These novelty items are small, self-powered trinkets that can hold a child's imagination with flashing lights and motorized wheels. They are typically small in size and have limited power since the solar cells are only a little larger than those found on calculators.
Most of these toys come preassembled with a small rechargeable battery that cannot be removed. The amount of charge it stores depends on the strength of the sunlight and duration of time left under the sun. The longer the exposure to the afternoon sun, the more charge it will be able to hold.
Solar power toys are generally geared towards children between the ages of 3 to 6. These elementary toys are small in size and have limited range of motion and pose minimal hazard to little ones.
Kids can experiment under a variety of conditions (i.e. cloudy, sunny) to determine how direct and indirect sunlight affects energy storage. They teach children about energy collection and energy usage. The more solar energy that is stored, the more power there is for playtime. These units usually have an opening that shows the spinning armature of the electric motor. They can witness that as the power from the battery drains, the slower the motor spins.
By using the infinite power of the sun, solar powered toys reduce the amount of single-use batteries that need to be purchased. Traditional batteries contain lead that is harmful to the environment. By instead using the sun as the power source, there are no carbon emissions or pollution.
For older children, a solar car assembly is a great introduction to mechanics and engineering. Following detailed instructions, the plastic parts, electric motor and a solar panel enclosure can be put together in a precise order to work correctly, teaching both patience and accuracy.
Solar power toys are novelty items but they provide a good educational introduction for the next generation of engineers and physicists. They're both fun and educational, and with so much variety, parents are sure to be able to find something that appeals to their little ones.