Inspiring a Love for Hacking in our Children :)

As a parent and avid tech enthusiast, I often find myself in an awkward dilemma when it comes to my children and have discovered that I am not alone when I ask:  

How do I not only inspire, but find resources to foster the inquisitiveness prevalent in hack culture for my children and how do I do so on a budget?

Over time, I have picked up a few tricks and learned some do's and don'ts when it comes to the subject. Please feel free to email moo@piratemoo.net if you have any suggestions you would like to add to this list.

First and foremost, don't be afraid to get your hands dirty!  You want to encourage active learning by being a part of the process.  You may end up pleasantly surprised to find out that your children may be more well-grounded in certain subjects then you expect and they may even teach YOU in response.  This type of interaction is extremely important to have with children, so don't be afraid to troubleshoot problems together, do research and build something new.  You inspire by being a part of the process.

One of the biggest challenges parents face is working within a budget, especially when it comes to tech toys, so certain items may be off the table. Before completely scrubbing a purchase however, ask yourself the following:

  1. Can I make something similar for cheap, or is there an alternative?
  2. Are there programs available I can utilize to help?
  3. Can I explain the concept without ANY materials?
For example, if I simply don't have the money for a circuit board, can I create an alternate project with pictures of one?

Lastly, don't be overbearing and never force a kid to express interest in a subject if it isn't there.  Children have their own personalities, quarks and hobbies, just like us.  The goal here is to see if there IS interest in this area and to foster that interest if it exists.

Resource List:

  1. Kidscodecs https://www.kidscodecs.com
    A magazine dedicated to computer science for kids.
  2. Kiwicrate Tinkerbox https://www.kiwicrate.com
    A monthly subscription service that has STEM projects.
  3. Kano Computer: https://kano.me/us
    A computer and coding kit for all ages: Powered by Pi and uses Kano OS.

Programming:

  1. Scratch https://scratch.mit.edu || http://www.scratchjr.org
    Scratch is a programming language and community developed by MIT to encourage children to share in an open source environment. Children can create, share and work collaboratively on projects.
  2. Tynker https://www.tynker.com
    A creative platform that teaches children how to program and build apps and games with online courses that are self-paced and engaging.
  3. Alice http://www.alice.org
    A free tool that exposes children to object-oriented programming. It allows students to learn fundamental concepts in the context of creating animated movies and video games.
  4. Stencyl http://www.stencyl.com
    An tool that accelerates workflow by taking care of essentials, so users can create their own games.
  5. Move the Turtle http://movetheturtle.com
    An app based on Logo! A friendly Turtle will introduce children to basic concepts of programming in a graphic environment.
  6. Lightbot & Lightbot Jr. http://lightbot.com
    Teaches a few coding constructs common to many languages.
  7. Crunchzilla http://www.crunchzilla.com
    Interactive tutorials where kids can play with code, experiment and learn.
  8. Made with Code https://www.madewithcode.com
    A Google project to help inspire girls to code.
  9. RoboMind http://robomind.net
    A programming language to familiarize computer science basics that helps provide insight into areas like robotics and AI.
  10. Kids Ruby http://kidsruby.com Ruby for kids.

Books:

  1. Code Babies http://codebabies.com
    Offers books for children on basic HTML/CSS and web design and C++, along with cute onesies.  
  2. Python for Kids! A Playful Introduction to Programming
    Jason R. Briggs
    Guides children through basics in a fun environment that features ravenous monsters, secret agents, thieving ravens and more. New terms are defined; code is colored, dissected and explained; and quirky, full-color illustrations keep things on the lighter side.
  3. Learn to Program with Scratch
    Majed Marji
    Uses Scratch to explain concepts essential to solving real-world programming problems. The labeled, color-coded blocks plainly show each logical step in a given script and with a single click, you can test any part of your script to check logic.

Video Games:

  1. Minecraft https://minecraft.net
    Minecraft inspires children to build and think critically while have fun.
  2. Little Big Planet (1, 2, 3) https://littlebigplanet.playstation.com
    A platform game series that places emphasis on user-generated content.
  3. Super Mario Maker https://supermariomaker.nintendo.com
    A game creator application which allows players to insert blocks, enemies and items from the Super Mario Bros. series.

Linux distributions:

  1. Sugar https://www.sugarlabs.org
    Sugar is an activity-focused, open-source learning platform for children
  2. Duo Duo https://www.doudoulinux.org
    Specially designed to make use as easy and pleasant. Provides applications that suit children 2-12 years old.
  3. Edubuntu https://www.edubuntu.org
    Developed by students, teachers, parents and hackers who believe learning and knowledge should be available to everyone around the world.  

Toys:

  1. Koontz combination kit: Build a lock and crack codes to release the ring 4M
  2. KidzLabs Combination Lock: Multi-purpose lock/learn mechanism
  3. LEGO Mindstorms: Build robots/learn to code in the process
  4. Meccano: Build robots/learn to code in the process
  5. Little Robot Friends: Cute programmable robotic characters  
  6. Snap Circuits Toys: Teaches electronics in a fun and easy way
  7. Elenco electronics kits
  8. littleBits: Electronics Base Kit
  9. HEXBUG: Robotic/aquatic pets
  10. Roominate: Circuits/building/design/crafts/storytelling
  11. Dash & Dot Robot: Build/improvise/program
  12. Goldieblox: Engineering based book/story series
  13. Magna Tiles: Magnetically based building blocks