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Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Libre-respecting CS or engineering toys for ki

From: Christopher M. Hobbs
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Libre-respecting CS or engineering toys for kids?
Date: Thu, 1 Dec 2016 09:58:21 -0600

Hash: SHA256

On Thu, 1 Dec 2016 13:23:47 +0000
Pen-Yuan Hsing <> wrote:

> Thanks! I would love to get the book for myself, but are there 
> toys/gifts that would be for 3-5 year old kids?
> On 01/12/16 13:13, Berkem Dincman wrote:
> > The book would be for you, with dozens of suggestions. As a Guide
> > for programming instructions.
> >
> > 1 Ara 2016 ÖS 4:09 tarihinde "Pen-Yuan Hsing"
> > < <>> yazdı:
> >
> >     Thanks for the suggestions!! However, might it be too advanced
> > for 3-5 year olds? I don't know what the book looks like on the
> > inside, do you think it'll work?
> >
> >     On 01/12/16 12:40, Berkem Dincman wrote:
> >
> >         Programming Interactivity: A Designer's Guide to Processing,
> >         Arduino,
> >         and Openframeworks
> >
> >         1st Edition
> >
> >         1 Ara 2016 ÖS 3:32 tarihinde "Pen-Yuan Hsing"
> >         < <>
> >         <
> > <>>> yazdı:
> >
> >             Dear libreplanet,
> >
> >             I'm hoping to buy some toys as gifts for a couple kids
> > aged between
> >             ~3-5, and I'm hoping to get them (especially the little
> > girls) interested in the STEM (science, technology, engineering,
> >         and math)
> >             subjects.
> >
> >             Can people recommended some freedom-respecting toys for
> > this purpose? It doesn't even have to be something installed in a
> >             computer, for example CS Unplugged
> >         (
> >             has a great book that teaches basic computer science
> > principles.
> >
> >             Maybe we can then submit these ideas to the FSF's
> > holiday gift recommendations list.
> >
> >             Thank you!

They're listed for 10 year olds but my son has been playing with Snap
Circuits since he was four.  He's now six.  The smaller kinetic kits,
like the fan, are easy for children to understand and are reasonably

While not necessarily "libre", because they don't have any code,
they're a good way to introduce electrical concepts.  One can even buy
snap-to-pin headers so that as they get older, they can connect their
snap circuits to breadboards with regular components.

Another great option would be Sugar on a Stick from the OLPC project
(bootable USB stick with the Sugar environment). Trisquel provides a
Sugar Toast build, which doesn't have as many applications as the
default Sugar build. Here's Trisquel's sugar release:

And here is Sugar on a Stick:

I haven't found any proprietary software in Sugar on a Stick but I
haven't looked too deeply.  Maybe there's blobs in the kernel?

I have noticed that there were a couple of activities in the Sugar on a
Stick release that didn't run (namely the talking eyeballs, "speak")
but everything ran fine on the Trisquel version, so we just use that.

Once it's installed, I suspect you can use the built in browser to add
activities from here: but
I don't know what persistence on the USB stick is like.  When we had
Sugar installed on bare metal, we added activities regularly.

My son has been enjoying Sugar since he was 3 years old and picked it
up almost immediately.  It's a wonderful system.  He's learned about
"daddy's work" by using Scratch and whatever the activity is that uses
the Logo Turtle to draw.

Beyond that, I haven't found a lot of electronic things for him at that
age.  Toys like Magnaformers, Tegu magnetic blocks, or Gears! Gears!
Gears! are what you're more likely to run into.  All of which are
commercial products but they don't have any Freedom concerns and the
kids learn about engineering with them. I mentioned Snap Circuits
because they can be used with regular components as well.

Lastly, I've considered something like the Kiwi Crate:

It's a subscription service but they seem to have a box for all ages.

I'll close on that note.  I feel like an advertiser but I've spent a
lot of time trying to find something like this for my son through the
years.  The best I've come up with is Sugar.  It's Libre, Gratis, and
he has a blast with it.  I always expect him to be a little more
capable than he is but that just means I get to be more involved in
his play.

Good luck and keep us updated!  There should be more options like this
or a better resource to help find them.

- -- 
Happy Hacking!
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