Following on our post about digital games for the outdoors, we wanted to mention that a favorite local maker group has a great new mover kit. Technology Will Save Us makes a number of kits, plus hosts great workshops for families around London. (We trialled electronic play dough and little bits, an electrical lego-like toy, at one of their workshops a while back).
The mover kit is particularly interesting because it first engages kids in making a wearable (digital tech that you wear), then by the nature of its function, it motivates kids to get out and move around. Movement triggers light displays from the ‘mover.’ You can order the kit online from their website.
Hybrid Play uses a smart phone and a giant ‘clip’ sensor
With the arrival of Pokemon Go, many parents noticed that a digital game can, in fact, get kids moving around outside. Pokemon Go uses ‘augmented reality’ where, looking through the camera on a device such as a smartphone, one sees computer imagery superimposed on a real life setting.
Now other companies are looking at the potential of enriching outdoor play using ‘augmented reality’ and other digital technology. This Guardian article profiles three companies getting into the field (along with useful critiques). I’ve included excerpts from the article:
Hybrid Play is a Spanish start-up which uses augmented reality (AR) – patching computer imagery on to real life – to transform playgrounds into video games. A wireless sensor resembling an over-sized clothes peg clips onto any piece of playground equipment. It then registers the movement of the children as they play and converts it into video games to play through a smartphone.
Greg Zeschuk, co-founder of gaming company BioWare (makers of the Jade Empire, Mass Effect and Dragon Age series), is now head of the AR start-up Biba. Its premise is that “all the playgrounds on Earth are actually the wreckage of robot spacecraft”. As kids enter a playground they meet a robot companion on their smartphone. Zeschuck has admitted that “after a career of putting people on their butts for hundreds of hours playing games, I’m trying to pay back the world by making games that make kids go outside.”
TP Toys, for example, recently added AR to its portfolio. The Lil’ Monkey climbing frame comes with an app that children use to play with a monkey character that climbs on the frame and suggests different games and levels to complete.
Have you tried any of these? How could they be used to enhance ecological learning or get kids involved in designing?
We picked up a pack of these cards, by EcoAction Games, in central London and the simple pictures could be useful and appealing for children from about 5 to 8 or 10. Younger kids might not be able to play the game in earnest, but the cards are a great tools for talking about energy and the environment.
update for 2017
EcoAction Games has abandoned the name Eco Action Trumps to avoid association with the incoming US President Donald Trump. For just the price of the postage and processing you can get one of these old decks:
I recently came across Nancy B’s Science Club, a spin off of Nancy B’s science toys by Educational Insights. The toys have an aesthetic that will appeal to girls and possibly won’t repel boys entirely.
Refreshingly, Nancy B is a real person—Nancy Balter, a former science teacher who wants to encourage girls in the sciences (read an interview on BoardroomMum here). According to Educational Insights Nancy B’s tools and activity journals are “recommended by female scientists” and I believe it!