The ultimate guide to 3D printing for kids!

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There are so many uses for 3D printing in today’s world, and now kids can get in on the action, too! Here is how Your Kids Can Design and Print in 3D!

When it comes to kids coding activities, there are a lot of options for screen-based activities. Finding a good balance between unplugged coding activities and screen-based activities is always a goal of mine.

3D printing has become a big deal in the last few years, and can help reinforce some of the concepts coding games are helping kids learn. The process is fairly simple; design, slice, print. But when it comes to the execution, you can teach or reinforce all sorts of coding concepts.

Read on to learn the specifics about how Your Kids Can Design and Print in 3D!

3D Design For Kids!

For the design process, you will need some kind of 3D design creation software. These are sometimes called C.A.D., or “Computer-Aided Design”. For kids learning to design, you don’t need the top-of-the-line software. All the “extras” will just confuse your child. To help your child begin to design in 3D, first take a look at Thingiverse

Thingiverse is an online library of sorts, but instead of books, you can download 3D designs. When kids start to look at designing in 3D, having an idea of what the model will look like is helpful. They can find pretty much anything they want on Thingiverse, so whatever they are interested in, you will probably be able to find a model of it. 

Once you have an idea of what a 3D model looks like, you will need to learn how to move and design in a 3D space. It’s not quite as easy as designing in 2D or just drawing on a piece of paper. I usually head to TinkerCad to get kids started. 

TinkerCad is awesome for helping kids learn to design in 3D. Once they get signed in, the “Starter” lessons teach them how to move, place, edit, and delete objects within the 3D world. After they get through the starter lessons, there is a bank of other, gradually harder lessons they can start on. If you want to get really fancy, you can have your child download one of the designs on Thingiverse, then drop it into TinkerCad so they can edit it and make it their own. Whatever they do, they will be working on visual-spacial skills and computational thinking, which are both wonderful skills to help develop a budding computer coder/programmer!

Slice (Adult Assistance Needed)

In order for a 3D design to be built, it has to be sliced into layers that the printer can understand. Each type of printer has it’s own proprietary slicing software, so make sure you get the correct software for whichever printer you will be using. 

When you are done helping your kid design in 3D, you will export the print to a file. The best option is usually to export as a .stl file, the most common file type for 3D design. You will then open that .stl file in the software that works for your particular type of printer. 

What you will see from there depends on the printer and its software, but most of them have similar features. You will probably be asked to run some kind of repair check – where the software looks for possible printing issues and repairs the model for you to take care of them. You may be asked if you want to add a “raft” to the bottom of the model, making it easier to remove. You may also have the ability to scale up or down depending on the software, And then you will probably have some sort of “Slice” or “Print” button. 

Once you click on the “Slice” or “Print” option, one of two things will happen. If the printer is hooked directly to the computer, you might hear it begin to hum and warm up. If not, you might be asked where you would like to save the new file. This should no longer be a .stl file. It will now have a new file extension, which will probably reflect the type of printer you are using. A flash drive (Thumb drive/USB stick) will be helpful here to get the file from the computer to the printer. 

3D Printing for Kids (Adult Assistance Needed)

3D printer printing, also known as additive manufacturing (AM), refers to processes used to create a three-dimensional object in which layers of material are formed under computer control.

However you get the file to the printer, you will now be able to select and print it. A 3D printer works very much like a robotic hot glue gun. The printer can move side-to-side, forward and back, and up and down. The model has been sliced into layers, so the only time the printer moves up is when it has completed a layer and is moving to the next one. 

I like to teach my kids about 3D printing with a deck of cards. I hand them one card, and ask them to show me with their fingers how thick it is. This usually gets a few laughs! I then have them help me lay out all the cards, end-to-end, across the floor. We talk about if the cards are all the same thickness, and how we have changed the way they look by laying them out. 

The next thing we do is stack the cards back up. As we go one-by-one, I teach my kids that this is how a 3D printer works; there are many layers that make up their model, and the printer simply stacks layer after layer to eventually create their design!

