Children as young as five will soon be able to make their own electric back massagers and understand magnetism, thanks to a range of science and technology kits due to be launched here.

Technopreneur James Chan will import the "Little Bits" range of kits from the United States later this month which allow children to make toys that light up and move mechanically. They have already proved a hit in the US, where projects have been shared in online communities.

"Learning from textbooks is one thing, but tinkering at a young age could light up a child's imagination," said Mr Chan.

The kits consist of electrical parts such as dimmers, motors and pressure sensors that snap together with magnets.

"In the past, making complex electrical circuits involved soldering, but now kids can do this like Lego," he said."We need to nurture a culture of tinkering among our kids, so they are more inclined to create and innovate as adults... Kids should play with hardware so that they start questioning what goes behind technology at a young age."

Mr Chan and a growing group of technologists in Singapore have been inspired by America's "maker movement". This encourages people to be active makers of gadgets, instead of passive consumers.

Singapore's technology lovers have also introduced free classes called "Hackidemia", in which children learn how to programme simple games.

"My son was quite absorbed in exploring,"said Mr David Kwek, who took his five-year-old to one of the sessions. "There was some frustration when he could not figure it out but it was a lot of problem solving, naturally in an engaging way."

The Science Centre will also launch more affordable versions of its popular "Let's Explore" science kits in October. These allow children to experiment with concepts such as electricity and magnetism.

"We want to take science outside the classroom and fascinate kids with hands-on learning," said general manager of Science Centre Holdings Michael Chay.

The new kits are smaller versions of current kits - 1,200 of which have been sold since last November. The new ones will contain fewer experiments, but cost around $13 to $16, compared to the current $30 ones.

"My son gets more curious with science when he experiments," said homemaker Irene Fock, 27, who has bought electricity and magnetism Let's Explore kits for her five-year-old. "I want him to play and learn. Curiosity should be nurtured outside textbooks too."