TinkerSketch | Daily Sketchbook Challenge

You guys…I am so excited to say that the TinkerSketch challenge is back! Brace yourself for another round of fun and easy-to-achieve sketchbook challenges for the month of February. Will you join me?

First of all, this challenge takes place on Instagram, so you’ll want to start by following TinkerLab over there.

Next, you’ll want all the details. Read on for more…

If you want to jump-start your creativity and start your art journal practice, join us for the FREE TinkerSketch Sketchbook Challenge in February 2015 at TinkerLab.com

What’s the TinkerSketch Sketchbook Challenge?

TinkerSketch is a daily sketchbook practice that invites you to experiment and play with ideas and materials in a low-stress, fun, and mind-stretching way.

Who is this Sketchbook Challenge for?

If you’d like to jump-start your creativity with a daily mark-making routine or establish a more regular art journalling practice, this challenge is for you. The stakes are low and it’s super easy to do, even if you have no experience or low confidence with making. And if you’re busy, the time commitment is minimal.

You might have had some time to nurture your creative soul at some point in your not-too-distant past, but with kids, work, chores, responsibilities, name your excuse, you don’t have a lot of time for the creative YOU.

The goal of this challenge is to make time (even if it’s just a tiny bit) to celebrate your creative self through hands-on making.

painting on sketchbook

What’s the Point?

If you join this sketchbook challenge, you’ll:

  • Improve your drawing, painting, mark-making skills
  • Try and explore new ways of art-making
  • Land on new ideas that wouldn’t have emerged otherwise
  • Have fun
  • Model creative thinking for your child (if you’re a parent or teacher)
  • Celebrate the imperfection of your ideas
  • Think creatively
  • Give yourself the gift of time

How long will it take?

While you can spend as much time at this as you like, just set aside five-ten minutes each day aside for making, creating, and experimenting and you’re in business.

Great, but 5 minutes is still a lot!

There are so many ways to do this. For example, you could:

  • Wake up a little earlier than usual, brew a pot of something warm, and curl up with your sketchbook for a few minutes before the rest of your home wakes up
  • Carry a sketchbook in your bag and pull it out when you’re waiting in line
  • Designate “creative time” where you and your child draw in sketchbooks side-by-side

Join the TinkerSketch Sketchbook Challenge at TinkerLab.com.

I’m REALLY not an artist. Are you sure this is for me?

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” – Michael Jordan

This is for everyone, truly, and you are not expected to make a masterpiece with this practice. Rather, the point is to unleash your creative energy. Your creations don’t have to be works of amazing art, and in fact they probably shouldn’t be all that spectacular, especially if you’re pushing yourself to try something new, experiment, and be bold. Be confident with whatever you create, knowing that you’re on a journey to feed your creativity.

What Sketchbook and Tools will I Need?

While you can certainly go all-out and buy a ton of stuff for this month’s challenge, it’s not necessary. I’ll share some of my favorite tools in a minute, but you will basically need just a few things, and there’s a good chance you already have them:

  • You will need a sketchbook or a ream of paper
  • Some mark-making tools like pens and pencils
  • Paint and brush
  • “Attaching” materials such as glue and tape will come in handy
  • Collage materials such as scrap paper, newspaper, old homework, or magazines.

This list contains affiliate links


My best advice is to visit an art store and test out sketchbooks to see which one feels right to you. That said, here are a few tips.

  • Size. Find a size that fits your situation. If you think you’ll take your sketchbook on the road, find something small enough to travel in your bag
  • Paper. Choose paper that is heavy weight and designed to withstand water and wet media. Look for the weight of paper in terms of how many pounds it is: the higher the number, the heavier the weight. Something over 70 lbs. should do the trick
  • Spiral or book-bound. Do you think you’d enjoy a spiral-bound book or traditional binding more? I recommend spiral binding because the pages lie flat easily. Some people like traditional binding more because they can design/paint/draw a double-page spread without having a gap between the pages.
  • My favorite Sketchbooks. I have two favorites in this category for working with both wet and dry media. Both of these books can handle paint. Strathmore Visual Journal is made of heavy duty paper (90 pound weight), perfect for mixed media, and comes in a few sizes. For easy, on-th-go journaling, I like the 5.5″ x 8″ journal at $6.89. I also like the Canson Mix Media journal that’s 7″ x 10″ for $8.19.  A friend just gave me a Stillman & Birn Zeta series and I love it. The paper is 180 lb.

