MaKey MaKey Lets Kids Build and Test Computer-Based Applications

Would you like your child to be involved in hands-on engineering activities that allow them to dream up, build, and test computer-based applications?

Well, then it’s time to try MaKey MaKey, an easy-to-use Invention Kit that taps into the inquisitive nature of young children and teenagers.

MaKey MaKey Invention Kit
MaKey MaKey Invention Kit

MaKey MaKey is an Invention Kit for kids who love to dream about ideas and put them to the test. It’s designed for iteration and the fact that it’s low cost, doesn’t require a lot of time, and uses materials you can find around your house, makes it the perfect tool for prototyping. And because the application options are so diverse, it’s the type of tech kit that your kids will use for many years.

What is MaKey MaKey?

MaKey MaKey is an Invention Kit created by two students at the MIT Media Lab. It’s a circuit board that connects everyday objects that conduct electricity, like bananas and Play-Doh, to a personal computer (PC), turning the objects into touchpads that control things on the computer, such as a camera, a piano keyboard or even a video game.

MaKey MaKey Pencil Joystick to Play Pacman
MaKey MaKey Pencil Joystick to Play Pacman

MaKey MaKey’s homemade-driven applications are numerous and varied, but what I really like is how easy it is for children to use their imaginations to hook up their own computer-based applications and explore ideas, test theories, and solve problems. I also like that the Invention Kit allows kids to connect readily available objects to a PC so they can quickly test their applications over and over again. And, they don’t need to be an engineer to do this.

Why I Recommend MaKey MaKey

I learned about MaKey MaKey when my 12-year daughter took a class at our local library. She loved it, and since I’m always on the hunt for good, hands-on tech activities, I decided to give her the kit for Christmas last year (cost: $50).

As a parent, there’s a lot to like about MaKey MaKey:

  1. Engineering experience: First and foremost, it provides an introduction to engineering and how circuits and computers interact, in a hands-on, exploratory manner.
  2. Simplicity: The well-designed kit doesn’t overwhelm you with lots of parts and instructions. It comes with the MaKey MaKey board, USB cable, 7 alligator clips and 6 connector wires plus instructions.
  3. Versatility: The kit appeals to young children (4 years+) and is something you can do together. It also has enough breadth that it will appeal to teenagers who can work on more advanced activities.
  4. Numerous project ideas: There is no shortage of ideas and applications in MaKey MaKey’s online gallery.
  5. Collaboration: The nature of the kit promotes exploring ideas together.

    MaKey MaKey Cat Bowl Photobooth Setup
    MaKey MaKey Cat Bowl Photobooth Setup

How My Kids Benefit From MaKey MaKey

MaKey MaKey is a kit that both my daughters have used. It’s a tech activity they can do together, and it’s nice to see my 13-year old take the lead and get the 9-year involved in the technical and creative process.

Just this past weekend, we all had a blast making the “Cat Bowl Photobooth.” By connecting an alligator clip to a piece of tinfoil (aka “Earth” or “ground”) and connecting a second alligator clip to water in a bowl and turning on a camera application on the laptop, we were able to watch our cats drink from the bowl while their pictures were being taken by the laptop camera (the clicking sound in the video is the camera taking the pictures). As you can imagine, this was pretty funny to watch!

MaKey MaKey Cat Bowl Photobooth
Bobbing for treats! Our cat drinks water and the laptop takes a picture thanks to the MaKey MaKey connection.

From the experiment, we learned how to build a simple and effective application for automatically taking pictures on the computer. Additionally, my daughters were curious to know if their chocolate Halloween candy was conductive so they set up a different test but quickly discovered it wasn’t. They also spent time on MaKey MaKey’s site looking future project ideas.

Interested in MaKey MaKey?

To learn more, I would check out the following:

I also think MaKey MaKey is a smart gift idea for children of all ages; you can buy it online at:

Image Source: MaKey MaKey Pencil Joystick

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