PLAYING with Barbie dolls or Thomas The Train sets?

Why not also get toys that teach technology, say tech lovers here, who are bringing in and promoting play kits that are more "hands on" and less conventional.

These often require children to put things together and can spark their curiosity in what goes on behind everyday technology from a young age, said tech lovers.

One example is the LED-light sticker developed by Singapore- based hardware engineer Andrew "Bunnie" Huang, 39, and his US collaborator Jie Qi.

These stickers light up when they come into contact with copper tape and batteries. So, for instance, a child can draw a robot and give it a shining heart by pasting an LED-light sticker connected with copper tape to a battery.

The stickers also come with a workbook to teach children how parts of an electric circuit fit together and how switches work.

"The idea is to get children to first experiment with simple hardware through crafts," said Dr Huang, who has a PhD in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"That could be a springboard towards learning about circuits, which leads them on a path to learning useful skills like programming." Such skills are essential for creating radical tech products like Facebook, said Dr Huang.

The starter kit comes with 30 LED lights, copper tape, batteries and a workbook, and costs about $30.

Some 2,000 kits will be ready in May, with most sold in advance on

Mr James Chan, founder of venture capital firm Silicon Straits, also brought in similar toys called littleBits last year. These consist of electrical parts such as batteries, motors and pressure sensors that snap together with magnets and allow children to make things like their own back massagers.

Mr Abir Barua, a marketing manager in his late 40s, got a kit for his eight-year-old daughter last year. "There's a stereotype that girls cannot get into tech, but I would like to expose her to as many things as possible when she is young, so it does not limit her career choices," he said.

These toys are part of a movement among some technology enthusiasts here inspired by the Makers' Movement from the United States, which encourages people to be active makers of gadgets and not passive consumers.

"Technology is becoming so essential to our lives. Those who know how to make it and control it may have control over us. Learning to make technology is a step towards independence," said Dr Huang.

Besides toys, some tech lovers are also offering free classes called Hackidemia for children as young as five to learn how a printer works or how to programme simple games, for example.

"It's important to allow children to play and to stimulate their curiosity on everything, including the workings of everyday technology," said blogger Sarah Lee-Wong, 36, who brought her sons, three and five, to Hackidemia. "You never know how much they can learn."