Age 6, Age 7, Coding, Learning Toys

Review: Kano Computer

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What is the right age to buy your child their first computer? In this era of ever evolving technology I doubt there’s a parent out there who doesn’t think computer skills are going to be relevant to their child’s future in some manner. So when’s the right time for your child to have their own – upper primary? High school? And what are you expecting a truly computer literate child to be able to do? Just use computer programs? Or perhaps better than that, invent the programs themselves…

On their site Kano supply this statistic:

‘The modern world is filled with billions of machines. But 1% of us can open them up, and change them. We create computers you make and code yourself.

There it is, that word – CODE. You’d have to be living under a rock to not have heard about the push towards getting kids to code – to learn to speak the language of the computer. And truly, this is why I think Kano is brilliant. It’s solved all my kids computer dilemmas in a single purchase: first computer and introduction to coding in one. Here’s a computer kids can not only assemble themselves to demystify what’s inside that magic electronic box, but once its built – they can use it for school projects, access the Internet in a safe environment ( it includes a comprehensive set of parental controls to restrict aspects like internet browsing ) AND they’ll learn to code on it too. Much of the time they’ll just enjoy playing on the computer – the Kano comes loaded with over 150 hours of ready-made projects that teach you how to code, including art, animations, games, and step-by-step coding challenges. But almost every activity has a coding bias, so the kids are playing, but they’re learning to code at the same time. Talk about two birds with one stone.

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My oldest Mr 8 got the Kano when he was six. He still loves it. He’s made accounts on it for the whole family which is great for his younger brother who’s keen to get on the Kano too. It’s based on the tiny Raspberry Pi computer so is super transportable and has been on flights with us and various trips away. Mostly we plug it into our flat screen TV which has two bonuses: 1. We can see what he’s doing, which is always my preference when my child is using any device with internet access; 2. We don’t have to carry around a heavy screen as it just plugs into pretty much any modern flatscreen TV where ever we are via it’s HDMI cable. After he started getting school projects to work on at home Mr 8 began to access Google docs on it, doing his homework on his own computer. Sure its not super fast, and he pushes it hard and it does crash, but he learns to trouble shoot and get it up and running again. It’s not perfect, but currently the pluses outweigh the minuses.

So in our house, the right age to get a computer turned out to be six, and we haven’t regretted it because the Kano is pitched just right. I’m happy because everything on it is educational (with the one possible exception of the game Flappy Judoka), whilst allowing him to explore further useful tools on the internet such as the Google suite of programs in a safe environment (managed by me in he parental settings). He loves it because it has fun games, enables him to do research online which makes him feel grown up and gives him some independence from having to ask to use my devices all the time.

Kano

He doesn’t just build in Minecraft, he’s learnt to hack it with code. He uses Scratch on it and enjoyed solving the mysteries of Terminal Quest. He loves the Story Mode which I wasn’t thrilled with to start, thinking it was just some slightly crap 80’s style platform game (and the music is unbearably tinny and repetitive, so we unplug the speaker). But I was proved wrong when he started to learn coding terms and names for various computer parts like HDMI, pixels, processors and binary. In fact it takes you on a tour internally through the landscape of the Raspberry Pi computer. We’ve compared this ‘inside land’ of Story Mode to the ‘outside land’ of the actual Raspberry Pi device, noting where the ports are in relation to each other and how they match up in both ‘lands’. It’s pretty cool and he’s very motivated to fill up his codex and learn as many terms as possible.

On the downside we haven’t been able to run updates on our Kano and receive no doubt many added features. The device offers us the option to clear space which we accept, but it never clears the space, meaning we can’t update. The device still works in the meantime, but this is a frustrating aspect.

The Kano Store hosts a number of additional extras, most notably the screen for the full personal laptop experience (which we also have and Mr 8 uses if there is no big screen available), but now also a pixel light kit, motion sensor and coming soon a codable camera.

We look forward to further developments from Kano, a company doing a great job supporting kids learning 21st century skills.

Age 5, Age 6, Age 7, Education, Learning Toys, Reading, Travel

Little Passports – global adventures in your mail box

LPEE3500x342As soon as I saw the Little Passports logo I could immediately smell a brilliant idea. Combining a thirst for world knowledge with a kid’s love of receiving mail is a stroke of genius. Continue reading “Little Passports – global adventures in your mail box”

Age 5, Age 6, Age 7, Creative Projects, Creative Thinking, Education

MaKey MaKey: an invention kit for everyone

makey makeyWhen the lady at the Kid Inventors Day invited us to make music using a keyboard of bananas, Mr 6 and I were more than intrigued. Sure enough as we touched each of the six bananas, to our joyful surprise musical notes played through the nearby laptop. The magic making this fun possible was the brilliantly simple little electronics kit MaKey MaKey. We had to find out more! Continue reading “MaKey MaKey: an invention kit for everyone”

Age 5, Age 6, Age 7

OwnFone: peace of mind in their pocket

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If you’ve been wondering when is the right time to let your child have a phone, you might want to check out this nifty little invention. It can be quite a parenting dilemma, because whilst there are heaps of instances when it would be great if my six year old had a method of contacting me, he’s clearly way too young for a regular phone. Even an old fashioned phone without apps, cameras or an internet connection is still capable of calling any number and racking up bills. Continue reading “OwnFone: peace of mind in their pocket”

Tiggly Words
Age 5, Age 6, Age 7, App Reviews, Giveaways

Tiggly Words Review, Plus App Giveaway Bonanza!