My Favorite Mark-Making Tools

Get yourself a few pens that you love to use, and be sure to have at least one waterproof, archival pen in the mix so that you can paint over your pen lines without worrying about your drawing bleeding with water. Micron Pens are a designer favorite (and mine, too!), and they come in tons of sizes and colors.

See our Resources Page for a full list of recommended supplies for tinkering, art journal keeping, and art making with kids.

Join the TinkerSketch Sketchbook Challenge at TinkerLab.com.

Will there be any support?

For each day of the challenge we’ll share our own daily entry on Instagram (don’t forget to follow me!), along with a few extra ideas in case you need a little bit of inspiration. I encourage everyone who joins the challenge to leave supportive comments on other participants’ images. Since it can be hard to put ourselves out there, it’s always nice to receive a friendly pat on the back when pushed outside our comfort zone.

Do I Have to Share my Work?

No sharing required! Some of us are motivated by sharing, since having others look at our work holds us accountable and we enjoy the feedback and community of sharing. However, you can follow the daily challenge, even peek in on other people’s work on Instagram, and never share a thing.

Can I do this with my Kids?


Join the TinkerSketch Sketchbook Challenge at TinkerLab.com. Kids welcome!

Can I see Examples of How this Works?

To see images from TinkerSketch past, click over here or search Instagram for #tinkersketch. You’ll see so many inspiring entries.

I’m in! How do I do this?

  1. Print out or bookmark the list you see at the top of this page or below. Each day has a new prompt that will inspire you to make something.
  2. Interpret the Prompt: You can interpret the daily prompts however you want. “Drips” to one person may mean flicking watercolors off a toothbrush and to another person it might mean covering a page in marker and then leaving the page outside on a drizzly morning. You can take them literally or not — this is completely up to you. If you’re really at a loss, leave a comment below and we’ll help you noodle through it.
  3. Make stuff: You could put all your ideas into a sketchbook (it is called a sketchbook challenge, after all), loose leaf paper, post-it notes, or something else.
  4. Share it! This challenge can be a totally private affair and you never have to let a soul know that you’re working on it, or you could share your creations with others. I’m a private person, but I find that sharing things like this actually motivates me to work harder. If you’re up for it, we invite you to share your daily sketches on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. Basically, wherever you like to drop your social media mat. Simply tag your image or post with #tinkersketch, and you could also ping us at @tinkerlab to let other people know about the challenge
  5. Tell others. If you could use some back-up, share the Sketchbook Challenge calendar image from this post on Instagram or with a friend, and encourage others to join you on this fun, creative journey.
  6. Support others. Take a moment to cruise around and look at other images that are tagged with #tinkersketch, and leave a supportive comment to build community and basically make someone else feel great about the effort they’re putting into their creative journey.

Printable TinkerSketch Sketchbook Challenge Prompts

Anything else?

If you have any questions about the prompts or other parts of this challenge, drop me a comment and I’ll do my best to answer them.

And if you’d like to share this with your friends, feel free to pin or share this image…

If you want to jump-start your creativity and start your art journal practice, join us for the FREE TinkerSketch Sketchbook Challenge in February 2015 at TinkerLab.com

Easy Foam Sticker Crafts: DIY Stamps

This easy foam sticker craft is even better if you happen to have some foam stickers and blocks (or bottle caps, glasses, anything smallish with a flat bottom) lying around. However, a quick trip to the craft store for foam stickers will be worth your while (especially if you’re like me and you could spend hours lurking around paints, yarn, and paper).

Foam Sticker Crafts - How to make these easy foam sticker stamps  |  TinkerLab.com

Foam Sticker Crafts: Easy DIY Stamps

  • Foam Stickers. I found ours at Michael’s. Or save yourself a trip to the store and pick up these foam heart stickers from Amazon (affiliate)
  • Blocks or other smallish, flat object
  • Inking pad and/or Stamp Markers

Foam Sticker Crafts - How to make these easy foam sticker stamps  |  TinkerLab.com

Place your foam sticker on a block, and you’re in business!

Foam Sticker Crafts - How to make these easy foam sticker stamps  |  TinkerLab.com

Draw on your Stamps with Markers

I love this invention of layered foam stickers that my 6-year old came up with.

