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How to Start Kids in Robotics? + Keeping Them Interested!

If you want to get your kid started off with an interest in robotics, it can be a little bit confusing to know where to start. As parents, we’re all very aware of how this subject can offer a bright future for your children, but knowing how to get into it in the first place is another matter.

And then there’s the issue of age… if your children are quite young, there might be some concern that the topics will go over their head or that they might even find robotics boring.

However, with the right approach, you can start introducing your children to the foundational concepts of robotics as early on as you like. Some would even argue that the sooner you start, the better.

What to do to get kids interested in robotics

If you’re not sure if it’s something that they’ll take to, you can test the waters with toys like Lego and Meccano. Both of these toys will introduce your children to thinking critically about design and function and offer easy pathways into robotics.

You can also enroll your child on a robotics course during the summer holidays, such as the ones on offer currently with FunTech.

Did You Know? At FunTech we actually run summer camps in Lego Robotics with courses for kids aged 7 to 10, and then more advanced robotics for kids for the over 10s. Either course offers the perfect way to get your kids interested in this fascinating topic.

Using media is another excellent way of getting your children interested in this topic. TV shows and movies that feature robotic characters prominently can sometimes be more than enough of a spark to motivate your children in the right direction.

It would also be worth looking into YouTube channels that cover this topic.

Educational games and apps can be another excellent tool for introducing the concepts of robotics in a way that is fun and engaging.

If your children are showing a lot of interest, then you can also look into investing in specialist toys, such as Cozmo. Although they can be a little pricey, they are certainly worth the investment for fledgling roboteers.

Introduce your children to the right media

When I was a kid, my first real introduction to robotics was Robot Wars.

In this show, teams of amateur and professional roboteers would pit specially designed robots against each other in an arena filled with traps and hazards.

I loved this show so much, and looking back on it now, I can easily trace my enthusiasm for robotics and mechanics back to that show.

It introduced me to a whole world I didn’t even know existed. Watching teams of roboteers working together made me realize this was something I could do as well.

More than that, though, it was inspiring to watch. Seeing how the robots had been built to tackle specific hazards encouraged me to start thinking critically in the same vein.

I began to think about how I would tackle the same problems, and although I doubt many of my ideas would have worked, that show proved to be an excellent way of getting the ball rolling.

At FunTech we actually let your child start off in robotics with our course that is heavily influenced by the Robot Wars TV show… take a look at our Code-a-Bot Robot Wars summertime course for more information.

If your kids don’t seem to be particularly interested in robotics at the moment, but you still want to introduce it to them, I would encourage you to start showing them media that deals with the topic prominently.

If your children are quite young, it might be best to start with animated shows that feature robot characters. Big Hero 6, Next Gen, Wall-E, and The Iron Giant are all excellent movies in this vein.

It would also be worth looking into TV shows or YouTube channels that deal with robotics in a fun and entertaining way.

In the end, if your kid is inspired and enthusiastic about robotics, they’ll be much more invested when it comes to learning about it.

Educational apps and games

There’s pretty much an app for anything these days, and robotics is no exception. Taking advantage of educational apps can be a fantastic way of slowly introducing your children to the foundational concepts of robotics in a way that is fun and engaging.

Some of the best apps currently available for teaching programming and robotics are:

When it comes to video games, here are two excellent options:

The beauty of using apps is that you can often start introducing complex topics at a surprisingly young age. Although the list above represents most age groups, Hopster Coding Safari for Kids is an example of an app that has been designed specifically for pre-schoolers.

Although this game won’t be enough to teach them programming on its own, it is still an excellent way of introducing them to the logic of coding.

Starting with small projects

As tempting as it might be to get started with a big project, it’s important not to overwhelm your kid when it comes to a topic as complex as robotics. Some frustration is to be expected when learning something new, but it shouldn’t be so frustrating that your kid gives up altogether.

In that regard, it’s a good idea to start with toys like Lego and Meccano first before trying robotics straight away. Aside from introducing your children to thinking critically about design and function, it gives you a fun environment to challenge your children.

In addition to this, both Lego and Meccano offer excellent kits that can be perfect segways into robotics. If your children are big fans of Lego, then Lego Mindstorms might be the best way forward. Meccano also offers robot building kits, including their most recent Meccanoid G15.

Cozmo

Although there are plenty of excellent kits to get children started with robotics, I feel that Anki’s Cozmo deserves a special mention.

I was first introduced to this charming, palm-sized robot just over a year ago, and if your children enjoy any of the characters from Wall-E, then they are bound to fall in love with the ever-delightful Cozmo.

Although Cozmo is a toy first and foremost, it has also been designed with several features to help introduce children to robotics and programming.

The app that comes with the robot has a mode called Code Lab. This feature allows children to code in a visually pleasing environment and gives them the ability to customize Cozmo in several ways.

By dragging and dropping functions, children can change Cozmo’s expression, get him to move, and make him do specific actions.

Beginner and intermediate level projects can be accessed through the website and teach you how to use code to customize Cozmo in various ways. Beginner projects include coding your Cozmo with an intruder alarm and basic behavioural modifications.

From there, you can move to intermediate projects that teach you how to build and customize your own games to play with Cozmo.

If this is something your children enjoy, you can also look into the Create With Cozmo book, which outlines even more games and projects.

After school clubs and classes

Although some children learn better in a more focused environment, such as home, others might be better suited to a more social learning environment. If this is your kid, then it would be worth looking into clubs, extra-curricular classes, and summer camps.

Depending on where you live, this could be a little bit difficult, but it is well worth shopping around to see what you have available in the area.

For example, at FunTech we run summer holiday robotics courses in various London areas as well as Chester, Maidenhead, Milton Keynes, Oxford, Reading, and Tonbridge. We believe that our courses are the best way you can start kids in robotics in a fun, safe, and professional environment.

You can explore our kids’ robotics courses on the links below:

Lego Robotics Junior – ages 7 to 10

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Code-a-Bot Robot Wars – ages 10 to 14

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