Tiggly Words
I’m a big fan of iPad accessories to help engage kids with a variety of learning styles, particularly Kinesthetic and Visual learners. Research has shown that children learn faster when they are required to use their visual, auditory and tactile senses in an activity. When kids use the iPad, having to hold real world objects and manipulate them to provide answers or work creatively is a real bonus in terms of interaction Continue reading “Tiggly Words Review, Plus App Giveaway Bonanza!”

Age 5, Age 6, Age 7, App Reviews, Augmented Reality, Free Apps, Giveaways, iPad Acessories, Reading

iPad Accessories for Learning and Fun: Review plus GIVEAWAY!!

ipad accessories for kids Recently I’ve been interested in exploring new ways of interacting with the iPad, seeing how we can move beyond finger to screen interactions and integrate more 3D real world into our regular iPad experience. I was encouraged in this direction by my discovery of Crayola Digitools and soon I discovered there are a number of fabulous 3D resources out there. Each of the products reviewed below is designed to be used with the iPad to enhance our kids’ enjoyment of learning and inspire creative endeavors. Variety is the spice of life right? And a little, no actually a lot, of variety always goes down well with the kids, so anything that changes our routines up a bit and inspires the kids to start thinking and experimenting in a new way is always worth investigating. Plus research has shown that children learn faster when they are required to engage their visual, auditory and tactile senses in an activity. I’ve looked at iPad accessories made by three companies at the forefront of creative and educational iPad innovation: Tiggly, Touchtronic and Crayola. And luckily for us the kind folks at each of these companies has offered Flying Start Kids readers a chance to win some of these fantastic sets for free! Continue reading “iPad Accessories for Learning and Fun: Review plus GIVEAWAY!!”

Age 5, Age 6, Age 7, App Reviews, Free Apps

Free App: Toca Nature

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 8.12.41 pmThis beautiful open ended nature play app is Apple’s Free App of the Week. Designed for kids 6-8 but fun for younger kids as well, this app enables them to design their own little world of nature and animals. They are presented with a plain piece of land to which they can add mountains, water and five types of tree. The trees provide habitats for different animals. They can spin the globe in the corner to look at the land from different angles or tap Continue reading “Free App: Toca Nature”

Age 5, Age 6, Age 7, App Reviews, Creative Thinking, Physics apps, Science Apps

Best Physics Puzzler Apps for ages 10 and under

physics apps

I was inspired to put together the following list by the popularity of the Thinkrolls app with both Mr 5 and Mr 2. There are some awesome Physics Apps out there to help our kids learn about STEM concepts through fun, physics-based puzzles. Most of these apps can be played by kids aged between 3 and 10 years.

Thinkrolls   Thinkrolls

Thinkrolls There’s everything to love about this logic puzzle app which introduces basic physics concepts as the player rolls their super cute Thinkrolls character through a maze. Each chapter introduces a new feature such as crates, jelly and balloons. Each feature has it’s own property to explore, such as cold, heat, gravity, floating or sinking. These concepts need to be understood in order to successfully move items around to enable the Thinkroll progress Continue reading “Best Physics Puzzler Apps for ages 10 and under”

Age 5, Age 6, Age 7, App Reviews, Augmented Reality, Co-playing Apps, Preschoolers, Science Apps

Stellar Star Gazing apps for Curious Little Cosmonauts

The questions are coming thick and fast these days, ‘Mummy how is air made?’, ‘How do we think?’, ‘What are shadows made of?’ and most recently, ‘Mummy when can we go to Mars?’ I thought I had a few more years of being able to confidently answer all his questions, but apparently not! He’s not even five and I’ve been stumped on more than one occasion. But I know there’s always a fun way for us to discover these answers together and I love searching out the best apps to feed curious little minds. Thanks to a recent birthday present of a toy wooden rocket, moon buggy and satellite set, many of his questions are now about our night sky, stars and especially satellites. We found two apps which have (thankfully) provided us with a wealth of fascinating information about our night sky, so I can keep those answers coming! These really are beautifully made apps, a joy to use and 100% engaging for all ages. I’m loving using them as much as the kids are.

Sky Guide appSky Guide

We started off using the fantastic Sky Guide app which allows you to hold the iPad up to the sky and identify the stars above your head, or below your feet if you point it downwards. It’s a spectacular app which even shows satellites moving across the sky much to the deep delight of L Star (aka Mr 4 and three quarters). It’s aimed more at Continue reading “Stellar Star Gazing apps for Curious Little Cosmonauts”