No matter your age or skill level, you can make your own 3-D creations right at home with a variety of creative sets from 3Doodler. If you're not familiar with 3Doodler, these are 3-D pens that you turn on to heat up, and then you press the button and feed a strand of plastic into the pen. The pen heats the plastic, but the melted plastic isn't too hot when it comes out, allowing you to still mold and shape it with your fingers if you need to.
The 3D Build & Play set lets kids ages 4 and up work with their own version of the 3Doodler 3-D pen called a 3D Builder. This battery-powered pen uses a hand crank to release the heated plastic at a child's own pace. It uses low-heat and there are no hot parts on the exterior of the device. The plastic filaments are BPA-free and non-toxic, and the plastic hardens and cools very quickly. The kit comes with 24 plastic filaments in four colors: orange, yellow, blue, and white. A Quick Start guide walks kids through the process of how to use the 3D Builder, along with instructions for how to build a variety of animals and other objects, from giraffes and lions to cars and clouds, using the included mold tray. Basically, you're cranking melted plastic into holes on top of the mold to fill the mold on the other side. Once dry, open the mold to remove your piece and use small bits of melted plastic to join pieces. To promote creative play with the 3-D plastic animals, two play scene backgrounds are also included.
Older kids can get started with 3-D printing using the 3Doodler Start Learn from Home Pen Set. This combines the Essentials Pen Set, which comes with 48 plastic filaments, with 200 extra plastic filaments and a 3Doodler Start Doodlepad. The plastic is all Start plastic and can only be used with the 3Doodler Start pen. All of the plastic is BPA-free and non-toxic. Inside, you'll find instructions for how to use and charge the pen, as well as an activity guide with space for kids to practice making different shapes before they move on to the projects in the back of the book. Kids can make glasses, a flower pot, the Eiffel Tower, or whatever they want to create.
And for even older kids, there's the 3Doodler Create+ Learn from Home Pen Set. This set is a combination of the Create+ Essentials Set, which comes with 75 plastic filaments, with 250 plastic refills and a 3Doodler Create Doodlepad. This pen set shows kids that they can make more than just shapes and desktop knick knacks. This 3-D pen can be used to make crafts, fix broken objects, design wearable jewelry, and more. The pen itself is a little more advanced, with dual temperature settings, slow and fast speeds, one-click start and stop, and a lightweight, slim aluminum shell. Along with all the plastic, which is BPA-free and non-toxic, the set includes a power adaptor for the pen, maintenance tools, instructions, and a quick start guide with templates for five projects.
In general, we like that all of these sets bring 3-D printing down to size for the youngest kids. Each set will probably have a learning curve for its intended age group, and the finished results will depend on the age and skill level of the child, but these sets open up a whole new world of creativity and STEM play that kids will love exploring.
The Build & Play set offers tactile elements with the cranking of the handle and the feel of the plastic that will appeal to the younger set. However, we wish the picture instructions for use were clearer. Once a kid figures out how it works, creating with the set will be satisfying.
We like that the 3Doodler Start set now includes even more plastic refills, letting kids spend a lot more time experimenting and creating. It's a great way for kids to get started working with 3Doodler, and they'll like the variety of suggested projects and coming up with designs of their own.
The 3Doodler Create+ set with all of its plastic refills also keeps kids busy and creating at home. And this pen set is about showing kids how 3-D printing works in the real world. We do wish, though, that the paper in the guidebook was different because the hot plastic ends up tearing the paper when you remove it from the page.
The 3D Build & Play set is for ages 4 and up. Parents may still want to supervise play.
The 3Doodler Start Learn from Home Pen Set is for ages 6 to 13.
The 3Doodler Create+ Learn from Home Pen Set is for ages 14 and up.
The 3D Builder requires three AA batteries, which are not included.
The instructions for the Build & Play set were not very clear. Also, the crank handle on this makes it difficult to join separate pieces together.
The 3Doodler Start Learn from Home Pen Set includes a USB cable for charging the pen.
The 3Doodler Create+ Learn from Home Pen Set includes a power adaptor for charging the pen.
In the Create+ set, we wish the hot plastic didn't tear up the paper when you removed your creation.
We had problems with the Build & Play and Start pens getting jammed, which can be chalked up to user error. Make sure that if you're reusing a piece of plastic that you snip the used end before inserting it back into the pen. Because kids are using these pens, the rate of user error could be high, so adults may want to supervise to make sure kids, especially the youngest ones, are using them correctly.
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