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.

Halloween Crafts for Kids

Here comes Halloween! I scoured some of my favorite kid-friendly sites and found this awesome selection of Halloween Crafts for Kids. I think you’ll love them.

What does this Halloween Crafts for Kids roundup include?

  • Ghosts, pumpkins, spider webs, mummies, monsters, and skeletons.
  • Activities for toddlers, preschoolers, and school age kids.
  • Crafts that kids can actually do. Some with a little adult assistance.
  • Projects that use easy-to-find household materials such as spaghetti, cardboard rolls, candy, paint, string, jars, egg cartons, gauze, and cotton balls.
  • Sixteen projects to keep us busy for a while!

Halloween Crafts for Kids

Easy and Fun Halloween Crafts for Kids | TinkerLab

Let’s get started…

Halloween Crafts for Kids | TinkerLab.com

Even little kids can get in on the Halloween action with this festive Cotton Ball Ghost for Toddlers: No Time for Flash Cards

This Pumpkin Mummy Family is not messy to make and beyond cute: Hands on as we Grow

Build fine-motor skills with this simple Marshmallow Skull Craft: No Time for Flash Cards

I would have to give in to my kids’ begging to eat the candy corn while making this Candy Corn Monster but it would be worth it: Crafty Morning

Halloween Crafts for Kids | TinkerLab.com

These Marble + Paint Spider Webs are toddler-friendly. Making these is soooo addictive : TinkerLab

The tutorial for these Handmade Spider Sacks is wonderful! : Modern Parents Messy Kids

Cut up some circles and then invite your child to decorate for this Easy DIY Halloween Garland: TinkerLab

Add a little holiday glow to a dark patio or room with these Halloween Lantern Jars: Red Ted Art

Halloween Crafts for Kids | TinkerLab.com

Use cardboard rolls as the base for a Monster Mobiles, and let your child have fun decorating: Happy Hooligans

Got K-cups? Save them for a Recycled K-cup Recycled Lantern: Handmade Kids Art

These Glowing Pumpkin and Monster Jars are dipped in colored salt! What a cool texture: Fantastic Fun and Learning

Make a handprint spider and practice lacing in this Handprint Spider in a Spider Web: Mom Endeavors

Halloween Crafts for Kids | TinkerLab.com

Before making a Spaghetti Spider Web, build memories by inviting a child to play with slimy, green spaghetti: Hands on as we Grow

Fun! With the addition of a rubber band, make this Easy Halloween Craft Bouncy Spider: Kids Activities Blog

Invite your child to cover paper with masking tape, and then cut out a Masking Tape Mummy: No Time for Flash Cards

Save those egg cartons for this simple Egg Carton Bat: Crafty Morning

More Halloween Ideas

If you enjoyed this post, you have to check out 50 Simple Halloween Ideas for Kids.

Join the TinkerLab Community

And, you might enjoy 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

Fun and Easy Halloween Crafts for Kids | TinkerLab.com

 

Fall Craft Ideas: Leaf Drawing

This fall craft idea is also a simple creative invitation that doesn’t require a lot of fancy tools and won’t come with a big mess. If you’re new to the idea of creative invitations, this article has all the details you’ll need to get started.

Fall Craft Ideas | Leaf Drawing  | TinkerLab

Supplies for Fall Leaf Drawing

  • Leaves
  • Colored pencils or your favorite mark-making tool
  • Paper

Fall Craft Ideas | Leaf Drawing  | TinkerLab

My 4-year old and I took a bike ride and she chose this selection of leaves. We arranged them on the table and she added a crystal. Because, you know, it looks better that way.

We marveled at all the colors in the leaves and then I invited her to draw them. We used Lyra Ferby colored pencils (affiliate link) for the task. I love these crayon/pencils for little kids because they’re a bit fatter than standard colored pencils (with a 6.25 mm lead core), and they come with a triangle grip that makes them easy to hold.

My daughter still insists on holding her pencil with her pinky and seems quite comfortable with this grip. And I’m still working on helping her shift to a better grip! If this is something that your child struggles with, this post has some great tips in the comments.

Fall Craft Ideas | Leaf Drawing | TinkerLab

The Fall Leaf Drawing Set-up

Set up a large sheet of drawing paper, scatter a few leaves around, and place freshly sharpened colored pencils on the table.

Invite your child to look closely at the leaves and notice the variety of colors and shapes, and then discuss what you see.

Some questions to ask:

  • What colors do you notice?
  • Do any of the colors surprise you?
  • How many points does this leaf have? Let’s count them together.
  • Which of these leaves could have come from the same tree?
  • Do you have a favorite leaf in this collection? What makes it your favorite?

