Should I Get my Child a 3D printer?
The short answer? YES! 3D printing is a great activity for kids that combines all kinds of creativity and science. It’s the ultimate way to learn about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering. Art and Math).
3D printing has really gained popularity in recent years. It allows you to turn digital designs into physical objects by layering material — usually melted plastic — one small piece at a time. While it’s a fascinating tool for both children and adults, many parents wonder at what age is right for kids to start 3D printing.
Especially for younger children, adult supervision is extremely important. Kids will benefit from having an adult nearby to provide guidance and ensure that everything runs smoothly during the printing process — even if you’re learning together. Safety should always be a top priority!
Disclosure: When you buy through our affiliate links, it supports our site at no extra cost to you. We recommend products we believe offer value to you. Thank you for your support.
Here’s a few Things to Consider before Getting your Kid a 3D printer:
Can They Follow Directions?
One crucial factor to consider is the child’s level of maturity and responsibility. Kids who are ready to start 3D printing should be able to understand and follow safety guidelines. This includes knowing not to touch hot printer components, understanding the importance of safe operation, and respecting the equipment.
Can They Use a (real) Computer?
Kids today are growing up with computers in their pocket, but 3D printing involves using the internet and “grown up” computer software to find, create and prepare 3D models for printing. So some familiarity with computers (and not just swiping phone apps!) is needed. Kids who know their way around a keyboard and mouse will pick up 3D printing faster.
Does the KID want to Learn 3D Printing?
A child’s level of interest and enthusiasm for 3D printing is another important consideration. Kids who have a natural curiosity for design, engineering, or creating things will find 3D printing to be a fun and rewarding experience. Make sure your child really wants to learn about printing before indulging them in a piece of hardware that costs several hundred dollars.
Does your Child have Problem-Solving Skills?
3D printing can sometimes involve troubleshooting and problem-solving. Children who enjoy these challenges and are patient when faced with setbacks may find 3D printing to be more rewarding. Not everything prints right the first time!
So How Old Can a Kid Start Learning 3D printing?
In general, children as young as 8 to 10 years old can start exploring 3D printing with the right guidance and supervision. However, it’s essential to consider your child’s unique circumstances and readiness.
My best recommendation is to start with a “family” 3D printer that is kept in a shared area of the house. Kids can explore TinkerCad — a CAD program for kids — on their own, but get help when it comes to slicing the files and moving them to the printer. They also might need help loading filament the first few times.
There are 3D printers specifically designed for kids, equipped with safety features and simplified interfaces. But they have limits. For example, the ToyBox 3D printer has great kid safe software and a “gated” community for finding files that keeps them off the internet at large. But the printer is very small and priced the same as a “grown up” machine.
Bambu Lab Maker World is Great for Starting Out
Another option for kids (and beginners of all ages) is the brand new Bambu Lab Maker World. It’s a community driven 3D printer file library that works especially well when paired with Bambu printers. The A1 Mini, a machine I’m reviewing right now for Tom’s Hardware, is a great beginner machine that’s fairly affordable. Files can be selected from the website (or your phone) and sent directly to a Bambu brand printer.
Though I’ll always recommend learning how to slice files on your own, Maker World can help you get through that learning phase by taking the stress out of slicing files.