For adults, you should know that the printer nozzle gets quite hot. Once the printer is printing, you should encourage your child to watch, NOT touch. Many 3D printers in schools are enclosed in some kind of box or case, to make sure that no little fingers get hurt.

Where to find a 3D printer

There are now so many 3D printers on the market, and there are quite a few affordable 3D printer options. You also might try contacting your school librarian – They may be able to tell you where in the community you can find a public-use printer. If you can’t find anything nearby, and don’t want to buy a printer yourself, there are services that will print your kids 3D design for you, and ship it to you. However you get the design printed, you will love to see the look of surprise and joy on your child’s face when they see their 3D design IRL! (In Real Life)

If 3D printing is something you never considered for your kids, you should start thinking about it! 3D design is a great way to get kids thinking about problem-solving, spacial skills, and critical thinking, all essential concepts when teaching kids to code. 3D design and printing is a great way to get artistic kids into coding and computational thinking. What experience do you have with 3D design and printing? Have you heard of the medical breakthroughs that are becoming possible thanks to this technology and dedicated designers? Did you know Your Kids Can Design and Print in 3D?

The Best 3D Printers for Kids

Bestseller No. 1
Toybox 3D Printer for Kids, No Software Needed (Includes: 3D Printer, 8 Preselected Printer Food Rolls, Free...*
  • KID FRIENDLY: Built to be used by children, Toybox can be controlled with simple one-touch functions. No adult assistance needed, no need to adjust removable print bed, easy filament loading and novel print bed design that doesn't require a knife to remove prints like most 3D printers
  • UNLIMITED CATALOG OF TOYS: Thousands of awesome toys are available at your fingertips in our Toybox catalog. New toys added weekly and seasonally.
  • CREATOR SPACE AND EASY IMPORT: Upload designs to create your own toys or draw them and bring them to life through our user-friendly apps and tools. Your creations are stored on the cloud for easy access.
SaleBestseller No. 2
Official Creality Ender 3 3D Printer Fully Open Source with Resume Printing Function DIY 3D Printers Printing...
685 Reviews
Official Creality Ender 3 3D Printer Fully Open Source with Resume Printing Function DIY 3D Printers Printing...*
  • Resume Printing Function: Ender 3 has the ability to resume printing even after a power outage or lapse occurs.
  • Easy and Qucik Assembly: It comes with several assembled parts, you only need about 2 hours to assemble 20 nuts well.
  • Advanced Extruder Technology: Upgraded extruder greatly reduces plugging risk and bad extrustion; V-shape with POM wheels make it move noiseless, smoothly and durable.

Frequently Asked Questions About 3D Printers for Kids

What age is appropriate for 3D printing?

We recommend 3D printing for kids 8 and older. There are a variety of options of 3D printers perfect for this age group.

Is 3D printing good for kids?

Of course! 3D printing teaches kids about problem solving, spatial skills and critical thinking.

How much does a 3D printer cost?

3D printers can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. We have a range of affordable options reviewed above.

What can kids make with a 3D printer?

Check out Thingiverse to see all the great designs you can create with your 3D printer. From figurines to practical home accessories, the sky is the limit!

Pin for later!

All you need to know about 3D printing for kids! Your kids can design their own toys and 3D structures easily with this guide to 3D printing for kids. We will show you where you can easily come up with your 3D design and how to transform your design into a real-life object using the  power of 3D printers. We'll review some of the best and most affordable 3D printers for kids! #education #technology

Have fun with 3D printing for kids! Yours kids can learn to design their own 3D objects with this simple guide to 3D printing for kids. We will review the best 3D printers for kids and how to create a design with only basic knowledge. See just how easy it is to design in 3D with this kid-friendly 3D printer guide. #technology #education #3Dprinter

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  1. On a more technical note, the 3D model must be “water tight”. This means that there may not be any holes in the mesh of the 3D model. If you have holes (missing information) in the mesh, your 3D printer won’t know what to do, and your 3D print will not finish.

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