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My kids are all boys, and I’m a single Mom. They’re so into technology that my 12-yr-old helped keep the network running at his school at the tender age of 9 when the part-time tech guy wasn’t around, and my other son regularly hacks into my iPad. I, on the other hand, am the annoying Mom that can’t even figure out how to use the controller for the Wii (I refuse to even talk about the controller for the X-Box). With summer looming, I decided it was time for me to get more involved in their interests.. Here’s a list of the top 10 things that worked for us, in no particular order.
- Bitsbox –This is a subscription box, and for $20 USD/month we receive a set of coding instructions and a free website that allows the kids to learn game coding from the ground-up. My kids were new to coding too, so it was nice that we were all able to start at the same level, and instructions range from easy to challenging. Both my 9-year-old and a 12-year-old are using the app and instructions, and we have already learned how to mess with the codes to customize the games and figure out more about the way things work in the world of codes.
- Tinkercrate – Another subscription box, this one is a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) box, and includes a project that your child (and you) can build. It comes with absolutely everything you would need to complete the project, directions, and as an added bonus, it also comes with a mini-magazine that offers additional ideas for projects and experiments that you can do with your kids. So far, we have received a lava lamp project and a fiber-optic constellation project. Aside from the build itself, we also learn about how and why everything works. Costing $19.95 USD/month or less with free shipping within the states, it’s been well worth it to us.
- Snap Circuits – these are sets that are basically your typical ‘breadboard’ that’s used for creating all kinds of circuits, but enlarged and in small, snap-together pieces. There are a variety of sets, and we started with Snap Circuit Jr, a beginner kit that came with 100 experiments. We blew through all the different building configurations for the various circuits in that set in a few days, so I went ahead and added the Sound & Light kit, which came with 350 experiments, and we’re still playing with it. Now we’re even coming up with experiments of our own.
- Network down! When we started having issues with our home network, I made the decision to switch providers. If you don’t know how to troubleshoot your network, learn how! My 12-year-old was keen to jump right in and set up all the computers, the printer, and the iPads on the new network, but I put on the brakes. I told him he was going to have to teach me everything he was doing so that I could fix it if he wasn’t around. He took on the challenge with pride, and walked me through all the steps one at a time. I had to go online a few times to figure things out, so it became a team effort. It was an awesome learning experience for both of us, and even my 9-year-old learned through the process, so now we all know how to reset the network when things go awry.
- Hardware and software know-how – whenever I can’t figure out how to do something on my iPad, phone, or computer, I had a tendency to let my kids just do it. Now, I get them to walk me through the whole process, beginning to end. It shows them that I value their knowledge, but want to learn to do it on my own. Now, when there’s an issue that neither of us can resolve, we end up looking it up online together, and troubleshoot it as a team. They love doing it, and I’m a lot less confused and frustrated than I used to be.
- Have a computer gaming night – okay, okay, I know it’s outdated, but my kids absolutely love group games like Mario Party. We have several versions of the game, along with several other group-type games that they enjoy playing together as a family. Whenever we get the chance, we tuck in and put on a game, and spend some time defeating bad guys together. In games that are single-player, we take turns trying to beat levels, and pass off the remote whenever a level is passed or a player fails. I’ll have to admit that I may have spent a little time on my own getting better at the mini-games and mastering the remote control before I dove right into the family game nights—after all, I didn’t want to look too pathetic!
- Pinterest – follow the board “Technology and Engineering Projects for Kids.” There are literally tons of different instructables there from building tic-tac box flashlights to robotics, most of them requiring only a little guidance and help from a parent, and lots only requiring basic supplies. We’ve done a few instructables from Pinterest so far, and they’ve been a huge hit, but it does require planning. I’d recommend that you sit down with the kids to figure out which project/experiment you want to do next, make your list of necessities for the project, and then make sure you have absolutely everything you need to complete it in one sitting.
- Workshops, showcases, and local classes – in most cities, there are science and technology events at local museums, colleges or universities, or other showcases that allow you and your kids to participate in guided experiments and technology demonstrations, especially during school breaks and summer. We’ve been to a lot of these, and most have been free, fun, and interactive. Sometimes colleges will offer adult classes on technology that may help you get up to par on the technology that your kids are using, and in fact, my kids’ school even offers an iPad Club – a training program that’s run by the grade 7’s and 8’s for seniors who want to learn how to use an iPad.