Robotics for kids in 2021: A Comprehensive Guide for Parents
You might hear the word robotics and think transformers. Well, robotics for kids is much more than building robots in labs. Robots are programmable machines that perform according to the input instructions. It is an area of study that is becoming increasingly necessary for kids to learn about. Robotics includes teaching kids to operate machinery starting from small toy parts in the house and advancing to more sophisticated machinery.
Technology and robotics go hand in hand. With the advancements in technology, robotics education is important for kids so they can survive in the world. In the previous decade, the knowledge of carpentry and mechanics was passed down from father to son because that was the need of the time. But now machines and microcomputers are everywhere. We see robotic technology installed in our refrigerators, cars and even robot vacuum cleaners. If you want your kid to be equipped with the knowledge that can help your kids to get good jobs and admission in top colleges in the future then STEAM education and particularly robotics classes are the way to go.
A research was conducted in an Italian primary school where robotics and STEM education was made a part of the official curricula. The teachers were pleasantly surprised to find that the kids demonstrated exceptional learning ability, collaboration skills and teamwork. The shift from traditional theoretical education to a more practical application of knowledge in the form of robots helped kids to be more interested not only in technology but also in education itself.
Early robotics education has a lot of benefits. It improves decision-making skills. When kids accomplish designing and coding a robot on their own it fills them with confidence. Some more reasons that are sure to convince you of the benefits of robotics education are as follows:
- Spatial awareness, fine motor skills and creativity: while building robots kids work with small instruments and so it significantly improves fine motor skills and spatial awareness in three-dimension (3D) for young kids. Other than that, by coming up with new and improved designs and working in teams, kids polish soft skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, persistence and communication skills.
- A perfect way to integrate STEM education in practical life: robotics helps kids’ improve their knowledge of various subjects by applying it to robots. Math, technology and engineering are required for designing a functional robot. Science and coding help the robot perform various tasks. Through robotics kids understand how various disciplines of STEM education are used in real life, for example, robotic technology is used in everyday lives such as remote control cars, automated coffee makers, and self-driving cars.
- Active learning: Since robotics education encourages kids to keep working even if they fail, it teaches them to use failure as a means of motivation to do better. Not only that but they can also understand their mistakes and not repeat them. This allows kids to learn and apply knowledge using a hands-on approach. Knowledge learnt this way lasts long and kids develop clearer concepts of STEM education.
⇒ STEM Education ⇐
Why do Kids need Robotics Education?
Robotics classes integrate the knowledge of various disciplines of STEAM education. Kids work on science, engineering, mathematics and technology. So it increases understanding of all these subjects and increases the interest of kids in STEAM education.
Kids need robotics classes to understand the world around them. The curiosity of kids is well utilized in a robotics lab or class session. By working on systems that operate their wristwatches and mobile phones, they learn to understand details and the concepts behind the working of such machines.
So to put it simply, robotics class is a hands-on practical application session for all the knowledge they learn in the K-12 curriculum and STEM education. This practice improves computational knowledge and problem-solving skills.
Here they will learn life skills that are necessary for the automated technology-dominated era we are all living in. We see our older generation being almost afraid of technology. To avoid this expose young kids to robotics and machinery; so you can familiarize them with it.
What Age is Best to Begin Robotics Education for Kids?
Even though some teachers introduce robotics to kids in playgroups, the best age to start robotics is 6 years or when kids are in first grade. The reason for it being that kids have longer attention spans as they grow older and they know how to read and perform basic computer instructions, which helps in robotics classes.
Starting young improves kids’ ability to work in teams and engage different members in creative discussions. Using a hands-on approach for solving small-scale problems ensures they understand deep abstract concepts of coding and programming the robots.
George C. Devol is known as the ‘Grandfather of robotics’ because he invented the Unimate: the first programmable industrial robot. He was interested in robots since he was 9 years old. Because he started learning about robots from such a young age, he was an expert by the time he met with Joseph Engelberger and made his first robot and changed the industry forever.
What do Kids Learn in Robotics Classes?
Robotics classes teach all the STEM principles in the form of fun robots. The kids program the robots using coding skills and design it using arts and engineering. Mathematics and technology are also involved. So what kids learn in robotics classes is STEM education and the detailed working of machinery.
Related: Read what is STEM education.
DIY robotic kits are available for kids to practice one part of STEM at a time. Sometimes kids will assemble the pre-programmed kits. Older kids will assemble and write a code as well. Coding is a very important part of robotics education. You can check out the parental guide on Coding for kids.
