How MaKey MaKey Empowers Inventive Thinking in Kids

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Lately my sweet 8-year old’s been saying a lot of, “It’s too hard” and “I can’t do it.” When homework gets tricky, she gets mad. She starts to cry. She wants to give up.

Sometimes my 11-year old does this, too.

Sometimes I do, too.

It happens when our kids (or us) feel there’s pressure to be perfect. Even if we don’t emphasize this in our parenting, and I know I don’t, kids can put this pressure on themselves.

As you probably do, too, I thought about how could I give my child empowering opportunities. Opportunities for her to be in charge, figure things out, and feel good about herself.

Introducing MaKey MaKey, a STEM kit that gets kids into inventing and creative thinking. But, MaKey MaKey is more than an invention kit, it’s a vehicle to allow inventive thinking and build confidence. In other words, it’s an empowering activity for kids like my 8-year old.

–> Purchase MaKey MaKey* on Amazon for $49.95. (*affiliate link)

MaKey MaKey - a STEM kit for kids that empowers and encourages innovative thinking

Makey Makey - An Invention Kit for EveryoneMakey Makey – An Invention Kit for EveryoneMakey Makey Collectors Gift Box EditionMakey Makey Collectors Gift Box EditionMakey Makey GO - Turn Anything Into a Key!Makey Makey GO – Turn Anything Into a Key!

How MaKey MaKey Empowers Inventive Thinking in Kids

MaKey MaKey works on the basic principals of electricity, turning everyday objects into KEYS on the keyboard. (Get it? MaKEY MaKEY?)

Step 1: Connect the MaKey MaKey board to the computer. (Red USB cable.)

Step 2: Connect the jumper wires with alligator clips from the arrows on the MaKey MaKey board to objects that can conduct some electricity.

MaKey MaKey Board

What happens: When you connect the 4 colored wires to the objects, MaKey MaKey tells the computer that these objects are the keyboard or mouse.

So yes, a banana can be a note on the piano keyboard. You touch the banana to hear a sound.

Makey Makey - an invention kit for kids

Step 3: Connect the black wire to the bottom of the MaKey MaKey board. (see previous photo above) Hold the other end in your hand. This connects the circuit through your own body to the Earth. (Also called grounding.)

Now you can . . . 
 scroll, click, and play games with up, down, and side to side movements.

Experiments with MaKey MaKey

1. First, experiment with what objects conduct electricity using the MaKey MaKey basic setup and the piano program. (Please note that MaKey MaKey has a LOW conductive threshold so it’s not a good example for generalizing conductivity of objects.)

Open the piano program.

Gather objects from around the house. Here is a list of objects that will work to include in your object testing:

Marshmallows (s0ft)
PlayDoh (s0ft)
Pencil graphite (dark & heavy) on paper
Wet wood

Non-conductive items to try are:


Kids will discover what will work and what won’t to make the piano keys work.  For example, we found out that a stuffed bear doesn’t work but a fork and quarter do work.
MaKey MaKey Invention Kit

2. Now turn your keyboard into a sound machine.

Open the Sound Effects program.

Locate the small white wires attached to the back of the MaKey MaKey board. Secure these to objects that will conduct electricity. (We used Play Doh balls.)

MaKey MaKey Sound Effects Machine

3. Try some of these programs with MaKey MaKey:

Bongo Drums

Change up your objects, too! Can you play drums with only silverware? fruit?

4. My FAVORITE for building confidence is for your kids to write their own program using Scratch. It’s so stinkin’ cool to watch this happen, I gotta tell ya! Read all about kids learning to code in Scratch and find over 40 coding games, apps, and classes for kids.

Makey Makey - An Invention Kit for EveryoneMakey Makey – An Invention Kit for EveryoneMakey Makey Collectors Gift Box EditionMakey Makey Collectors Gift Box EditionMakey Makey GO - Turn Anything Into a Key!Makey Makey GO – Turn Anything Into a Key!

More Makey Makey Ideas

1. Check out this Daily Grommet video for MaKey MaKey experiment ideas:

2. How about this fun instrument idea from The Tinkering Studio?

3. A decent .pdf of ideas from Temasek JC.

4. Try Minecraft with MaKey MaKey from Geek Dad on Wired.

Confidence Boost

Not only did my daughter practice her scientific method skills, she also grew a head taller in confidence.

Watching her confidence grow as she experimented and invented showed me that I don’t need to worry. She’s got mojo. All I need to do is facilitate opportunities for it to emerge.

And so can you.

Tell me in the comments if you’re going to try this innovative MaKey MaKey kit with your kids — and then come back and tell me how it goes. 

*Thank you to MaKey MaKey  for sending me this kit to review. 

40+ Coding Classes, Sites, Games, and Apps for Kids40 coding classes, websites, games, and apps for kids

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4 Responses

  1. Jackie Harris says:

    I loved this article, I am so glad that the Makey Makey has made a positive effect on your children. I am school teacher and am writing a grant through to request Makey Makey and other STEM ( Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) materials to use with 3rd graders at my school. I was wondering if I could use your picture of your daughter using the Makey Makey on my grant page. As soon as my grant gets funded I will change to actual picture of my kids using the Makey Makey.

  2. We are using a makey makey in my choir in college to make chime sounds for the song O Come O Come Emmanuel! We hooked it up to a metal piece that everyone holds so we give each other high fives to make the chime sound! I’m sure the youtube video will be up soon. 🙂

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    Hi! I’m Melissa Taylor, mom, writer, & former elementary teacher & literacy trainer. I love sharing good books & fun learning resources.

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