Our two boys raked in the holiday presents. One gift in particular deserves mention in a tech column: Snap Circuits. The $30 kit does a masterful job of combining an educational toy, in this case an electronics hobby kit, with the ease of a color-coded puzzle. The result is that my 6-year-old is captivated with making things that flash, fly, and buzz. So much so that he hasn't asked for video or computer time. Thanks, Auntie, for the gift to him, and us.
Snap Circuits is the modern version of the kiddie electronic labs that were around when I was young. But it doesn't have wires, intimidating circuit boards, and—shudder—soldering guns. All the components instead get encased in color-coded plastic and, yes, snap together with ease.
The kit is aimed at kids age 8 and older; I doubt my 6-year-old is absorbing many of the concepts at work in this educational toy. But he's having fun and getting a sense that even he can make something electronic.
How long it holds his attention is to be seen. But the manual includes about 100 projects the kid can assemble without much help from us. And Elenco, the company based in Wheeling, Ill., that developed Snap Circuits, sells all sorts of upgrades. These include kits for making a radio-controlled car or a musical recorder. More cost, yes, but more distraction from screen time.