Digital making for new parents

Solving problems that are meaningful to us is at the core of our approach to teaching and learning about technology here at the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Over the last eight months, I’ve noticed that the types of digital making projects that motivate and engage me have changed (can’t think why). Always looking for ways to save money and automate my life and the lives of my loved ones, I’ve been thinking a lot about how digital making projects could be the new best friend of any new parent.

A baby, oblivious to the amount its parents have spent on stuff they never knew existed last year.
Image: sweet baby by MRef photography / CC BY-ND 2.0

Baby Monitor

I never knew how much equipment one small child needs until very recently. I also had no idea of the range of technology that is on offer to support you as a new parent to ensure the perfect environment outside of the womb. Baby monitors are at the top of this list. There are lots of Raspberry Pi baby monitor projects with a range of sensing functionality already in existence, and we’ve blogged about some of them before. They’re a great example of how an understanding of technology can open up a range of solutions that won’t break the bank. I’m looking forward to using all the capabilities of the Raspberry Pi to keep an eye on baby.

Baby name generator

Another surprising discovery was just how difficult it is to name a human being. Surprising because I can give a name to an inanimate object in less than three seconds, and come up with nicknames for colleagues in less than a day. My own offspring, though, and I draw a blank. The only solution: write a Python program to randomly generate names based on some parameters!

import names
from time import sleep
from guizero import App, ButtonGroup, Text, PushButton, TextBox

def get_name():
    boyname = names.get_first_name(gender='male')
    girlname = names.get_first_name(gender='female')
    othername = names.get_first_name()

    if babygender.get() == "male":
        name.set(str(boyname)+" "+str(babylastname.get()))
    elif babygender.get() == "female":
        name.set(str(girlname)+" "+str(babylastname.get()))
        name.set(str(othername)+" "+str(babylastname.get()))

app = App("Baby name generator")
surname_label = Text(app, "What is your surname?")
babylastname = TextBox(app, width=50)
babygender = ButtonGroup(app, options=[["boy", "male"], ["girl", "female"], ["all", "all"]], selected="male", horizontal=True)
intro = Text(app, "Your baby name could be")
name = Text(app, "")
button = PushButton(app, get_name, text="Generate me a name")


Thanks to the names and GUIZero Python libraries, it is super simple to create, resolving any possible parent-to-be naming disputes in mere minutes.

Food, Poo, or Love?

I love data. Not just in Star Trek, but also more generally. Collecting and analysing data to understand my sleep patterns, my eating habits, how much exercise I do, and how much time I spend watching YouTube videos consumes much of my time. So of course I want to know lots about the little person we’ve made, long before he can use language to tell us himself.

I’m told that most newborns’ needs are quite simple: they want food, they want to be changed, or they just want some cuddles. I’m certain it’s more complicated than this, but it’s a good starting point for a data set, so stick with me here. I also wondered whether there might be a correlation between the amplitude of the cry and the type of need the baby has. A bit of an imprecise indicator, maybe, but fun to start to think about.

This build’s success is mostly thanks to Pimoroni’s Rainbow HAT, which, conveniently, has three capacitive touch buttons to record the newborn’s need, four fourteen-segment displays to display the words “FOOD”, “POO”, and “LOVE” when a button is pressed, and seven multicoloured LEDs to indicate the ferociousness of the baby’s cry in glorious technicolour. With the addition of a microphone, the ‘Food, Poo, Love Machine’ was born. Here it is in action:

Automatic Baby mobile

Another project that I’ve not had time to hack on, but that I think would be really awesome, is to automate a baby cot mobile. Imagine this one moving to the Star Trek theme music:

Image courtesy of Gisele Blaker Designs (check out her cool shop!)

Pretty awesome.

If you’ve got any more ideas for baby projects, do let me know. I’ll have a few months of nothing to do… right?



Congratulations Carrie-Anne :-)


Hmmm. What about a system based on the AIY voice kit that can discriminate between the baby crying for food, hugs, or getting changed? I guess it might be possible, as a well trained mother, and even some fathers, are able to. But it takes a while to get that skill. So such a system might be helpful for young mothers, or for grand parents and other untrained family members. Besides, that could be an interesting research project.


How do you tell whether it’s FOOD, LOVE or POO?

Congrats. My first grandchild was born at the end of May.


As a new father, what do you mean OR? Food, poo and love simultaneously are definitely possible.


I’m not a new father, my youngest is 18 in February. It’s my daughter’s partner who’s the new daddy.

The next question is what if it is FOOD, LOVE AND POO, they aren’t mutually exclusive?


I am so going to be making these.


These are amazing!


Hi Carrie:

Here’s one from a friend of mine who’s just had a new grand baby.

The idea for a baby activity center came to him the other day after watching the new youngster kick at a giant toy piano keyboard. Why not put the new baby’s ‘footwork’ to good purpose?

Here’s how he described it:

“This is a youtube video that the found particularly stimulating.
Notice that if you click your mouse anywhere on the screen, you can get this video to “pause” and “play, ” you don’t have to click the mouse on the pause or arrow icon in the middle of the screen, if you are playing the video on a computer, rather than a ipad.

So, if I put a wireless mouse near his feet and he kicked it, the video would play. And if he kicked it again, it would stop. So, if I had a large mouse, that was as big as a keyboard, he could “control” the action of the video himself, in a way that was much more stimulating than the music from the piano.”

The new baby has a much older step-brother who may be interested in following through on the project.

Do you know of a Raspberry Pi volunteer or group anywhere on the planet that might mentor him along on his? He doesn’t have a Raspberry Pi kit and I am not sure whether he has been introduced to programming. So he’d need help – soup to nuts.

He is an American living in Nairobi where he is a sophomore or junior at the equivalent of an embassy school. So this would be a project conducted by email, text messages or skype.

All advice and help are welcomed.

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