Coding, Crafting & Beyond
Take family time to new heights with Raspberry Pi, a tiny, dirt cheap computer ($35) that's great for all kinds of home projects, from coding to crafting and beyond. Gather your kids around, browse through these cool Raspberry Pi projects and set aside some time to learn and make together. It’s a great way to support your kids’ STEM learning, have fun, and create something that’s sure to impress.
There are several different Raspberry Pi boards to choose from, but for the most versatility, you'll want to get the Raspberry Pi 3B or 3B+. Check out these 15 fantastic Raspberry Pi projects for families.
Learn to Code
For families just diving into Raspberry Pi and coding in general, there’s no better starting place than Scratch, a block-based tool for programming. Scratch is included with Raspbian, the default operating system for Raspberry Pi, or can be downloaded separately.
For the uninitiated, Scratch may look too “cute” to do much with, but it’s a fairly powerful coding language beneath a kid-friendly graphical interface. In fact, Scratch allows you to receive input from and direct output to the Pi’s GPIO pins, so you can connect it to motors, LEDs, sensors, and more, for real-world integration.
Image Credit: Christy Matte
If you and your kids liked Minecraft on the PC, you'll love it on the Pi. The Raspbian operating system comes with an installation of Minecraft Pi, a special edition of Minecraft just for the Raspberry Pi. In addition to normal game play, kids can create their own mods using the Python language.
With the Raspberry Pi's GPIO pins, players can connect Minecraft to the outside world by using motion sensors to control movement, or by creating proximity alerts that trigger LEDs. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has a great free e-book to help get started with Minecraft Pi hacks.
If you’re feeling really inspired, you can also host your own Raspberry Pi Minecraft server so all of your friends (and their kids) can join the fun.
Image Credit: Christy Matte
Build Your Own Computer with Kano
Raspberry Pi is really just a tiny computer, but getting one up and running so you can do what you want takes some tinkering. If you’ve got a kid who is interested, but you’re feeling short on time or technical know-how, Kano is a great option. Available for $249, Kano's complete computer kit comes with a Raspberry Pi, keyboard, monitor, power supply, and other cables and parts to build a working computer that gets 3 to 4 hours of battery life.
Building the computer takes only about 30 minutes, but then you can enjoy the kid-friendly operating system, which is filled with fun tutorials that teach children about how computers work, give them coding lessons and even turn the intricacies of the Linux command prompt into a game. If you want to bring your own monitor, you can get the basic Kano computer kit for $100 less.
Image Credit: Kano Computer
Usually, he who smelt it, dealt it, but in this case, the smeller is your Raspberry Pi. It’s a Raspberry Pi Fart Detector that you build yourself!
Silly? Yes. But this olfactory-sensitive project teaches kids about circuits, the difference between analog and digital, how to make use of the Pi’s GPIO pins, and how an air quality sensor works. They’ll also get experience coding in Python. Plus, you get some cool points for being in on the joke.
Image Credit: Raspberry Pi Foundation
Who doesn’t love a photo booth? It’s a chance to get together with a friend or family member, make goofy faces, and preserve awesome memories.
Now you and your kids can make your own portable photo booth for birthdays, graduations and more. There are a variety of instructions out there for setting up photo booths, including one that uploads all the images, and one that actually prints them on the spot. Don’t forget to find some clever props to make your photos even better!
Photo Credit: Hep Svadja, Makezine
Ready to start your family garage band? This drum kit project is extremely flexible and may provide inspiration for other instruments as well. While the full project isn’t for the faint of heart (it involves building a PVC structure, creating drumsticks and more), it’s actually quite simple to get started.
You can easily build and program one or two “drums” without all of the extra pieces and go from there. It’s programmed in Scratch, so if you have already mastered the basics, you’re off to a great start. If you’re looking for a project to tackle with younger kids, this is it.
Image Credit: User: HydroDynamo Inventor, Instructables
Tweeting Cat Door
Anyone who has an outdoor cat knows that they like to come and go as they please. If you’re the one opening and closing the door, you’re not likely all that entertained. But if you have a pet door that takes pictures and narrates the comings and goings of your pets, well, that’s something else entirely.
Daphne’s Tweeting Cat Flap is an amusing Twitter account that follows the departure and arrival of Daphne. You can create your own pet door that alerts you as your furry friend goes about his/her day. If Twitter isn’t your thing, you can send a text message instead.
Twitter: Daphne's Catflap (@DaphneFlap)
Image Credit: Astrid Gast / Shutterstock
Christmas Light Show
Christmas light shows are all the rage. There are competitions, neighborhood collaborations, and entire television shows dedicated to these popular holiday displays. You may have seen light shows that coordinate lights and music into a whole new spectacle. With Raspberry Pi, you can create your own musical light show and dazzle your neighbors.
Image Credit: User: MakinThings, Instructables
Every neighborhood has THAT house. The one with the Halloween display that terrorizes small children and delights teens who are otherwise too cool to get into the spirit. Your family can use your Raspberry Pi to make your own delightful display, spooky or otherwise, and raise your Halloween rankings up a notch. There are plenty of examples out there of spooky Raspberry Pi projects from a simple flickering pumpkin to a more elaborate display of creepy sounds and effects.
Image credit: User: AlexJrassic, Instructables
One of the classic childhood crafts is making some sort of bird feeder out of pinecones or bird seed shapes. That’s all well and good, but with Raspberry Pi, you can take that to a whole other level.
When the Feeder Tweeter detects birds at the feeder, it snaps a picture and posts it on Twitter. This is an in-depth project, and probably not the one you’ll want to start with, but it can easily be adapted to other circumstances, like a spy cam to see who is nibbling on your garden.
Twitter: Feeder Tweeter (@feedertweeter)
Image Credit: Rob Kemp / Shutterstock