KANO - the Computer for Makers
You've probably heard a bit about the Maker Movement by now. It's a cool trend that is encouraging scientific exploration and tinkering in kids. It is also, from a cynical point of view, an excuse for products to be sent out unassembled but priced higher. The Kano Computer Kit is a "build-your-own" computer that is right in the heart of the Maker Movement. This little computer runs on the Rasperry Pi processor that packs a big punch in a small space. The building process of the computer was really easy. In fact, it was too easy. For something that advertises that you "build your own computer" I had wrongly assumed that there would be more involved than plugging in a few USB cables. The building process took my 7 year-old about 5 minutes. (I'll discuss age appropriateness further down below)
And now that it's built...
Once the computer is assembled and running, there is a lot of fun and learning to be had. With your assembled Kano you get an HDMI cable but you'll need a monitor or TV to hook into. Then the accompanying keyboard with built-in touchscreen is going to be the way your kid navigates around. Your child's first task is to set up an online-profile. This part takes a little while but my son enjoyed the process of creating his avatar and choosing his first online handle. After that he was set up as the newest member of the Kano World community. This is a place where your child can download new apps and games as well as share creations with other community members. It seems to have many limitations in place so that it is not a free-for-all as much of the internet is. It is a great time to discuss things like cyber-bullying with your kids though.
Kids can Learn Coding
There is certainly a trend of teaching coding skills to children at a younger and younger age. These early coding exercises are more a means of training children to think in a highly rational, logical, and methodical manner. They learn that if they want to get a plane from Seattle to Florida they can program the plane to go 10 down and 10 to the left or it could be programed to go 1 down then 1 to the left until it reaches Florida. It's interesting to watch as my son's understanding of this type of programming language develops. He has put in a lot of programming hours since he is committed to coding Minecraft. Watching it looks like it is pretty tedious and boring but he keeps at it.
Who is this for?
The Kano website suggests that the computer kit is best for kids aged 7 to 14 (when my aunt tried to buy the Kano from an independent toy shop the store owner strongly discouraged her from buying this for my 7-year-old. She ended up buying it on Amazon.) I feel like it's a good computer for my son to start out on and learn but he's going to outgrow it in a couple of years. The branding with cartoon kids and comic writing also suggests that the specific target kid is about 8. But $150 bucks for a new computer for your kid isn't too bad. As I've said, my son's put in many, many hours of educational play on the Kano so it has definitely been worth it.
For more practice coding your kid can check out Hour of Code.