Humans are curious beings and learning and exploring is something we develop from an early age. Children who love to explore things gradually master the art of problem-solving. They learn to steer their ways out of challenging situations by stimulating their minds and using all their learnings and capabilities.
You can facilitate this learning by introducing them to specialized toys or science kits. One such product is Lego Mindstorms. Mindstorms are STEM kits (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) that contain hardware and software components based on Lego building blocks. They develop into a programmable robot controlled by Lego bricks. Each Lego Mindstorms kit includes computerized Lego bricks, modular sensors and motors, and parts from the Lego Technic line to build the mechanical system.
These kits were the first home robotic kits that gave rise to a community of hobbyists and hackers since its introduction in 1998. But, in October 2022, Lego announced the discontinuation of the Mindstorms line to redirect the team into other areas of business. This announcement led to parents and educational institutions both searching for alternatives to Lego Mindstorms kits that they could use to make kids learn. If you are also interested in purchasing one, we have compiled a guide to help you find the right one.
So what are some good alternatives to Lego Mindstorms kits? Here are a few options:
Basic STEM Toys
This category of Mindstorms alternatives includes shape sorters, magnetic tiles, building blocks, and colored ring stack. They are useful for teaching basic concepts such as numbers, shapes, and colors, improving motor skills, and the ability to think analytically.
A science kit is an excellent way to conduct various scientific experiments at the comfort of home. They contain stimulating and engaging activities that allow kids to conduct the project following the principles of science. Plus, they usually work with supplies that are easily available in most homes.
Telescopes and Microscopes
If your little one is a curious being, an optical instrument like these will make for a good Mindstorms alternative. They help little ones peek into the wondrous world around us. Where a microscope lets them see small organisms up close, a telescope helps build their interest in interstellar bodies and how the universe works.
Despite looking a lot like regular building blocks, construction kits boast the engineering aspect of STEM education. They boost creativity and inspire complex designs. Using these, your kiddo can build anything from unconventional skyscrapers to other intricate structures.
Inspired by Lego Mindstorms, there are many robot kits currently available on the market that you can look into getting for your kiddo. These kits help kids build their own robot from scratch. They might not be simple to fiddle with, but they harness their curiosity.
Designing a working electrical circuit is perhaps the most joyful experience. You can enable your little ones to explore how electronics work by getting them a circuit kit as a Lego Mindstorms alternative. It is an activity that teaches them an important life skill, fixing circuit faults.
Lego Mindstorms Alternatives: Buying Guide
When looking for the best Mindstorms alternatives for kids, it’s important to take into account numerous factors. This buyers’ guide provides information on various product features to consider when selecting a STEM kit suitable for your child.
The first thing to consider is the age appropriateness of the STEM kit. Make sure the activities and materials in the kit are aligned with your child’s age range. This will help ensure they have a successful learning experience while having fun.
Not all robotic kits are equal in terms of content quality. Before making a purchase, look at reviews of the product and make sure the included activities are rated positively. The content should be engaging, stimulating and enjoyable to use so that your child is motivated to continue exploring and learning with their new toy.
Mindstorms were designed to encourage exploration, inquiry, and problem-solving skills. A good Mindstorms alternative should do the same. Look for options that offer an array of educational activities that teach essential skills such as coding, robotics, engineering, or math skills. Keep in mind that these activities should be appropriate for your child’s age range so that they can understand and utilize these concepts.
A great alternative to Lego Mindstorms in terms of coding is the iRobot Root. Check out our iRobot Root Coding Robot Review to get more information on this particular product.
It’s also important to consider the durability of the materials used in the kit. STEM toys can take a beating from playtime wear and tear, so be sure to double check that all materials are strong enough to withstand repeated use by small children.
When selecting a STEM kit, it’s vital to evaluate whether the price of the kit is appropriate for its educational and recreational value. Quality robotic kits, such as Mindstorms, often come at a higher cost, but it’s important to look for kits that not only offer educational benefits but also long-term value through replayability and multiple components that can be used again and again.
Ease of Use
Before making a purchase, make sure that instructions are clear and easy to follow so children can use the kit independently with minimal help from adults. Many STEM kits come with tutorials or other resources to help guide kids through their learning process.
The safety of children using STEM kits is paramount. Make sure the materials used in the kit do not contain any potentially hazardous components or substances before allowing your child to use them. Read all instructions carefully and regularly check for any recalls on products you may have purchased in the past.
Kids can get bored easily. Look for STEM kits with a variety of activities to prevent that from happening. Mindstorms alternatives with multiple activities or components provide opportunities for open-ended exploration by encouraging creativity and experimentation, which helps children learn more as they play longer.
Essential Skills Learned From STEM Kits
STEM education stands for four of the most critical aspects of children’s brain development i.e. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. However, STEM teaches children more than just these four things; it also accelerates children’s learning and honing real-world skills.
Creativity and innovation have become prerequisites for success in the 21st century.
The primary learning derived from STEM kits encourage advanced critical thinking that sharpens children’s observation skills, focusing abilities, reasoning, and communication. Moreover, the most significant aspect of working with STEM kits is that children get first-hand experience with various robotics models or electronic circuits, enabling them to go out in the world with real-world experience.
What age range are Lego Mindstorms alternative kits for?
The age range for most STEM kits is typically between 6 and 12 years old, although some kits may be appropriate for younger or older children as well.
How difficult are robotic kits to use?
The difficulty level of robotic kits can vary widely depending on the age of the user, the type of activities included, and the complexity of the project. Most STEM kits are designed with age-appropriate levels of difficulty, allowing kids to learn and have fun at the same time.
What types of activities are included in the Mindstorms alternative kits?
Mindstorms alternative kits generally include activities such as building robots or model cars, developing programming skills for computers, working with circuitry and electrical components, constructing bridges and other structures, experimenting with chemistry, and learning about principles of physics.
Are Mindstorms alternatives compatible with other sets?
This will depend on which specific set you purchase. Some kits are designed to be compatible with other sets so you can combine them to create larger projects.
Are Mindstorms alternatives affordable?
Yes, most STEM kits are reasonably priced and are affordable for most buyers. Prices generally range from around $20 to $50 depending on the size and features of the kit.
Do Lego Mindstorms alternatives also come with support?
Most STEM kit manufacturers provide online resources such as video tutorials and step-by-step instructions to help users with any questions or issues they may encounter while using their products. In addition, many companies offer customer service support via phone or email if users encounter any difficulty that cannot be resolved using online resources.
Do I need to buy any additional parts or tools to complete the activities?
Depending on the activity being completed and the specific kit being used, additional parts or tools may be required to complete certain tasks or build certain projects. It is important to refer to the product information to make sure all required materials are included with your kit before making a purchase.
Do I need a lot of space to build projects from the STEM kits?
Not necessarily. Some projects require ample workspace while others require very little space. Generally speaking, most STEM projects can be completed within confined spaces such as a desk or table top surface; however, it is always a good idea to check the specific product information for each activity before beginning work.
Lego Mindstorms being discontinued doesn’t mean you are out of options for STEM education. There are many similar and more affordable kits available on the market that can easily replace them. And since the demand is huge, there are many more yet to come.
When choosing a Mindstorms alternative for your kids, be sure to take its age appropriateness, durability, educational value, and safety into consideration. You don’t want to end up with a set that is either too difficult or extremely easy for a kid. The objective of these kits is to teach kids problem-solving, so make sure the product you choose is challenging enough.