She the drew on the stamps with our awesome stamp markers. These Le Plume II (affiliate) double-sided markers are acid-free and non-toxic, and they’re designed specifically for stamps. My daughter really enjoys the variety that these markers present her with, and I agree.

Foam Sticker Crafts - How to make these easy foam sticker stamps | TinkerLab.com

With the markers, you can draw fine details (like the purple dots) or flip the marker over and color with the paintbrush end.

Foam Sticker Crafts - How to make these easy foam sticker stamps  |  TinkerLab.com Foam Sticker Crafts - How to make these easy foam sticker stamps  |  TinkerLab.com Foam Sticker Crafts - Our favorite Marvy Le Plume II pens for coloring on stamps  |  TinkerLab.com

Happy Stamping!

More Valentine Art Activities

8 Favorite Valentine Crafts for Kids

30 Valentine Activities for Kids

The Amazing All-in-one Heart Envelope

More Stamping Activities

Sponge Stamping

DIY Stamps made from Cosmetic Wedges

Sweet Potato Heart Prints

Cardboard Roll Heart Stamps

Leather Stamping

The No-Sew T-Shirt Scarf

I’m a sucker for repurposed objects, and have been wanting to make a no-sew t-shirt scarf for a while now. However, because we’ve been really good at purging our closets of unwanted items, I had not one old t-shirt to forage and upcycle into a DIY tshirt scarf.


This easy, no-sew t-shirt scarf comes together in a matter of minutes, and only cost me about $2 to make. If you already have a t-shirt, consider it FREE!

So, last week my littlest and I headed to our local Goodwill, and walked out with five large t-shirts for about $2 each. Deal! I used approximately one shirt for the scarf shown in this tutorial, which makes this a really affordable craft. If you make some version of the braided scarf necklaces shown here, you can make about four per large men’s shirt (or more if you use multiple colors as we did).

Like just about everything I share, there are no fast rules, only experiments. Take this as inspiration and come up with your own unique scarf, necklace, headband, or wrist cuff. There are so many possibilities!

p.s. Inspiration for this post came from the wonderful world of Pinterest, and this post, specifically, from Ette Studios. It includes a great roundup of t-shirt scarves and is definitely worth a look!

This easy, no-sew t-shirt scarf comes together in a matter of minutes, and only cost me about $2 to make. If you already have a t-shirt, consider it FREE!


DIY T-shirt Scarf Steps

  1. Cut the bottom hem off of your t-shirt, and then cut the shirt into horizontal strips, approximately 1″ – 1 1/2″ wide. Go all the way up to the armpit of the shirt. These strips will be stretched, so don’t worry yourself with perfection. We were on vacation and I left my favorite sewing scissors behind, and my choppy strips worked just fine!
  2. Stretch your loops. Find a willing and enthusiastic partner to help you! You really can’t pull these too hard.
  3. Collect your loops together and pull them once more to make them all even in length.
  4. Double loop the loops 🙂

If you want, you could stop right here and have a perfectly cute loopy necklace scarf. If you want to add a decorative flourish of color, keep on going.

You’ll need one more t-shirt in a contrasting color.

This easy, no-sew t-shirt scarf comes together in a matter of minutes, and only cost me about $2 to make. If you already have a t-shirt, consider it FREE!


DIY T-Shirt Scarf – Binding

  1. Cut one loop of the bottom of a t-shirt
  2. Cut the loop open and secure it around your looped scarf with one tie. Be sure to have a tail on the short side of the binding that’s at least 5″ long. You’ll use this extra fabric to tie a knot in a minute.
  3. Start to wind the binging around the scarf. Be sure to wrap it over the hanging piece.
  4. When you have as much as you’d like, cut it off.
  5. Tie the ends together in a knot.
  6. Tuck the ends under the binding. You may need to loosen the end of the binding to make room for this extra fabric.

The results

As soon as this scarf was done, I put it on. It looked so cute! So much, in fact, that my 6-year old asked if she could have it…forever. I failed to get a picture of either of us wearing it, and then promptly moved on to make three more scarves with my kids. This was such a rewarding and fun project to do with my girls, and a great way to turn old clothes into something fresh and wearable.

Art Prompts | White Drawings on Black Paper

I’m not a fussy person and often like to keep things as simple as possible. What about you?

