LittleBits makes toys that teach kids STEM skills - my sons and I enjoyed this $150 'Avengers' kit, but most only cost around $60
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- With society's growing reliance on technology, educators are putting a greater emphasis on learning STEM skills (science, tech, engineering, and math).
- LittleBits has emerged as one of the leaders in STEM learning resources for all genders at home and in the classroom.
- The Avengers Hero Inventor Kit pairs with your iOS or Android smart device and encourages creativity, teaches coding, and gives the basics of circuits and electrical engineering.
- Though the LittleBits Avengers Hero Inventor Kit is expensive (currently $150 on Amazon), there are more than 18 in-app activities, limitless customization, and you can use the kit with other LittleBits sets.
One of the biggest challenges in my house is limiting my sons' screen time. Jerome, who's 15, usually streams YouTube videos while playing first-person shooter games. And we had to block YouTube for Bucky, who's five, because there is just too much garbage on there that kids can get to. Now, he enjoys Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, PJ Masks, and other kid favorites. New toys tend to divert their attention from screens for a short time, but they generally lose interest and are quickly back to zoning out in front of the tube.This is where STEM learning toys are helpful. The best STEM toys have open play, where your child can use their imagination to create their own experience. LittleBits is one of the top makers of kits that nurture science, tech, engineering, arts, and math. We had the opportunity to try out the new Avengers Hero Inventor Kit recently for free. Here are our experiences with it.
Getting started with the Avengers Hero Inventor Kit
The Avengers Hero Inventor Kit comes with an Iron Man arm and stand, a gauntlet, two sheets of decals, and nine "bits." Bits are circuitry building blocks that serve as the basis for each of LittleBits' kits. Your child can use the bits for various creations.
Everything you need comes in the box, except you will need a smart device that runs on iOS 10.0 or later or Android 5.0 or later. Once you download the app, your child can easily follow the step-by-step interactive tutorials to get started. For example, one of the first creations is connecting the power supply bit to the LED matrix bit to get the matrix to light up. The circuitry then slides into the gauntlet and can be worn on the forearm and hand of your young one.
Playing with the kit
As is his MO, Jerome immediately went to work on the basic setup: getting the gauntlet to light up and putting it on his brother's arm. Then, Jerome was done with the kit. He's advanced past the basic STEM learning toys, and his video games were calling.
On the other hand, Bucky kept coming back to the kit. The kit is designed for kids eight years and older. At 5, Bucky is a little too young to enjoy all that the kit has to offer, but there were still plenty of features he could enjoy with my help. I like toys that keep him busy when I'm trying to get work done, and this is not the toy for that. But, it did a great job of facilitating rewarding father-son time.About once a week, he'd see the set sitting on the shelf and ask to play with it, and we'd spend about 30 to 60 minutes with it. When it came to self-directed playing, his favorite part was changing the colors and patterns on the LED matrix. He liked creating robot faces.
With the step-by-step instructions, videos, and tutorials, there's essentially no learning curve to this device. Your child just follows the directions, and they're on their way to superherodom. Or, in my case, I followed the instructions, and Bucky was on his way to superherodom.
I really like that the bits from the Avengers Kit can be used with other LittleBits toys, including the Droid Inventor Kit that we already have. Plus, there are dozens of other bits you can purchase À la carte on the LittleBits website.
I was also impressed by the seemingly limitless possibilities for play thanks to the block coding fundamentals it teaches. By following the simple in-app steps, we were able to create a gauntlet that made cool superhero sounds and displayed our custom designs with different movements.
I'm excited to watch Bucky grow into this toy. As he learns to read, he'll be able to follow the directions on his own and get into the coding aspect to make his own creations. This is in stark contrast to the toy cars that he's been into recently and will likely grow out of.
A few quirks to consider
I learned the hard way that Bucky needs to be supervised when playing with the Avengers Hero Inventor Kit. At some point, he damaged the LED matrix, and it would no longer light. He didn't mention it to me - probably because he thought he might get in trouble. I just noticed that he hadn't played with the kit in a while. Fortunately, LittleBits has excellent customer service. I contacted them, and without flashing any media credentials, they happily sent me a replacement.
There were times when the app would just crash on us. I was not able to pinpoint what was doing it, but I think it may have had something to do with the Bluetooth functionality. At one point, when I disconnected the Bluetooth bit, the app crashed. Fortunately, it never crashed at critical moments.
The bottom line
At its current price of $150, I would be unlikely to buy the Avengers Hero Inventor Kit over other kits that LittleBits offers. The price is a bit steep, and the company offers several other excellent alternatives at a more affordable price point. Fortunately, in the last few months, the price has dipped significantly lower, and I'd assume the price will decrease again in the future. If you find the kit offered at a lower price, I strongly recommend buying it if you have a child aged eight years or older in your life who is interested in the STEM disciplines.Though your child will still utilize a screen to play with the Avengers Hero Inventor Kit, it will be positive screen time that will engage both sides of their brain. So, you can feel less guilt!
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