Fall Craft Ideas | Leaf Drawing  | TinkerLab

Experiments in Drawing Fall Leaves

I sat across the table from my daughter and we drew leaves together. I always encourage my kids to experiment, and one way to do that is by modeling. As I colored my leaves in I layered one color on top of another. I noted that the red blended into green on one of the leaves, and tried to replicate that in my sketch.

My 4-year old payed attention to that and then pushed it one step further as she colored one of her leaves blue and purple, and gave another blue veins…because she liked the way it looked. Rock on! If you child goes for the unexpected, encourage him or her to go for it. The goal is to use the leaves as a starting point, and then layer that with interpretation and imagination.

More Leaf Projects

Make adorable Leaf Critters by painting directly on leaves with acrylic paint.

Preserve your Fall leaves in glycerin

Make coffee filter suncatchers in leaf shapes

Is this your first time here?

Join the Tinkerlab network and be the first to know about simple art + science projects for kids, creativity tips, and simple ideas that will make your life more creative. Sign up for our newsletter.

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

Fall Craft Ideas: Paint Coffee Filter Suncatchers

If you’re interested in ways to bring the Fall season to life, today I’m sharing fall craft idea that encourages children to be inventive and think independently.

A Fall Art Invitation: Coffee Filter Leaf Sun Catchers

Present the Supplies as an Art Invitation

If you follow TinkerLab, you know that I appreciate projects that encourage children to think for themselves and come up with their own unique spin on the materials. Like so many of our projects, I present the supplies to my children as an art invitation. Once the supplies are in front of my kids, they are free to use the materials in any way the please.

So, what will we need?

The supplies for this project are so easy!

A Fall Art Invitation: Coffee Filter Leaf Sun Catchers

Here’s the set-up…

A Fall Art Invitation: Coffee Filter Leaf Sun Catchers

Pre-cut coffee filters into leaf shapes. As you can see in the first image in this post, there were a few requests for hearts too. Related to that, this is by no means an exclusive-to-Autumn activity. Cut out hearts, moons, trees, flowers, or even shamrocks. Have fun with this!

Place the cut-out shapes on a tray. We used an art tray, but a cookie sheet with a rim will work equally well. You’ll want the tray because this project can get drippy, and all that liquid will be nicely contained in this walled-off area. I found our art trays at Michaels and spotted something similar over on Amazon (affiliate link).

For two children, you can have them share a bowl of water as I did, or give them each their own water (they would appreciate that, I’m sure!).

A Fall Art Invitation: Coffee Filter Leaf Sun Catchers

At ages three and six, my kids had very different approaches to this task.

As you can see from the dot-covered table, my three-year old had a GREAT time exploring dot-making on the table. My older daughter experimented with drawing veins and rainbow effects, and her little sister soon got on board with similar tasks.

It’s always interesting to see how artists influence each other, and I’m 100% okay with copying as it’s a way of learning.

A Fall Art Invitation: Coffee Filter Leaf Sun Catchers

Kids also like to experiment with different paintbrushes (flat, round, fan, skinny, and fat) to achieve a variety of textures and lines. If you have a collection of paintbrushes, this is a great project to bring them out for.

Drying the Coffee Filters

If your child gets into this project, you will have A LOT of painted coffee filters to contend with. As such, you’ll need to set up a space to dry these gorgeous leaves.

Roll out a large sheet of paper or lay down newspaper, and then place the painted cut-outs on the paper until dry. Because the paper is so thin, they tend to dry incredibly fast!

A Fall Art Invitation: Coffee Filter Leaf Sun Catchers

Once dry, hang the shapes in a window with a bit of transparent tape. Admire the colors as the sun shines through them.

More Fall Craft Ideas

Make a shimmering Fall Lantern

This easy Sticky Autumn Collage is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers

Preserve your leaves in glycerin with Glycerin Leaves

This is our favorite play dough recipe, with a fall scent: DIY Pumpkin Pie Playdough

Make Leaf Sun Prints as a way to preserve leaf shapes on fabric.

And for a whole slew of Autumn ideas, check out the fun Fall Bucket List

Is this your first time here?

Join the Tinkerlab network and be the first to know about simple art + science projects for kids, creativity tips, and simple ideas that will make your life more creative. Sign up for our newsletter.

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

Back to School Supply Deals

With kids going back to school this week and in the upcoming weeks, school supplies are on sale. Hooray!

This can be a good time to stock up on all the goodies you’ll need to carry you through the year. We often shop at our favorite local drug store for supplies, but there’s nothing like the convenience of ordering from home.

