3D Printing is no longer just for adults – this cutting edge technology is a great tool and resource for kids, too. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you get started with 3D printing for kids – including our top choice for a kid-friendly 3D printer .
Kids love gadgets and gizmos, as well as most adults! 3D printers might seem, to many, like something that is meant for schools, libraries, and not homes. However, for the price of a cheap to moderately priced gaming system a child can be introduced to an important technology of the future.
Plus, it is fun for kids to create new toys and tools in your own home! In this post, we will be sharing what you need to know about getting your child started with a 3D Printer.
Table of contents
What is a 3D Printer?
So first…what is a 3D printer!
3D printing is a type of additive manufacturing where the material is added layer by layer to create a three-dimensional object. It is generally made with a computer following instructions to create a digital model.
Materials can include polymers, metal, ceramics, or even biological material. 3D printing can be used to make food, tools, clothing, toys, utensils, and even housing structures.
What Can Kids Make with a 3D Printer?
Kids might be more interested in making things like gliders, chess sets, cartoon figurines, fidget spinners, phone holders, etc.
My kids liked the dinosaur, cat ring (ring with cat ears), and the good luck cat that was printed from the files on the provided micro SD card that came with our 3D printer.
Another popular category of simple prints is cookie cutters. There are a lot of free cookie cutter files available that kids will like.
Something exciting for the near future is that as 3D scanning technology improves and becomes more commonplace (new cellphones might come with LiDAR), you could scan your own family, and make custom figurines.
I tried a few apps that claim that they can use my iPhone 11 to scan faces, but I felt that the quality of the scan wasn’t good enough to create a 3D print.
I think it would be awesome to make a chess set out of my family. Plus, I could make our cat be all of the pawns!
3D Printers for Education
3D printers are a lot of fun to use, but an understanding of 3D printers could be valuable in a lot of careers.
3D printers are being used with a variety of materials in a lot of different manufacturing processes.
One material is concrete, which is being used to build cheaper homes, bridges, and protective bunkers. Below is an example of how the US military can build a bridge more quickly and cheaply for military and humanitarian purposes.
You can incorporate a 3D printer into any homeschool or enrichment curriculum for your children. It can be a great tool for them to learn how to use for practical and trade skills, and it introduces them to a fascinating world that is sure to only expand during their lifetime.
There are different courses that children can take online to learn more about 3D Printing. Outschool is a popular new resource that is available for virtual learning. You can check out their 3D printing classes that start at as little as $10 to enroll your child in.
Taking a class can allow your child to learn from an expert that tools necessary to create awesome designs and bring them to life.
Here are some other places where you can take online classes. I would suggest doing a Google search for local, in person resources.
Best 3D Printer for Kids
Monoprice Cadet 3D Printer Review
The Monoprice Cadet is a great 3D printer for kids (and, if I’m being honest, for adults, too). We were recently sent it to review, and we’ve been extremely impressed. It can help kids explore science and art. It requires kids to be creative and precise.
It is small and easy to set up 3D Printer. We were printing something super quickly upon opening the package.
The Cadet is advertised as ‘The World’s Easiest to Use 3D Printer from the ‘The World’s Best Selling Brand in 3D Printing.’ My experience and the other reviews that I have seen in person and online suggest that their claim is likely true. I showed a friend one of my prints who has experience with 3D printing, and he said that the layers weren’t very noticeable–which is the sign of a good printer.
The Cadet was very easy to set up for a novice like me. If I were to unbox another Cadet today, I’m sure that I could get it printing in about a minute. I wouldn’t worry about how much time it would take to teach your kids how to use The Cadet. They make it relatively simple to use.
One big feature that The Cadet has, is that it is auto-leveling. Apparently, that can be a tricky and tedious process on non-auto-leveling printers. Our printer was bumped during our last print, and the print got a little wonky. I would suggest that you don’t move the printer during a print.
My kids enjoyed watching the printer extrude its layers of plastic, and they loved to show their creations to family and friends after they were done.
The Cadet comes with a small sample of filament that we used to create the three sample projects on the provided microSD card. This made it super simple to test out the machine and to get started printing something quickly.
However, I would recommend buying some extra filament – it’s kind of a bummer when you are making all sorts of fun projects and you run out!
Additionally, there is a free app that has a lot of fun little toys you can make. Some of the designs included in the app are things like little animals, vehicles, and flowers.
The Cadet has a 100mm by 100mm build range. It isn’t a particularly large 3D printer. You could build multiple parts of something, and then assemble them into a larger object.
The Cadet branding seems space-themed, since some of its most exciting applications, in my opinion, are in space. Here is a video about one company that built a 3D printer for the International Space Station.
Even though the printer does most of the work, kids can learn how to design their own prints.
They can choose their own color and type of filament. They can paint and decorate prints. Plus, they might need to assemble some prints with glue.
A 3D printer can stretch your kids creatively, which I think helps a lot of kids to not get bored.
3D Printer Pens
If you want to start small (and less expensive), you can look into 3D pens. While these, obviously, pale in comparison to what you can do with a 3D printer, they are a great introductory for children to the world of 3D printing.
I have seen a lot of sets for under $100 on Amazon that would be fun to start out with.
Some 3D printers have rather open designs. This can raise some safety concerns for some parents.
The Cadet has left and right sides, windows in the front and back, and a guard to protect the nozzle from curious hands.
The nozzle gets very hot, so it is important to make sure your kids can stop themselves from shoving the fingers into the nooks and crannies of machine parts.
Kids would have to work hard to touch a hot nozzle during a print. I would supervise younger children especially close.
It is generally recommended that the are in which your are printing has good ventilation.
From my personal experience, emissions from the heating and melting the filament is slight.
I didn’t notice a stronger odor, but that doesn’t mean that there might be something in the air. I would guess that cracking a window or door would be sufficient precaution.
Kids will love to create fun things in their own home. The process of learning how to use a 3D printer will better prepare them for the future. Often, the best activities require kids to work and challenge themselves to get the prize that they want–which could be a tiny little trophy!