Blogger Children and Technology Committee

LED Projects That Light Up Summer Programming

In the midst of Summer Reading, vacations, and increased patron activity, it’s beneficial to have a few simple tech activities which can be planned quickly and are easily adaptable. There are a few lasting projects that have always been appropriate for a variety of age groups, including early school-age students, tweens, and teens. I can always manage to dig up some LEDs, and try as much as possible to regularly use the materials in the supply closet that are close to their “craft shelf life.”

Many years ago a presenter at a conference used LED Throwies as an ice-breaker, and since then it’s been one of my favorite beginning STEAM activities that only requires LEDs, electrical tape, coin cell batteries, and magnets. As mentioned previously, my libraries have usually ordered LEDs in bulk to have on hand, and I have found inexpensive batteries at Ikea. The response has always been a success, and kids have often dictated further activities like modifying their Throwies into animal shapes, or inventing games to offer a more competitive approach. Speaking of games, I recently discovered the LED Dartboard activity which is a fun activity that takes Throwies to another level. The only additional materials would be an iron based cake or pizza pan, along with construction paper to create the dartboard.

I must confess, the first time I attempted paper circuits it was quite challenging, but in general with technology programming I try not to let fear dictate the planning process. Many times teen volunteers or colleagues can help work out the challenges, and during programs it’s astonishing what troubleshooting the attendees can do on their own. Chibitronics has excellent video tutorials and lessons, and I’m especially fond of their Simple Circuit demo. Many of the same materials are used in basic circuitry lessons, and this one requires conductive copper tape. You can easily adapt paper circuits to make greeting cards and other art pieces. I suggest cutting out a paper city and making the Eiffel Tower light up!

In this project, LEDs and Conductive Thread are used to make a bracelet.
E-textile projects teach basic sewing and circuitry.

One of my committee members posted on Wearable Technology in December, and similarly I’ve used LilyPad products and tutorials. We’ve had many basic sewing programs this summer, and I’m astonished that younger age groups keep attending, and many of them have previous sewing experience. I use the introduction to e-sewing which is available on Sparkfun Electronics, and in addition to the battery holder, Lilypad LEDs, and conductive thread, I use felt pieces and Velcro to create a simple wearable cuff.

At the end of every summer my library does a mass cleaning and inventory of the supply closet. Now in addition to tallying up googly eyes and glue sticks, we have also acquired a large supply of STEAM materials such as LEDs and batteries. As more and more STEAM projects become available online, it’s practical to keep some of these materials available and ready to use in a pinch.

Claire Moore is a librarian at Manhattan Beach Library in California. She can be reached at


This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competency: III. Programming Skills.

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