Maker projects abound, and at all skill levels. From basic do-it-yourself (DIY) endeavors that virtually anyone can complete to complex undertakings, there's a DIY venture for everyone. But the sort of task you'll assume on your own differs from what you'll complete with your children. Picking out a maker project for kids requires much consideration. Check out the best maker projects you can do with your kids!
1. Raspberry Pi Retro Gaming Console
Building a Raspberry Pi retro game console is one of the best projects for kids and adults. There are loads of avenues for completing a DIY Pi gaming build. At its most basic, a retro gaming console with RetroPie, Recalbox, Lakka, or Batocera on the Raspberry Pi is as simple as mounting an operating system (OS) to a microSD card, popping it into your Raspberry Pi, firing it up, and adding a few games. Thus, it's a neat method of learning more about Raspberry Pi hardware and software.
Add a retro gaming Raspberry Pi case to make your own NES, SNES, or Sega Genesis Classic. Alternatively, build an arcade cabinet either with a kit such as the Pimoroni Picade and Picade Console, or design your own cabinet. Alternately, go portable with a handheld device. Once it's built, you can game alongside your kids thereby introducing them to classics from your childhood. Turtles in Time, anyone? Low cost, easy, and completely rewarding, this is an awesome way to get your child hands-on with the Raspberry Pi.
2. DIY Steam Link
A simple yet fun DIY project you can make with your kids is a Raspberry Pi Steam Link. In fact, Steam streaming to the Raspberry Pi is as easy as entering a few bash commands. After it's finished, you can enjoy video games on the couch with your kids. Although titles such as Fortnite and PUBG might not be available in Steam, you can add them as non-Steam titles and stream from your PC to the Pi. This is a great project for kids of all ages, though particularly it's one of the top maker projects for middle schoolers.
With the Vehicle Labo Kit for the Nintendo Switch, you can build vehicles, then drive them around in a virtual world. The Vehicle Labo Kit boasts a slew of designs including a toy-con plane, toy-con car, toy-con key, toy-con pedal, and toy-con submarine. It's basically a new iteration of Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs. Once you and your kid have completed a Nintendo Labo build, you can continue to play with it by integrating into immersive, virtual worlds. I'd also recommend pretty much any of Nintendo's Labo kits as easy maker projects with tons of replay value.
5. Blink an LED with Arduino - Arduino for Beginners
Although a microcontroller just powers different connected components using code that's uploaded, to young makers it can feel like magic. Even something as simple as blinking an LED with an Arduino is an accessible makerspace project for beginners. Basic Arduino endeavors prove valuable for learning about hardware and software, and how the two interact. Using the IDE or integrated development environment, you can even point to different code snippets and explain how they interact with physical components. There are a ton of different Arduino kits, from generic starter kits to complete projects such as a home gardening smart plant watering system.
6. Install Sugar on a Stick - Makerspace Ideas for Kindergarten Kids
First developed by Red Hat and Pentagram, Sugar on a Stick is a child-friendly Linux distribution that runs on a variety of hardware options, from laptops and desktops to Raspberry Pi boards. It's a fantastic makerspace idea for kindergarten-aged kids and older. Upon first boot, you select your age, from preschool to adult, then dive into different applications, from memory games to programming and even a web browser. SoaS ultimately fosters a safe, kid-friendly introduction to Linux which you can easily install on a Pi. Because Sugar on a Stick is so lightweight, it's even suitable for reviving an aging desktop, laptop, or Atom-powered netbook.
7. Build a Robot
From C-3PO and R2-D2 to M3-B9 G.U.N.T.E.R., robots are super cool and often kids love them. Thankfully, you can build a robot with your kid for an awesome robotics project. The best course of action is buying a DIY robot kit, such as the Gigglebot by Dexter. There are tons of different robotics kits for kids on the market. For the adventurous, it's possible to cobble together a build using off-the-shelf components.
Although 3D printing is a blast and not as difficult as it may seem, it's not the most tactile. That is, unless you count fixing your printer. As such, creating art with a 3D pen is a wonderful alternative as a maker project you can do with your kids. There's no fiddling with a print bed or danger of tiny kiddo hands getting burned by print beds and hotends. A 3D printing pen allows for unrivaled creativity, and presents an alternative to 3D printing. Certain 3D printers such as the Flash Forge 3D have been re-worked with a younger demographic in mind, but I still suggest opting for a 3D pen over a 3D printer for the kiddos.
9. Recycle With a Junkbot - Easy Maker Projects
Combine maker tech with green thinking and recycle your trash into a junkbot. This can be as simple or complicated as you make it. Plastic straws or pipe cleaners may work well for "legs," as they lend a jiggly walking vibe. Googly eyes are a nice touch. Merely grab a pile of trash and recyclable material, some glue, and get to making. Or, try making a smart junkbot with a Raspberry Pi, Arduino, or another electronic device. These easy maker projects are only limited by your creativity.
10. Low Tech Makerspace Activities - LEGOs, Snap Circuits, and More
Often maker connotes DIY electronics tech. But the makerspace far surpasses this, and encompasses everything from woodworking and knitting to robotics. For younger children, low tech makerspace activities might be more appropriate. LEGOs, of course, are a staple and chances are adults will have equally as much fun as kids. Every couple of years I set my Harry Potter LEGO castle back up and it's a blast. Snap Circuits offer a solder-free, tool-less experience for building electronics like FM radios and voice recorders. Basic offline coding toys such as the Primo Toys 1 Cubetto playset provide an introduction to STEM for youngsters.
Best Maker Projects to do With Your Kids
From no-tech and low tech makerspace activities to gaming, coding, and everything in-between, there are tons of maker projects for you to do with your kids. The most important part of the process is fostering a safe, encouraging space for creation and play, and spending time with your kids. Most of these projects provide not only an hour or more of DIY time, but hours of entertainment when you're finished.
Why Complete a Maker Project With Your Kids?
While you can build various DIY creations for your kids and absolutely should, an even better alternative when possible is collaborating on maker projects with your children. It's a fantastic opportunity to introduce budding makers to hardware and software at an early age. Plus, embarking on hobbyist endeavours with your kids means more family time. Rather than working in solitude, you benefit from quality time with your kids to whip up a quality creation.
What Makes a Good DIY Project for Kids?
Ultimately, what makes a suitable project for children caters to their interests. Ask your kids what they want to build, then together come up with a project. Aside from that, think about complexity and safety. The entire process doesn't need to be kid-friendly. But if you want your child actively participating, consider any complicated steps or hazardous tools. What you select based on these criteria varies by individual child, and often relies somewhat on age as well as responsibility. The sort of makerspace projects for kindergartners and preschoolers differs from middle and high school-appropriate maker projects.
Considerations for a maker project to complete with your child:
- Child's interests
What are your favourite maker projects to complete with your children?