Electronics for Kids

Some ideas for teaching kids basic electronic concepts

I’ve recently signed up as a Computer Clubhouse mentor, where I meet with a group of kids once a week to teach them about electronics. I’ve found it quite a challenge to find projects that are simple enough for these 10-14 year olds to grasp, while still holding their attention, so I’ve been experimenting with a range of approaches.

I’m a big fan of the ‘stick it together and see what happens’ approach to learning. Last week I built some blocks with electronic components mounted to them: switches, lamps, LEDs, motors, and potentiometers (similar to this Make magazine story). Connecting these blocks up with alligator clips is a really quick and simple way to see how circuits work and there are enough options to keep the kids occupied for a while.

For the kids that are a little more motivated and patient it’s nice to have some proper circuit diagrams for them to copy and investigate. I’ve found that simple noise-making circuits are very engaging for the students. I’ve put together a ‘Getting Started in Audio Electronics‘ booklet with circuits and suggestions for further experiments.

My focus is to get them thinking about how to build their own ideas so I was delighted when a 10 year old came up with a melody generator I’d never thought of before.

If you want to start sharing electronics fundamentals from an even earlier age, check out this brilliant 5-minute demo from AnnMarie Thomas where she builds circuits out of play-dough.

If you’ve got any bright ideas for how to engage with these young people, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!