It’s about coding
  • It’s a mystery

And that is exactly what is so awesome about Secret Coders! In this series, the main character Hopper moves to a new school only to find that she is surrounded by puzzles and mystery. Working with her new friends, she learns the Logo language and has to program a robotic turtle to draw patterns that unlock the clues to her school’s past. Meaning, she has to use logic and math to problem solve, create art, and solve each puzzle. This book is exemplar at gamifying math and programming. Plus, it shows how math is ART. This type of directional coding is good for laying a foundation with conditional statements across platforms and troubleshooting/persevering.

One of my favorite things about this series is that Yang includes puzzles for the reader to solve like this one below:

“Go ahead. Give it a shot. Try to write a program that can do my homework.”

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A Little History Note:

Wait…Logo? YES! This book is based on the Logo language created by Seymour Papert, Wally Feurzeig, and Cynthia Solomon. This language was a learning tool that was later developed to program a robotic turtle that held a drawing pen. Students use math to program the turtle to take simple shapes that create intricate designs. Read more about the  Logo history here.

More Coding Books for Kids

There are lots of great coding books out there to get kids interested. Here are just a few. Please share your favorites in the comments.

Thank you @patrick.benfield ! #papert #logo #papertforthepeople #latergram

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