My article below was recently published on Kidspot.

3d printer

 All of a sudden 3D printers have come into the sight of kids and their playthings. I’ve recently discovered a pen that makes drawing in the air a reality. You simply lift the pen off the paper, draw in the air and watch your creation become a real, three-dimensional artwork. It’s designed for children 12 years+ at this stage, but this type of innovation gives us an indication of the types of toys that may soon be filling our children’s toy box.

There’s also a new app that let’s children make their own life size monster using 3D printing.  The child makes a mix and match monster on their screen, prints off a copy, then has fun dressing it up, feeding it, even taking photos and creating videos with it. It takes the childhood invisible friend to a whole new level!

These toys are part of an emerging trend of using 3D technology to make high tech toys for kids. 3D printing takes digital files and transforms them into real world products. These printers are an amazing technological innovation and hold exciting potential for the construction of complex tools, spare parts, even the production of kidneys, hands and other made-to-order bones and rudimentary organs. However more recently their use has been extended to the production of personalized toys for our younger set.

As you might imagine, 3D printers are notoriously expensive. Prices currently begin at approx. xxx so we mightn’t be seeing them en masse in family homes any time soon. However online and local 3D print centres have recently popped up as a new service available to children and families. For example, Amazon has recently announced a new faciliity that allows kids to customize and print 3D figurines of popular characters from video games with prices starting from $30. Schools are also fitting out their library or science lab with 3D printers for children to use to support their school learning.

The increasing availability of 3D printers means that these devices will very quickly become one of many technological resources that children will regularly use to learn and play. And, given the quick rate of innovation in technology its likely there will be even more new devices to come- and soon.

The continually increasing range of technology kids have access to raises questions about how we as parents can keep up with them all. Our aim is to guide children, yet it’s becoming more and more apparent than children are often going to be well ahead of their parents when it comes to accessing and understanding these new devices. Many parents are already feeling this change. It can be difficult guiding children when they know more about it than you do.

The best way to deal with this change is to guide them in ways which will ensure they have positive experiences with technology. This means drawing on your wisdom, understanding of people and of life to guide children in the content they deal with when using these technologies. This way you’ll both be empowered. For example dealing with your tot who wants to keep a 3D life size model of a monster yet also has constant bad dreams about monsters. Your guidance isn’t about technology its about making them feel supported and in control.

Children continually being ahead of the game when it comes to technology also means that we should be open to learning from them. We often think that we’re there to teach them but it’s just as valuable for you’re child-parent relationship if we also learn from our children. It doesn’t take away form our authority but often helps us to understand our child better and importantly helps us to be a better parent. Its important to remember that we’re not just here to teach children facts, rules and information, we’re also here to teach them values that they can apply to their techno-lives.

To read the article on Kidspot Does your kid need a 3D printer?