I combed through Amazon (this post contains affiliate links) for the best back to school supply deals, and compiled a list of some of our favorite supplies and reader recommendations.

This list contains lots of amazing deals.

While I was pulling this post together my kids thought I was making this for us: my three-year old commented that we already have plenty of Sharpies (true that) and my six-year old wondered if the laminator is our Silhouette Cameo. It’s not a Cameo, but I just checked and the Cameo also happens to be on a great sale right now too.

For Amazon Prime members (I’m one — love it!), all of these items are Amazon Prime.

 

Back to School Supply Deals | TinkerLab.com

Back to School Supply Deals

Top to Bottom, Left to Right

Fiskars 5 Inch Kid Scissors Left-handed Pointed Tip, Color Received May Vary  $6.36 (not on sale).  While these aren’t on sale, good quality left-handed scissors for kids are hard to find, and these are a winner!

Elmer’s Washable No-Run School Glue, 4 oz, 1 Bottle  $1.00  (regular price: $2.18). Our very favorite glue. If you have a glue-happy family like ours, order a gallon of Elmer’s to carry you through the school year. I just ordered a gallon (not Prime) for our kids.

Sanford Sharpie SAN30075 Permanent Markers, Fine Point, Assorted, 12/Set  $7.25  ($15.36). Only our favorite permanent markers ever. Great for making Marker Explosions and Shrink Plastic Charms

Prang Oval Pan Watercolor Set, 16 Classic Colors with No. 9 Brush  $8.29 ($10.99) A friend gave a set of these to my daughter and it’s so well-loved…and due for a replacement soon. Okay, off to buy one for myself…

Swingline Precision Pro Desktop Punch, 2 – 3 Holes, Adjustable Centers, 10 Sheets  $8.97 ($24.17) 3-hole punches are so handy for all the paperwork that comes home from school.

Pentel Hi-polymer Block eraser, Large, White, 3 Pack $2.97 ($5.07) I used these in my drafting classes in college and haven’t looked for another eraser since. These rubbery erasers are smooth, don’t leave eraser marks on the paper, and won’t wrinkle the paper as you erase.

Crayola crayons, 64 Coun $5.30 ($9.99). What more can be said about Crayola Crayons? They’re a childhood staple, work super well, and the smell takes me back to being five again.

Elmer’s Washable All-Purpose School Glue Sticks .24 ounces 4-pack $1.97 ($3.65). Sometimes a glue stick just does a better job than liquid white glue. We always have these on our art cart. 

Sakura 30062 6-Piece Pigma Micron Ink Pen Set, Black  $9.27  ($17.39). These are more for me than the kids. I use these ALL the time in my sketchbook and for making TinkerSketches. They’re water-resistant, so you can paint right over them without any concern of bleeding. I also used them for my book signings!

Brother CS6000i Feature-Rich Sewing Machine With 60 Built-In Stitches, 7 styles of 1-Step Auto-Size Buttonholes, Quilting Table, and Hard Cover  $143.32 ($449.00). We have another Brother sewing machine that’s a few years older than this model. Readers have told me that they love this one and the price makes it a winner for beginner sewers. If you’re planning to make Halloween costumes or stitched holiday gifts this year, consider getting one now to get acquainted with it before sewing season begins.

Scotch Thermal Laminator Combo Pack, Includes 20 Letter-Size Laminating Pouches, Holds Sheets up to 8.5″ x 11(TL902VP)  $33.96  ($37.99). Whenever I share this laminator, readers tell me that it’s their very favorite. The discount seems small, but it comes with 10 laminating sheets (value of $9), so the laminator is actually about $24 when you take that cost off.

X-Acto School Pro Heavy-Duty Electric Sharpener $26.79 ($59.99). Our daughter’s teacher has two in her classroom that are used constantly. We’ve had this sharpener for a year, and it’s a powerhouse, never-fail sharpener.

TinkerLab in New York City and Cambridge

Today’s post will be quick since I’m packing up a suitcase and heading for the East Coast! Yippee!

TinkerLab at Books of Wonder, New York City

I’m heading the NYC and Cambridge, two cities that have melted my heart. My boyfriend-turned-husband and I lived in New York for one incredibly fun summer between our junior and senior years of college. I was a theater major and was lucky to find work on a TV show and a movie, scraping up just enough money to pay my way back to California that September.

This time I’m looking forward to a walk on the High Line, eating at Momofuku, checking out this crazy museum, and hanging out at Books of Wonder, an incredible, independent book store near Union Square.

Have you been? I’m so excited to spend some time there.

To celebrate TinkerLab’s launch into the Big Apple, I’ll bring along all the materials you’ll need to make a Marker Explosion tote back, straight from page 146 of TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors (affiliate link).

