While it is winter and the sun has yet to make an appearance for more than a few minutes, it is coming. At least I hope that it is. While we wait for the sun to shine, teachers and parents can plan for summer and for children’s birthdays by thinking about toys that teach creativity and sustainability. What are these sustainable toys? They’re solar kits for kids.
Many adults hear about solar and keep it on the fringes of their ideas of what is possible. Solar power is something to place in vast arrays in the desert, or maybe it sits on the roofs of those who are very motivated to make a difference. It’s not at the front of everyone’s mind as an option for power and warm water, and that’s where solar kits come in.
What solar toy kits are out there? One perennial favorite is the solar-powered race car. There are any number of companies that create solar-powered vehicle kits, a good alternative to a battery-operated car. There are also solar boat, dog, and robot kits available. One of the most intriguing solar cars is actually powered by hydrogen: the H2Go Radio Controlled Hydrogen Powered Car fills up with water. It then uses solar energy to split the water into hydrogen and oxygen gas, and the car can run for up to an hour.
For those more into crafts than building, Sundance Solar has toys like UV-sensitive photo paper, an alternative way to create and process your photos. They also have very groovy sun-sensitive beads.
For teachers, Sundance’s Solarlab Learning Kit is good for teaching children about the basics of electricity and electrical circuits. Sundance also has small solar panels available so that children can build their own solar kits. The 6 in 1 robot kit is also a good choice for the classroom, since children can build any number of different movable solar projects with the pieces in the kit.
If you can’t find a solar kit that is suitable, purchase a solar-powered battery recharger for parents of small children. This uses the sun’s energy to do something that parents need to do anyway, whether it’s recharging batteries for a flashlight or a singing, dancing toy. Their wallets will thank you, and so will the landfills and toxic waste collectors, for being rid of the toxins from disposable batteries.
For teens, there are a number of gadgets that are powered by or can be recharged with solar energy. How about a solar charger for a phone? These are widely available. How about a laptop for teens to use, powered by a flexible solar panel like a SolarRoll? Or how about a SoulRa, a dock for an iPod that is powered by solar energy? If teens have gadgets, you might as well take the load off home power and invest in solar chargers at the outset.
To many of those in urban areas, energy comes from the wires above the house or buried below. We’re disconnected from our sources of energy, whether they are sustainable solar, hydro, or coal. When we no longer have to burn fuel to stay warm or use candles to keep the darkness at bay in the winter, we lose a connection between us and the relative sustainability of our power sources.
Giving a child a solar kit or a toy that is powered by solar energy brings this technology to the foreground. It becomes a normal way to collect energy, and that’s important if this technology is to be popular one instead of technology for a niche market.
Image courtesy of dynamic at Stock Exchange.