At-Home 3D Printers: The Holiday Gift for Kids of All Ages
Educational toys are only slightly less nerdy than a holiday sweater from grandma. An at-home 3D printer, however, is a gift that engages the whole family.
“My 2-year-old son stands by the printer very excited,” says Tim Bell. “With a $20 spool of material, we’ve printed a hundred dinosaurs and animal figures for him. When he breaks them, we print more.”
Bell originally purchased the 3D printer for his 10-year-old daughter, who vacillates between being an engineer or a movie star depending on the day of the week.
“My daughter became enamored with robots and manufacturing when I took her took her to the student area at IMTS 2018,” says Bell, who is AM business manager for Siemens Industry, Inc. “She had the time of her life. She loves to design and make things, so I got her a 3D printer from a company called Creality.”
Now the Bells have the most popular basement on the block. “The neighborhood kids have literally just opened up. They're like, ‘Wait a minute, we can make whatever we want?’ and now I’ve convinced their parents to buy one.”
Here are seven reasons why a 3D printer is the best gift for kids and family this holiday season:
- Fun with a cool factor. With a 3D printer, you can trick kids into learning without them even knowing. Children gravitate towards tech – who hasn’t seen a toddler tapping away at a smart phone or tablet? When they play with a 3D printer, they’re more likely to view it as a creative project rather than a course in computer science and design engineering.
- They’re affordable. Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, and other big box outlets have basic 3D printers available online for about $200. There are many options, starting at about $150 for 3D printer starter kits. Filament can run as low as $10 a spool in some cases. Some 3D printer packages are designed with kids in mind, such as those sold on Toybox.com.
- Kids can make their own toys. Instead of buying them cheap plastic toys (which are probably stuck on a cargo ship waiting to unload), let them make their own, customized versions. There are 3D printer bundles available that include programs and filament colors specific for making branded characters like DC and Marvel superheroes. Lost a board game piece? Print a replacement. Want a special LEGO piece that doesn’t exist? Print one.
- It sparks creativity. If they can dream it, they can print it. Although there’s a science behind 3D printing, thinking up and using the final product is really an art. For kids interested in crafting, 3D printers can be used to make stencils, jewelry, décor, buttons, embellishments, and so many other things.
- It’s easier than you think. Some 3D printers have a one-touch start once they are set up correctly. The internet offers a bounty of free instructional videos, manuals and online courses to get you and the kids up to speed quickly. Plus, there are thousands of free and low-cost downloadable files online to make just about anything on websites such as Thingiverse.com and Pinshape.com.
- There’s plenty of guidance. ThomasNet.com lists the features you should consider when choosing a 3D printer for kids, and PopularMechanics.com lists its top eight 3D printers for unleashing the imagination at home.
- You get to play with it too. 3D printers appeal to people of all ages, including grown-ups. Make a model of nearly anything (from cars to creatures), or print something practical like a specialized tool for a home project. You will enjoy a 3D printer just as much as your kids do.
Bring a 3D printer into the house this holiday season and watch what happens – don’t be surprised if you have the most popular basement in the neighborhood.
About the Author
As AMT’s Managing Editor, Kathy seeks out connections, builds relationships, and strives to learn more about the people of the manufacturing industry. A writer and editor with more than 25 years of experience on the topics of manufacturing, technology, architecture, art, and parenting, Kathy is an avid listener who is deeply curious.
Kathy is particularly interested in autonomous vehicles. Since she was a member of Team ENSCO in the 2004 and 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, she’s been enthralled with the progress of self-driving vehicles.
When she’s not writing or mingling at manufacturing industry events, Kathy is spending time with her husband and four children creating art, visiting museums, hiking, traveling, and entertaining friends and family. She does try to sneak in reading, yoga, Sudoku, and long walks with her dog, Meadow.