I’m happiest with an amazing recipe that comes together in under 30 minutes and I can’t really be bothered with a high maintenance haircut. So if you’re in my camp, you’ll especially appreciate today’s art prompt to use white paint markers on black paper.

Art Prompts: White Marker on Black Paper Creativity Booster for Kids | TinkerLab.com


  • Black Paper. We used a large roll of kraft paper (see below), but you could also use smaller sheets of black paper, found in any art supply store.
  • White Paint Markers.

Supply Recommendations

This list contains affiliate links.

Pacon Kraft Paper.  This paper is amazing. It comes in an ultra-wide roll that will cover most tables. It’s not super heavy like a lot of brown Kraft paper, but thinner and semi-smooth. The roll is large and I know that we’ll get a lot of use out of it.

Permaopaque Fine Line Markers. These are the colorful markers that you’ll see in this post. They work right out of the box and the colors are vibrant.

Sharpie Paint Pen. This was my 4-year old’s favorite pen for the broad, sweeping lines you see in the pictures.

Mala White Pen from IKEA. I’m always curious about IKEA art supplies and had to try out this set that comes with a white pen. It was less opaque and vibrant than the other choices, but fun because the white color shows up seconds after drawing with it.

White Opaque Pens from Ranger. These work like a ballpoint pen and the ink doesn’t flow from them as evenly as it does from the other pens, above. Take a look at the little owls that my 4-year old made here, to see how they look.

White marker on black paper creativity prompt | TinkerLab.com

The Set-up

  1. Roll your paper out on the table. If you’re not using a large roll of black paper, place the paper in front of the child.
  2. Place white markers nearby and invite him or her to draw and make marks.

Easy, right?

Note: I can’t guarantee that this will work for you, but the suggestion to draw with white on black is enticing, and gets kids excited simply because it reverses the tradition of black on white.

Art Prompts: White Marker on Black Paper Creativity Prompt | TinkerLab.com

I also placed some colorful paint markers on the table, but she was 100% invested in the white-on-black drawing.

Art Prompts: White Marker on Black Paper Creativity Booster for Kids | TinkerLab.com

And finally, a little owl family emerged after she turned one of the flowers that I drew into an owl beak.

White marker on black paper creativity prompt | TinkerLab.com

While she didn’t use any of the colorful markers, I was sooooo curious to see how they worked and tested them out. They’re far more brilliant against the black paper than I expected, and I would wholly recommend them if you’re looking for a marker that will show up on dark paper.

Art Prompts | Paint markers on black paper creativity prompt | TinkerLab.com

More White and Black Art

White paint on black paper, The Artful Parent

Christmas “Chalkboard” Packaging This post is where I got the Kraft paper recommendation!, Going Home to Roost

Process Art: Experimenting with Black and White with Toddlers, Meri Cherry

Painting with Pom Poms + Black and White Paint, Fantastic Fun and Learning

Black Paper and Masking Tape, Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning

Printed Leaves on Black Paper, A Faithful Attempt

Opaque White Glue on Black Paper, with Chalk Pastel, Art in the Middle School

Join the TinkerLab Community

If you were inspired by this post, you might like to sign up for the weekly TinkerLab newsletter. It’s free and we often send exclusive content and opportunities that are only available to our subscribers.

TinkerLab Newsletter

In case you blinked and missed it, TinkerLab rounds up all the great stuff on the internets on keeping you and your critters creative and wraps it up for you in a tidy newsletter! (And throws in some secret giveaways for good measure!)  – Yuliya P., San Francisco, CA

Join our community and you’ll learn:

  • How to simplify your life and make more room for creativity
  • How to make hands-on making a part of your everyday life
  • Easy, actionable ways to raise creative kids

Fun Origami Kit for Kids

Do you have a child who enjoys origami? Not too long ago we made these fun and easy origami rabbits. If you haven’t tried it yet, this origami project is a fantastic starting point for beginners — my four-year old loved it!

Easy Origami Rabbit for Beginners | TinkerLab.com

When my friends at Tuttle Publishing, the premier publisher and seller of books rooted in Asian culture, language, and history, asked if we’d like to try out a few of their favorite products for young learners (and an origami kit was included), of course we said “yes!”.

