E-Textiles for Our Youngest Learners

Open up the world of electronics for children of all ages and genders by introducing E-Textiles!

Photo of Gina Marcel
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Want to inspire children to be makers and encourage a DIY culture in your school environment. Well, ALL children can do a box stitch and love arts and crafts. What if you combine that natural excitement for crafting with soft circuits? In cooperation with the art teacher, Katelin O'Hare at my school, we co-teach a unit on crafting and electronics. 

The Beginning: Experimenting with Circuits

Second grade students had an extensive unit on how electrons flow through a circuit. Students applied that knowledge using Makey Makey to solidify their understanding and determine which items are conductors and insulators of electrical currents. Finally, once the students had a working understanding of how circuits are designed, they began to design their Mii Dolls, rag dolls that would have electrical circuits sewn in. The design must not only include details to individualize one's doll but also the design of the circuit in respect to where the child plans to place the LED, coin cell battery holder and the path the they will sew to insure the circuit works and no short or open circuits occur. 


Felt , Embroidery Thread or Thread, Coin Cell Battery Holder, Conductive Thread, Lithium Coin Cell Battery, Poly Fill, Scrap material  to create details on your doll, Chalk, Glue or Glue Gun,

Note: Felt does not glue well or quickly to felt. If you would like to glue two pieces of felt together, you should use a glue gun. However, other materials like silk, cotton, or jean will stick to felt with Elmer's glue. 

How To

Once you approve the design, have your students cut out the shape of their Mii Doll using a pattern and felt. Create patterns that will allow students to trace bodies, skirts, and pants onto materials using chalk. They should add details onto one piece of felt. Once they have added details like, hair, eyes, skin and nose, clothing and pockets, they can sew their circuits on top. Place the battery in the coin cell holder and watch the magic happen! Once you are sure the LED lights up, you can sew together both sides of the felt with embroidery thread and add poly-fill for the stuffing. 

Once students have mastered creating soft circuits, you can add Arduino E-Textile tools like LilyPad Arduino and Adafruit Gemma and Flora to add coding and sensors to your projects. I am currently co-teaching a week long study on Wearable Technology with sixteen 3rd to 7th graders called Code-able Fashions with my coworker, Dylan Ryder.


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Photo of Gina Marcel

Anderson, completely understand. I am having a lot of fun with the Flora though! -- Gina

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