Steps to follow when Getting Started
As a parent who is new to the world of STEM education and robotics, it can be a little difficult to know what to follow and how to get your kids started, to help you ease into it here are a few steps to follow:
- Get them interested: introduce robotics to your kids using toys, DIY robotics kits and TV shows so they know the potential in the field. Animated films such as big hero 6 and Wall-E are great to spark your kids’ interest in robotics.
- Start small: Recognize the speed which is comfortable for your kid and follow that. Use toys such as Lego or Cozmo to get started and do one or two projects at a time. Overwhelming them with complex robotics will not be beneficial for the long term.
- Join clubs: having a group of friends interested in robotics is very important for your kid. The community of peers helps kids grow by bouncing off ideas and collaborating on projects. These clubs can be online or in-person. Another way to find a community is by engaging in robotics competitions for kids.
- Ask Questions: use everyday items around you to ask your kids’ how robotics is integrated into their lives. For instance, take an automated toaster and ask your kid to tell you how robotics technology can make it better. This way your kids will feel appreciated. It will also serve as a mental exercise that sharpens their observation and analysis skills.
- Seek help: since the world of robotics education is advancing rapidly, it can be difficult to stay informed of every new change. Ask for advice from experts available on online platforms, other parents’ from the robotics club or the teachers at your kids’ school.
Free Online Robotics Resources for Parents
The following list contains websites, games and apps that are available for free. Kids can log in to attend robotics lessons online from anywhere in the world. We have divided these resources into categories so it is easy to navigate
Kids aged 4 years and up (Pre K and above)
- Robot game for preschoolers (game)
This game is for young kids’ aged 3-5 years. Robotics is introduced by building robots from everyday items at home. Within the game, kids can pick up an object such as a light bulb or a frying pan and use more objects like this to create a robot. Here the main focus is to familiarize kids with what robots are and how they operate. The work done by these robots is based on pre-programmed instructions. The app works on hand-eye coordination and creativity by having kids solve robotics themed puzzles. Once kids can read and write sentences, move them to a more advanced level of robotics education.
- Tickle (app)
Here young kids’ between grades of 2-12 can work with various robots including drones and Arduinos. The app teaches programming the robots to perform the tasks required. In this app, you will find many lessons where mathematics and coding knowledge is used in robots. The best feature is that there is no necessity for purchasing a separate robot for kids, in case no robot is available, kids can work with 3D robots or use augmented reality (AR).
- Microsoft Maker Code (website)
Kids can give block and text-based commands to the robotic hardware. The app teaches kids how to use robots and its programming to perform daily tasks thus helping them see the practical application of robotics lessons. This is the perfect platform to introduce kids to robotic hardware and circuitry that will be helpful in later advanced robotics classes.
Kids aged 7 years and up (grade 3+)
⇒ Prestigious Robotics Competitions for Kids Playground to 8th Grade ⇐
- EDVON robotics classes (website)
EDVON offers robotics classes for various levels of learning starting from young beginners. It includes lessons on DC motors and basic electronics. You can choose the lesson plan based on your age. The best feature is that your kids can progress to more advanced levels on this same website as more courses are available. TinkerCAD, scratch programming and Arduino units are available amongst others. You can start from the beginning and learn all about robotics in exquisite detail.
- Instructables circuit (website)
This website offers lessons for beginners on how to build robots. Using engineering, technology and art knowledge kids can use everyday items and mechanical products to creatively design a robot. The instructors in the online classes are experts at breaking down advanced concepts into simpler understandable steps to help young school kids understand the concept of robotics.
- Technovation Families
This website offers detailed lessons on machine learning, artificial intelligence and robotics. They offer lessons in a way that requires no parental guidance so kids can learn on their own. The robots are used to show kids how programming them and using artificial intelligence can make robots do real-world tasks. Kids learn critical thinking and practical application of knowledge here. This website is designed for families, so older kids or parents can take classes as well and make it a family activity. The website offers classes on various STEM topics with a special focus on robotics and then gives challenges to kids that they can solve using the knowledge learned in robotics classes.
- Team witch doctor on Battle Bots (website)
This platform has many educational videos kids can watch that explain the basics of robotics. There are clips on circuitry, mechanics, programming and of course designing robots. For kids looking to participate in robotics competitions, this website offers special videos on how to create a winning robot.
The future is based on robotics and technology. There are big problems to be solved in the world and robotics knowledge can help. Engage your kids in robotics classes so they are well prepared for all the challenges ahead. Kids of today are the inventors and educators of tomorrow.
Only by introducing your kids to robotics will you know if they are interested in it or not, or whether they have the ability to achieve the extraordinary. So engage them in robotics classes and competitions to see how far they can grow. Use the free online resources mentioned in this article to get your little ones started with robotics.
Leave us a comment if any more resources have helped you or if you have any suggestions for parents’ just starting robotics with their kids!