Origami Kit from Tuttle | TinkerLab.com

We have thoroughly enjoyed everything they sent, and what rises to the top is this reasonably priced origami box kit, My First Origami Kit (affiliate). It comes with patterned paper, one of the best origami instruction books I’ve seen yet, and a selection of stickers for adding eyes, paws, and other details to the origami.

The stickers are what makes this kit really shine, and my kids loved this extra.

Origami Kit from Tuttle | TinkerLab.com

My four-year old dug in right away. While both of my kids (ages 4 and 6) needed extra help with some of the steps, they loved picking out the animals and objects to build (with my help) and especially enjoyed adding stickers to their creatures.

My First Origami Kit | TinkerLab.com

Over the course of a month, we have made just about everything in this kit! Penguins, bears, birds, boats, and more.

I also really like how the high quality origami paper corresponds with the projects. There’s brown fur-patterned paper to go with the bear, black and white paper to go with the penguin, and so on.

The kit comes with instructions for 20 projects and 60 pieces of paper, so you could essentially make three of each project, which makes this a good value for a family with more than one child. 

Origami Kit from Tuttle | TinkerLab.com

Origami Kit from Tuttle | TinkerLab.com

Easy Origami Tutorials

If you’re eager to dive in and try your hand at origami right away, these five tutorials are a good place to begin…

Easy Origami Rabbit, TinkerLab

Easy Origami Cat, EasyOrigami.me

Easy Origami Frog, Origami for Kids

Simple Origami Boat, Paper Shapes

Origami Cubes, Origami Mommy

Tuttle Publishing Offer!

Tuttle Publishing | TinkerLab

Tuttle has offered our readers a generous discount for all of their titles, as well as BIG giveaway, and it will all be announced in tomorrow’s newsletter!

The giveaway will be announced to our newsletter subscribers. To get this and other great offers, be sure to sign up for the newsletter today!

Tuttle Giveaway

The giveaway will include:

Origami Bugs Kit

One Minute Paper Airplanes

Origami Magic Kit

My First Origami Kit

Origami Dinosaurs Kit

How to Make a Simple Box Loom Weaving

Easy box loom weaving with kids | TinkerLab.com

My older daughter, age six, is obsessed with fiber arts, and has been engaged in all sorts of weaving activities lately. We have a book case full of inspiring crafting books, and she and her friend pulled Eco-friendly Crafting with Kids (affiliate) by Kate Liley off the shelf. After paging through it they landed on Box Loom Weaving, and wanted to give it a go.

The tutorial is very well articulated, and once we gathered all the materials (and there are only seven supplies…phew) we had no trouble tackling this easy and rewarding weaving project. I’ll share all the steps here. If you enjoy this project, do check out the book for more hands-on ideas like this. If you’re like me, you can’t have enough crafting, making, and tinkering books!

Supplies for Box Loom Weaving

  • Cardboard box without a top. We cut ours to be about 2 inches tall.
  • Something sharp to poke holes in the box, such as a seam ripper or fat needle.
  • Ruler
  • Yarn. If you like 100% cotton, I’m a big fan of this brand and here’s an organic option for you. (affiliate links)
  • Scissors
  • Darning Needle (affiliate) or other fat needle. In lieu of a needle, you could tape your yarn to the end of a popsicle stick.
  • 2 popsicle sticks (or chopstick, heavy piece of paper, cardboard, ruler, etc.)

Easy box loom weaving for kids | TinkerLab.com

  1. Start with a box.
  2. Poke about 10 holes across two edges of the box. The holes should be roughly 1/2 inch apart.
  3. Tie a knot at one end of a long piece of yarn (sorry, I don’t have an exact length – it depends on the size of your box) and run the yarn through the holes, from one side of the box to the other.
  4. When you reach the other side, make sure that the yarn is taught and tie another knot so that the yarn stays put. This vertical piece of yarn is called the warp, from the old Norse word varp meaning “the cast of the net.”

Easy box loom weaving for kids | TinkerLab.com

  1. Run a new piece of yarn through your needle and tie one end of the yarn to either the left or right bottom side of the warp. This new piece of thread will be called the weft, from the old English word wefen meaning “to weave.”  In the world of weaving, the needle would be called the shuttle.
  2. Run the yarn from one side of the warp to the other, going under and over the warp yarn.
  3. Straighten it all out. After weaving the yarn back and forth a few times, weave a popsicle stick below the weft. This will keep the yarn straight.
  4. Keep weaving!

