Painting with sound

Babi2.0 playing with Singing fingers. Took her a minute to work out she needed sound and contact with the touch-screen to be able to draw. Maximum cuteness points for her song though!




The girls got the chance to play with some Ozobots recently. They respond to the colour and path of whatever line you place them on, so they will move along the path and change colour or direction depending on the colours they pass over.

The bots come with some pre-printed cards and you can download games for tablets but the most fun for our 3 and 5 year olds was to draw their own. The lines need to be fairly thick to work but they soon got the hang of it.

I tried to draw a path with loops (physical not code) to see if the ozobots could write a name but these little guys want to follow the easy path and got confused by the crossroads.

If you think of any other ideas to try please let me know!

Babi2 is home with the chicken pox and I’m preparing for a tech workshop, sounds like a perfect combination!

If you can get hold of one, MaKey MaKey is a neat bit of kit which makes anything into a keyboard. It takes less than a minute to set up and the only limits to what you can do with it really are your imagination and the contents of your fruit bowl. Check out all the fun projects here.

I showed her how to connect it and loaded up the piano and bongos websites. She mastered those and then realised she could connect me up too, either by holding my hand or by having me hold onto a crocodile clip and then pressing my nose instead of the banana to play the notes!


On the BabiTech iPhone

I’m sure you’re all dying to know which apps made it to the current BabiTech list. If there’s something missing that Babis 1 and 2 really need to have, stick it in the comments and we’ll try it out.

IMG_4720Toca Boca

Toca Boca’s Hair Xmas, Toca Builders, Toca Band, Toca Fairy Tales, Toca Hair Salon 2, Toca Kitchen Monster, Toca Doctor

Yes we are huge fans of Toca Boca, no they didn’t pay me to say that. We’ve not found one we don’t all like. The games are well thought out, catchy but not mindless, creative, educational and fun.

Apps Cymraeg

S4C Cyw, Cyw a’r Wyddor, Mwnci Bach, Tref a Tryst, Cyfri gyda Cyw, Ben Dant

The apps produced by S4C are pretty good, my favourites are Cyw a’r Wyddor which helps teach letter formation (Welsh alphabet) and Cyfri gyda Cyw which does the same with numbers. Mwnci Bach is one of those interactive games where the monkey repeats back to you whatever you say, it frequently breaks and I recently removed it as it drives me nuts and has little edcational value. Ben Dant is Babi 2’s favourite, there’s a memory game, a spot the difference and a couple of other games with a pirate theme.

Big Click‘s Llythrennau and Llawysgrifen are excellent letter learning games created by a company in the Rhondda, just up the road from BabiTech HQ. They have a real community focus and work closely with kids, more about them soon I hope!

The Rest

Lightbot – one hour coding There are a few apps in the lightbot series and they all teach coding through a series of tasks which you have to programme the animated robot to complete. It’s cute and simple but needs some basic app literacy and a patient adult on standby.

TACU I have talked about before, great fun adding animated faces and audio to any picture, this is one of those apps to work on together as the interface is not terribly child friendly.

Singing Fingers is so lovely and creative, I wish the iPhone version worked as well as the iPad one does. It’s Babi1’s favourite way to make a lot of noise. Touching the screen triggers audio recording and leaves a mark, you re-touch the mark to play back the sound. Babi1 likes to sing a scale whilst drawing a spiral and then play it back backwards tracing her finger back over the pattern she drew.

If that sounds too complicated watch the video

And last but not least, my favourite app of all time is Qiver (formerly ColAR Mix) the augmented reality colouring book. You have to print the pictures from their website (pdfs so you can save them) and colour them in however you like. Then scan them with the app and see them come to life. Magical!



I’ve still not shown the girls the Frozen coding game. I thought they might appreciate it more after drawing some by hand. We went retro and got out the Spirograph.

I’ve been looking for a good online explanation of the maths so if anyone finds one please comment below. 

So far there’s this article.

Frozen Coding

I just found a lovely one hour coding tutorial where you learn how to get Anna and Elsa to skate in a snowflake pattern. I’d say it was suitable for a bright 6 year old with supervision, I’m going to try it with My 5year old but think she’ll get bored after the first few screens, I’ll let you know how it goes!

Try it on your computer at

There are other games apps and ideas on the site, I think the unplugged activities will be easier with younger children. I’m hoping I can get babis 1 and 2 to programme each other!


Here at Babitech we are proud to support a London based kickstarter appeal for a digital inclusion network.

This is for kids who wouldn’t normally have access to new opportunities in technology because of their age, gender, perceived ability, ethnicity, knowledge or cost.

This will enable them to learn, make, create, gain skills, gain self confidence, gain self esteem and generally kick some digital ass.

Networks are designed to grow, as far as I’m concerned, London is just the starting point.

Watch the video, share everywhere and pledge if you can. Thank you.

Squishy Circuits

I’m shamelessly stealing this from my friend and colleague Jen Hughes. It was originally posted on the Taccle2 website – a project which helps teachers use e-learning in their classrooms.

I can’t wait to try it out, if you beat me to it please send photos!

