I love simple paint programs, like my 2005 effort TillyPaint. Scratch is a great environment for coding such things, and I decided to combine a go at writing a new one with Makey Makey pencil-on-paper buttons to make a kind of Etch-a-Sketch.
First, draw some arrows and buttons for ‘pen up/down’, ‘colour change’, ‘bigger’ and ‘smaller’ in a very soft pencil on some paper. Draw tracks and wire up the arrows to the cursor keys on the Makey Makey. Pen up/down goes to the spacebar, colour change is S, bigger is W and smaller goes to key A. If you don’t have a Makey Makey, you can still use keys on your computer’s keyboard.
The code for Scratch-a-Sketch is here: http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/20658351/ – you can play online in the Flash version if you like, you don’t even need Scratch installed.
Unlike a traditional Etch-a-Sketch, you can lift the pen up to move around without drawing, change colour and pen size, and combine keys such as 2 arrow keys to draw decent diagonal lines.
There are loads of ways you could get children to extend this: sound, a better way of choosing colours – sky’s the limit!
crocodile clip on wedding ring makes great hands-free earth!