Easy box loom weaving for kids | TinkerLab.com

  1. Place another popsicle stick at the other end of the weaving to straighten it out.
  2. To add another color, simply tie the yarn you’re done with to another color, or tie it to the warp and then tie a new color to the warp. Trim your yarn.
  3. Keep on weaving and adding more colors.

Easy box loom weaving for kids | TinkerLab.com

  1. When the weaving is done, make a know of the weft to the warp.
  2. Cut the ends of the weaving away from the box loom
  3. Tie two yarn together to make a knot. If you have five dangling warp yarns at each end, you should tie a total of five knots.
  4. Your weaving is done!

More Eco-Friendy Crafts

Check out Eco-friendly Crafting with Kids (affiliate) for this idea and more step-by-step projects for preschool kids and adults to create together with found, natural, and recycled materials.

Eco-friendly Crafting with Kids

More Fiber Arts

Even Toddlers Can Sew

Sewing Cards for Preschoolers

Machine Sewing with a Preschooler

Recycled Weaving Fence


Join the TinkerLab Community

If you enjoyed this post, you might like to sign up for the weekly TinkerLab newsletter. It’sfree and we often send exclusive content and opportunities that are only available to our subscribers.

In case you blinked and missed it, TinkerLab rounds up all the great stuff on the internets on keeping you and your critters creative and wraps it up for you in a tidy newsletter! (And throws in some secret giveaways for good measure!)  – Yuliya P., San Francisco, CA

Join our community and you’ll learn:

  • How to simplify your life and make more room for creativity
  • How to make hands-on making a part of your everyday life
  • Easy, actionable ways to raise creative kids

TinkerLab Newsletter

Easy box loom weaving for kids | TinkerLab.com


16 Easy Printmaking Projects for Kids

Printmaking is one of my very favorite processes to explore with children. Seeing how a texture or pattern repeats itself is full of magic, and a delightful process to witness and experience with kids.

16 Easy Printmaking Projects for Kids | TinkerLab.com

Here are 16 super easy, and very fun printmaking projects that are sure to inspire children (of all ages) to experiment with printing.

16 Easy Printmaking Projects for Kids | TinkerLab.com

Dip nuts and bolts into paint and repeat these cool shapes all over paper: Picklebums

Another household tool to dip into paint is the potato masher: Play Based Learning

Blow a paint + soap mixture with a straw, and you have some gorgeous bubble printing: TinkerLab

Roll ink or paint over a piece of styrofoam from a meat or veggie tray: TinkerLab

16 Easy Printmaking Projects for Kids | TinkerLab.com

Press okra into a stamp pad for beautiful flower prints: The Imagination Tree

Draw onto a paint-covered muffin tin with ear swabs for this fun printmaking exploration: The Artful Parent

Make a stamp wheel with a tape roll and foam stamps: Inner Child Fun

Cover a rolling pin with bubble wrap for this squishy experiment: Handmade Kids Art

16 Easy Printmaking Projects for Kids | TinkerLab.com

Another take on bubble wrap printing: tape it to the end of a tube: Creative Connections for Kids

Make these amazing patterns with recycled container printing: Picklebums

Use a rubber sink mat with a pattern to make these cheerful printed cards: TinkerLab

So easy! Dip toys or blocks into paint for block printing: Kids Activities Blog Sink Mat Prints

16 Easy Printmaking Projects for Kids | TinkerLab.com

Make these cool shapes with bubble wands. Laughing Kids Learn

Corks make for easy to hold handles for these foam sticker-topped stampers: Happy Hooligans

Got Lego? There are so many shapes and sizes to play with: Filth Wizardry

Cut up rubber bands to make plates that can be printed: Kristen’s Blog Life


Join the TinkerLab Community

Get more ideas for raising young inventors and filling your life with creativity by signing up for the weekly TinkerLab newsletter. It’s free and we often send exclusive content and opportunities that are only available to our subscribers.