I’m not sure this is actually e-learning but it’s the best bit of fun technology I’ve used for ages and at minimal cost.  Basically, it is about using play dough to make electrical circuits.

(Given a few days, I’m sure I can justify the e-learning bit by connecting my circuits up to an arduino board or make makey.)

This is what you need

  • Some conductive and some resistant play-dough (you make this yourself, recipes to follow)
  • Some sort of output device that will be activated by an electric current (LED are good to start with but could be a buzzer or small electric motor)
  • A battery. (our preference is a 4x AA battery unit delivering 6v but you can try other sorts)
  • Some bits of wire
  • A board or flat surface on which you can roll the play dough and build your circuit

Making the play dough

You are going to make 2 types of play dough.  The regular play dough is made with salt and conducts electricity so we have called that the conductive play dough.  The other batch is made with sugar and is less conductive. It is not, strictly speaking, an insulator because it does conduct electricity to an extent but it is far more resistant than the salt dough so we are calling that insulating dough.

Conductive play dough

I cup flour

1/4 cup salt

3 tablespoons cream of tartar (important – without it the dough goes slimy over time. Or lemon juice works pretty well if you don’t have any)

1 cup tap water

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (to stop dough going crumbly and drying out)

few drops food colouring

Mix the dry ingredients, add the liquid ingredients, including colouring, and mix well together.  Heat gently in non-stick pan stirring all the time with a spatula until it ‘sets’ into a dough.  Knead it on a board with more flour if necessary so that it has the right ‘doughy’ texture.

SquishyCircuitsResistant play dough

1 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar (caster sugar is best as it is less gritty)

1 teaspoon granulated alum (optional – it just acts as anti-bacterial agent. Small kids won’t try and eat the salt dough because it tastes nasty. This dough is sweet.)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Food colouring.

1 tablespoon de-ionised / distilled water (you can use tap water – it won’t be quite as good because tap water is a good conductor)

Mix dry ingredients, then wet ingredient and heat gently stirring all the time. Add more water as necessary (preferably de-ionised) from a spray bottle if you have one. You only need to add tiny quantities at a time. Keep kneading the dough on a floured boat until it is the consistency of modelling clay

Squishy-Circuits-LEDs-1024x682Making circuits

Roll two sausages of conductive play dough. Connect one to each terminal of the battery.  Press the ‘legs’ of an LED apart and stick one leg in each sausage of dough. (LED are directional – the longer leg should be connected to the positive pole.  If the light does not come on, swap the legs around!)

Make simple switch by pulling a flap from one piece of dough and touching the other piece of dough. The light goes out (electricity will take the path of least resistance, which is to go through the dough not the LED)

Then try replacing one conductive sausage with a sausage of insulating dough. What happens?

Then try putting the insulating dough between the sausages of conductive dough and see what happens.  Try the LED in each sausage in turn and across 2.

Then make spirals, cubes, one sphere inside another etc etc. Can you make a squishy monster whose eyes light up? can you make a birthday cake for someone?

How much of the underlying science you explain is up to you and the age and learning history of the children.

For older children, you can connect an arduino board into the circuit.

Or try demonstrating how potentiometers work by stretching the sausage. What is the diameter and length when the LED goes out?

Take an LED of each colour and wire each up to a conductive sausage of the same colour and a battery to make 3 circuits.  Wind a cable tie around the heads of the 3 LED so that they make a triangle and hold them so that they are horizontal. Put a sheet of translucent plastic (tracing paper works OK) in front of the LED so that when you look from the other side of the paper you can see 3 overlapping circles of light (with white in the middle, obviously).  break one sausage (e.g the green one) and see how the light changes to purple.  Or stretch the blue one and see the light getting ‘warmer’ and yellower. Explain how pixels work.

Make 3 concentric circle of dough with the insulating dough in the middle. Connect the LED across the insulating dough rings.  Add more and more LED in a circle.   Talk about connecting in parallel vs connecting in series.


Absolutely safe. Worse case scenario is that a child connects LED straight to the battery, in which case it will blow and may shatter but this is unlikely.

Or they might connect the battery wires to each other – not dangerous but not good for the battery!

One last point, give the LED etc a wipe down after each use because the salt in the dough corrodes connectors after while.

Store the dough in a polythene bag and squeeze air out before sealing,

Thanks to AnnMarie Thomas at Maker Ed for some of these ideas. BTW – it is her daughter in the picture above!

PLE 2014

Two things happened at PLE2013 which inspired this session.

Firstly, lots of people came up to me with stories to share.

Secondly, Ilona Buchem suggested I should “Do an ethnography”

Ethnography – to explore a cultural phenomena and reflect the knowledge and the system of meanings in the lives of the cultural group.

So I decided to compile a digital ethnography, it’s no where near complete – that’s where you come in!

I want to collect anecdotal evidence in the form of stories about learning in families and about social learning, particularly involving technology,  pre school aged children and intergenerational learning.

I will publish them all on here and make a podcast too.

If you don’t make it to the session you can still contribute;

  • Record  your story on AudioBoo and tag it #babitech and #pleconf
  • Share your story with @Babi_Tech on Twitter
  • Or type your story in the comments.

Here’s one to start you off…