Supplies are limited, so arrive early!

TinkerLab at Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA

Following that, I’ll be in Cambridge on August 10, with a repeat of the Marker Explosion project. I’ll be sure to get all the wrinkles out by this second book talk, so meet me in Cambridge for the more refined maker experience!

When I was in the Arts in Education (AIE) program at Harvard (cough) years ago, I spent most of my waking hours in this charming town, and Porter Square Books was a spot that I found myself in on more than one occasion. As an aside, if you’re thinking about applying the the AIE program, I can’t say enough good things about it. Feel free to message me if you have any questions.

If you’d like to know more about my arts education beginnings, I dug up this interview on the Arts in Education website where I talk about my motivation to bring the arts to youth, one way or another. With the new TinkerLab book launched, I’m so happy to say that I am meeting this goal!

So, will I see you on the Right Coast?

Oh, one last thing…

Please support Independent Book Stores! I went into my local bookstore yesterday and purchased six books. While I purchase my fair share of books and other things on Amazon, it always feels great to know that my Indy Book Store purchases contribute toward keeping these neighborhood gems around for my kids, and perhaps theirs.

Books of Wonder and Porter Square Books, see you both soon!

Rachelle

Summer Break and TinkerLab Updates

Hi everyone!

It’s been an exciting and busy couple weeks for me. My book came out on June 10 with a flurry of activity. For one, we’re in the middle of an incredible blog book tour, which I’d encourage you to check out if you’d like to learn more about TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors (affiliate link). Are you already reading the book? Maybe you’d like to join Club TinkerLab where we’ll talk about the book and all-things-tinkering.

What else? My publisher, Roost Books, is hosting a fun Pinterest contest. If you’d like a chance at winning TWO copies of the book and a Michael’s gift certificate, hop on over because the deadline is today!

Join the Pin to Win Contest on Tinkerlab.com for a chance to win books and a Michael's Gift Certificate | TinkerLab.com

More news: Our Facebook fan page is hopping’ and we just hit a new milestone of 100K readers! It really has been a busy week!

 

100K Facebook Fans

 

Starting in July, I’ll be kicking off our real-life book tour at Books Inc. in San Francisco. If you’d like to attend a TinkerLab book talk + workshop, I just added a new event to the calendar! Details here.

TinkerLab Book Tour

And finally, my kids are on summer vacation! And my husband is too. And guess what, that means it’s time for me to take a little break as well. Writing and talking up a book is exhausting and I’m ready for some r + r. I’ll still pop in a tiny bit on Instagram and Facebook, and the blog will continue to be a great resource until I come back.

happy summer collage

See you in a few weeks!

Rachelle

Layered Rainbow Colored Rice Jars

Yesterday I shared a recipe for colored rice, and today I’m sharing a fun and simple creative invitation to make a layered rainbow colored rice jar.

Like all things on TinkerLab, this is just a jumping off point and should act more as inspiration than doctrine. Offer your child the materials and then see what he or she comes up with. You may be surprised by the results!

A Classic Craft: Colored Rice Layer Jar

Supplies: Rainbow Colored Rice Jar

  • Colored Rice – Recipe here
  • Funnel – I made a paper funnel by twirling a half-circle of paper into a funnel shape and then taping the edge shut.
  • Spoon
  • Glass or plastic jar

Preschool Art: Colored Rice Layer Jar Supplies

Rainbow Colored Rice Jar Set-up

I set up all of the materials on the table just as you see in the photo above. My kids were VERY eager to jump in and get started, and began filling the jars before I had a chance to grab an empty-jar version of the invitation. This set-up is super inviting, and MANY jars were filled that day.

Preschool Art: Colored Rice

My kids, ages 3 and 5, figured out without any verbal cues that this was an invitation to fill their jars. They came up with their own color combinations and enjoyed the process so much that they foraged the kitchen for mason jars and anything else that could hold their colored rice.

A Classic Craft: Colored Rice Layer Jar

More Ways to Explore Colored Rice

  • Make it a Gift! Make these as gifts for family members
  • Vary the material: Try this with Colored Salt or Colored Sand, instead of rice.
  • Make a Sensory Tub: Pour all of your rainbow-colored rice into a big sensory tub and invite your child to play with it. Add funnels, bowls, and scoopers for extra entertainment. Add small character toys and pretend they live in the land of rainbows. The wheat berries in this sensory tub could easily be replaced with rice or colored sand.
  • Use the rice like glitter. Offer your child a sheet of paper, white craft glue, and a bowl of rice to sprinkle into the glue.