TinkerLab Newsletter

In case you blinked and missed it, TinkerLab rounds up all the great stuff on the internets on keeping you and your critters creative and wraps it up for you in a tidy newsletter! (And throws in some secret giveaways for good measure!)  – Yuliya P., San Francisco, CA

Join our community and you’ll learn:

  • How to simplify your life and make more room for creativity
  • How to make hands-on making a part of your everyday life
  • Easy, actionable ways to raise creative kids

16 Easy Printmaking Projects for Kids | TinkerLab.com

Makey Makey Piano – An Invention Kit for Everyone

Make + Key = Makey Makey

Would you enjoy playing a game of PacMan with carrots or tinkering with a set of play dough piano keys? If the answer is “yes,” then Makey Makey might be just the toy for you! Today I’ll show you how to make a Makey Makey Piano with bananas!

I’ve been following Makey Makey by JoyLabz for a while and we finally got the chance to play with our very own set.

Makey Makey Invention Kit for Everyone | TinkerLab.com review

What is Makey Makey?

That’s a great question — before we brought ours home I wasn’t entirely sure either!

Makey Makey is an easy-to-use invention kit that’s essentially a printed circuit board that connects to a computer via a USB cable. Wires connect Makey Makey to conductive objects (i.e. play dough, bananas, aluminum foil, coins), which can then be played much like a joystick or keyboard key.

Basically, Makey Makey takes over the functionality of the space bar and other computer keys, and the conductive objects become the computer’s new keys! Cool, right?

One more thing: Do you see my daughter holding one end of the black wire in the photo (above)? YOU close the circuit to the ground with your body by holding one end of an alligator clip while playing with Makey Makey with another hand.  If you let go of that wire, nothing works. This makes for a strong lesson in how circuits work. Awesome for kids!

What’s inside?

That tidy little green kit you see there is filled with a few important supplies:

  • Makey Makey board with 18 key-press connections and one ground connection
  • 7 alligator clips
  • 6 white wires
  • 1 USB cable
  • Basic instructions

Makey Makey Kit

How does Makey Makey work?

  1. It’s an Arduino Circuit Board. The heart of Makey Makey is its circuit board. The Makey Makey board connects to your computer via the USB cable (see the orange cord).
  2. Ground the Circuit. Connect one end of a wire to the board with the simple alligator clip technology. Hold the other end of the wire with your hand, and YOUR BODY now completes the circuit.
  3. Replace keyboard keys with conductive materials. Attach one end of an alligator clip to a spot on the Makey Makey board, and the other end to something conductive. We chose bananas.
  4. Play a game or an instrument | Make a Makey Makey Piano. Then you want to find a digital instrument or game to connect your Makey Makey to. We connected to a piano for our first project, but you could also hook up your new “game controller” to PacMan or Tetris. Here’s our banana piano in action:

Makey Makey Piano with Bananas

Makey Makey Experiments

This is where Makey Makey gets interesting. Once you get the hang of how Makey Makey works, you’ll certainly come up with new ways to tinker and create with it. The Makey Makey website has a pages of creations and games that people have invented around their product: talking water fountains, a heartbeat wall. And my favorite: the Giggling Circuit. You’ll want to try that one! Here’s a link.

And my all-time favorite: Eat the Star Spangled Banner. Oh-my-goodness. Amazing fun.

Makey Makey Banana Piano | TinkerLab.com

Makey Makey in Schools and Libraries

  • According to this Fast Company article, one in five Makey Makeys are used in Makerspaces for after-school and other educational programs
  • The Makey Makey website includes step-by-step tutorials that offer ideas for collaborations in school and other group settings.
  • The Tech Museum in San Jose invented a game for their Maker Space that invited teams of kids to work together to build human-size circuits with a chain of bodies. They look like they’re having so much fun!
  • Combine Makey Makey with Scratch coding (recommended for kids ages 8 and up), and you’ll get a child hooked on inventing and problem solving

What age is it for?

I couldn’t find an official age range on the product’s site. My kids are 4 and 6, and they loved playing with Makey Makey once I set it up. They quickly understood how to build a circuit with their bodies, and also enjoyed the task of testing various objects for conductivity. Depending on a child’s experience with electronics and computers, I would guess that young teens would be able to use Makey Makey on their own. Younger children will need adult assistance, but it’s just as interesting for adults as it is for kids, and makes a cool side-by-side learning experience.

Where to buy Makey Makey

Amazon (affiliate)

Directly from Makey Makey. If you’re a school, you can order with a P.O. from Makey Makey.

We had so much fun with Makey Makey, and look forward to testing it out in more ways.

Thanks to JoyLabz for sending us the Makey Makey kit to review. All opinions shared here are our own.