Christmas gifts and projects for the tinkerer in your life

With any luck you’ll be reading this at home with a glass of your favourite Christmas tipple and a mince pie, reflecting on a great term. The shopping will have been done, the turkey will have been ordered, and Father Christmas will be on his way.

In case you’ve still got some last-minute gifts to buy, or are looking for a way to flex your making muscles this holiday, here’s our rundown of some cool gadgets and projects that combine three of our favourite things: gadgets, tinkering and Christmas. Oh, and in case you were worried we’d gone soft, every one of these is a great way to teach kids of all ages about technology while having fun at the same time.

Makey Makey invention kit

Ever tried to control Mario using playdough? Or how about playing the piano using bananas? The Makey Makey is an invention kit that lets you transform everyday objects into input devices. Whether you’re an experienced maker or a parent looking to give young children a first look at electronics, this kit is available in the U.K. for just under £50. A small price to pay to turn your stairs into a musical instrument. See it in action:

Harry Potter floating candles

This project is a cool take on Christmas lights. And which youngster doesn’t want to pretend they live at Hogwarts? Jen Yates (of the fantastic EPBOT site) walks us through the project which involves more crafting than coding, so it’s ideal for younger kids.

Power your Christmas tree lights using an Edison board.

Be the talk of the town with your very own smart tree. Your Christmas tree lights no longer need to remain in their steady state of constantly on or flashing, instead why not grab yourself an Edison board to create an interactive tree? This article from Ricky Bacon talks you through how to introduce a built-in passive infrared (PIR) sensor that is placed in the tree and detects motion. Whenever the dog, cat, annoying little brother or mad aunt steps nears the tree, it performs a light show.

Get involved with this Makers Hack for DIY Programmable Christmas Lights

Keep your kids guessing with QR code gift tags

Supergeek dad Thadd Brooks has set up a page that allows him to print QR codes to stick on his kids’ presents as they sit under the tree. In the run up to Christmas the children can scan the code to find out which present is for who, but the code will return a random name in the family. Once 24th December arrives, the codes will automatically start returning the correct name.

A light-up Christmas tree…made of jelly

Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. And there’s not really much to this project other than putting some Christmas lights in a traffic cone, filling it with jelly, and admiring your creation. If anyone actually makes this, I promise to tweet about it.

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