We started our journey with the Raspberry Pi with our kids a few years back. It’s been an incredible piece of tech in our home that’s allowed our kids to learn more about how to code and how computer hardware works, as well as helped develop their problem solving skills. And we’ve still only scratched the surface of what it’s capable of!
You may have heard of the Raspberry Pi. But what exactly is it? Is it worth getting a Raspberry Pi for your kids? And if you’ve even taken a little time to look into it, it may have left your head spinning and you wondering: what do you actually need to get started?
In this post, I’ll walk you through some common questions and hurdles, and help guide you in picking out what you need for your child to get started with the Raspberry Pi.
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What is the Raspberry Pi?
Simply put, the Raspberry Pi is a mini-computer that can be used for an incredibly diverse variety of purposes and projects.
Why would I want to get the Raspberry Pi for my kids?
A Raspberry Pi is an affordable, fun way to get kids interested in computer programming and hardware. If you want your child to learn how to code, to become comfortable with computer hardware, and to develop valuable problem solving skills, the Raspberry Pi is the perfect project.
What Can My Kids Do on the Raspberry Pi?
There are so many programs, projects, and activities you can do with the Raspberry Pi. This is where the sky is the limit! Or rather, the sky isn’t the limit. The first Raspberry Pi went up to the International Space Station in 2015, and an upgraded AstroPi has been on the ISS since 2021.
But you don’t need to be a scientist or experienced programmer to do projects with the Raspberry Pi. You child can learn to program, build simple computer hardware projects, and work those problem-solving muscles as they work with the Pi.
Learn Coding – I’ve talked about Scratch before in my Coding Resources for Kids post, but I can’t say enough good things about this fantastic coding program built by MIT. My kids have learned not just coding with it, but have greatly increased their problem solving skills. They’re not just limited to coding in Scratch, though! It possible to use a wide variety of coding languages right on the Pi.
Learn about Hardware – Assembling the Raspberry Pi will help your child gain useful know-how when it comes to computing hardware, without being too complex. And there are some additional hardware components you can purchase to use with the Raspberry Pi to make some incredible projects. Check out the bottom of this post for more resources.
Learn Problem Solving Skills – One of the best things coding and working with technology like the Raspberry Pi has taught my kids is how to solve problems. When they encounter an issue, something difficult, or even something that isn’t doing what’s expected, they’ve learned not just to say, “I don’t know how to do this” and give up, but to ask, “What happens if I try this?” Honestly I’m amazed at the patience and creativity they’ve developed, and the incredible projects they’ve put together. It doesn’t come naturally – it’s something you have to encourage and nurture in your child. But this can be one of those projects that help you do just that.
Is it Expensive?
Part of Raspberry Pi’s mission is to make computing affordable. Depending on what kit you purchase or what extras you may need, getting started with a Raspberry Pi isn’t that expensive, especially when compared with traditional computers.
Okay, what do I actually need to get?
One of the most intimidating things about the Raspberry Pi is the sheer amount of options, add-ons, and variety of pieces you can find. There isn’t just one kit to pick from. Even a search on Amazon can leave your head spinning. (Trust me, I’ve been there!)
So, let me help break it down for you. This is what you need, plus some additional things you might want:
1. A Raspberry Pi
There are a couple options here.
Starter Kit (Recommended) First of all, you can go with a starter kit, that includes nearly everything you need to get going. This is a fantastic one right here that comes with just what you need to get started.
Just a quick note: The kit I’m recommending above is slightly different than the one we originally purchased that you’ll see in my photos (which is no longer available on Amazon). I did some research and found an equivalent one with fantastic reviews!
If you don’t want to worry about trying to figure out all the little pieces you need, a starter kit like this one is a great way to, well, get started.
Quick Tip: If you do go purchase a different type of kit, verify that it actually includes the Raspberry Pi itself with it. I’ve found there’s a number of ‘starter kits’ on Amazon that don’t actually include the Pi with them.
Want to get more technical?
If you’re comfortable with computer hardware and enjoy researching and finding just what you need, you can purchase a lot of individual Raspberry Pi parts from Amazon.
But if you’re brand new to the Raspberry Pi and don’t want to go hunting down all the various parts you need, I’d highly recommended just getting a starter kit like we did.
2. Optional: Keyboard, Mouse, and Screen
You can actually hook the Raspberry Pi right up to your TV with a simple HDMI cord. And if you have an extra keyboard or mouse lying around, you can use those.
If you don’t have a keyboard and mouse to use, you can grab the official Raspberry Pi keyboard and mouse like we have here (note that the Raspberry Pi itself is not included with these!). But nearly any keyboard and mouse will do.
We also chose to buy a small touch screen to make it more portable, and to give the kids more options for the projects they want to do. This definitely falls into the nice to have category. It is not required if you already have a screen you’re able to hook your Raspberry Pi up to, or don’t mind your child connecting it to the the TV.
3. Optional: Starter Guide
This definitely isn’t a must-have. You can find a lot of great info online, and the starter kit you purchase may even come with its own guide. But I like when my kids have a physical guide for them to read, look through, and learn from. And this official Raspberry Pi guide is a great one!
4. Optional: Extra Hardware Components
This is another one of those things that isn’t necessary, but adds to the fun and versatility of the Raspberry Pi! If your child is interested in getting into more advanced projects and building programs that actually do things, getting a hardware component kit is a must. We purchased this kit right here, and we were impressed with the quality and variety of hardware it came with.
Not sure if your child is ready for this step? Feel free to skip this for now and you can always grab one later if your child is interested in diving deeper into the Raspberry Pi world.
Once you get a Raspberry Pi, what next?
You’ll want to follow along with the Raspberry Pi guide or the guide that came with your kit. I’d highly recommend letting your child do as much of the assembly, installation, etc. as possible, depending on their age and skill level. Letting kids figure things out and troubleshoot is such a gift we can give them, and helps them develop valuable life skills. All that said, you know your child best! Step in and help out as needed.
I hope this helps you get your child started in the wonderful world of the Raspberry Pi! And I think you’ll be amazed at how much they’ll create, learn, and grow in their journey.
Raspberry Pi has an incredible guide for parents you can read here.
And they have a whole list of Raspberry Pi projects for kids here.