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‘Make’ it a good Christmas – Batteries, soldering iron and code not included

I remember getting my first bike for Christmas in 1982. It was an amazing red bike, with cool handle-bar grips and a bright shiny logo on the frame. It took me months to learn how to ride it and Christmas seemed to last forever. Learning was hard, the bruises were many but the reward was independence. I also remember Father Christmas (my dad) spending ages setting up Scalextric so when I got up in the morning it was ready to go!

Toys and devices over the last decade have been consumer based goods that have been pre-configured, which has meant as a parent, the most stressful part has been how to get the toys out of the boxes with an array of tools that even a youthful Bear Grylls would be proud of. However the world, and our presents, are changing from consumption based items to things that are more creative and developmental in their nature.


Coding is the new black

Everyone has been talking about Coding over the last few years but underpinning this is are the skills of the problem solving and computational thinking that is needed to create and develop our workforce of the future. There are some great tools that you might think about to support problem solving and computational thinking for your kids.  

Fun for K-6

Ozobot – A mini robot that can be used by younger children to draw tracks and program

Makey Makey – Want to create a piano out of fruit? Makey Makey allows you to create your own controllers and input devices.

Sphero – A ball that comes with many in-app games but also allows you to program it and explore problem solving directly.

Little Bits – If you want to get kids into electronics this is a great place to start.

Fun for 7-12

To start to develop coding for hardware then you might look at the Hummingbird Duo. These kits are easy to use and are a great entry level for creating simple robots using motors, LED’s and sensors.

Arduino – Arduino boards come in many variations and shields to help you create robots and fun solutions. The Museum of Applied Arts and Science have created a fantastic Arduino, Thinker Shield. This also comes with some great user guides and is a great way into coding for Arduino.

Raspberry Pi – This is a Windows 10 or Linux based device which is a fully functioning PC.  

The Piper kit allows kids to make their own computer and then play Minecraft on it. Which enables them to build a device and learn about hardware as well as play Minecraft on it. On a similar theme you could also get the Kano kit to create your own computer!

In addition to hardware students globally can access real development tools for free such as Microsoft Office and Visual Studio to help design with OneNote and code across platforms.  

Surface Pro 4

Surface Pro 4

Finally, Christmas devices are the key. We believe that devices are an important learning tool and inking is vital. So make sure you look for devices that are fit for purpose and can be used for years to come.

We have put together some advice to help you when choosing the right device for your children.  

Final tips

  • Setup the devices such as XBOX consoles before Christmas day. They often require large updates
  • Set up parental controls on any new devices
  • Create some rules and guidelines on device usage.

Written by Dan Bowen. Dan is the Academic Programmes Manager (STEM Education Lead /Minecraft EE Lead) at Microsoft.

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‘Make’ it a good Christmas – Batteries, soldering iron and code not included


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