First and foremost, this is NOT a how to… step by step DIY build guide. It is just a box that I made for my kid and would like to share it with you. Maybe it gives you some creative idea on how to build your own.
Since the little one developed a special bond with house light switches, I wanted to give him something to train his fine motor skills.
Some of the main factors that I took in consideration were:
Safety – No sharp corners and no sharp switches
Durability – Must survive a drop from 1m with no issues
Compactness – Easily transportable
Not Annoying – No brain torturing loud noises
Colorful & Clicky – Enough to engage an interest
Easy and fast to build – Don’t want to spend days building it
Switches cover a wide range of finger and hand motions. Button pushing, hand pressing, rotary motion and pinch gripping.
As I didn’t have much time to invest in this project, I basically went on Aliexpress website and found a seller that had lot of industrial switches. This is what I ordered (approximate cost of the switches was around 35€).
Next on the list was the case. I got a strong and robust electricity junction box in a hardware store.
It had no sharp edges and was assembled with metal screws (not weak plastic ones).
Cost around: 10€
I made the thing to be easily rechargeable with a simple USB C phone charger. For that purpose, I got the parts from my bin:
I drilled a small hole for the USB C connector and glued it with epoxy. Ran two wires to battery charger/protection PCB, epoxied and hot glued a battery holder.
Decided to run the whole thing on a 3.7V, single cell battery I sourced from some device.
A masking tape was glued on top panel and few possible arrangements of switches were rotated until I got the best layout for my intended purpose.
After a quick measurement I scribed a drawing and started drilling.
This was the end product:
First three switches did not contain any lightning, so I had to rework them and put some LEDs in them. Buzzers were very loud and for my peace of mind I poured some hot glue in them. Still buzzing but not that annoying 😊
First, (1/0) and fifth (rotary left/right) switch came with Normally Open / Normally Closed contacts. For that reason, I could not fully use them. Solution was to order a new set of NO/NO contacts:
Next issue were the buzzers. They work on 12V and for that reason I had to add a small DC/DC boost modules:
Wiring the whole thing took the longest. It had to be done properly, so the connections don’t fail when the box hits the ground.
THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF ALL
The THICK piece of foam.
It didn’t take long for things to go bad after a few falls on the hardwood floor. Switches and contacts got apart, and analog meter dropped inside the box. But the Foam, the Foam in between top and bottom part did the magic. Absorbing the hits and pressing all the components where they should be. The subsequent thick foam installation saved the day.
Total Price of the hole unit was around 60€
Definitely not the cheapest but I consider it a future investment.
Few thoughts after seeing my kid use this thing for 10 months now…
The box has been dropped and thrown multiple times on different surfaces. But it is still in one piece and working with minor scratches.
When I first gave it to him (14 months old), he needed to use two fingers to push a button.
It took some time to teach him how to use rotary hand motion to reset the emergency STOP button. That motion helped him learn how to operate a small rotary switch (pinch/turn motion).
The big rotary changeover switch required the most force from his little hand to turn. But after some time, he gained enough strength to turn it.
The hardest one was the pinch up and down hand motion for the toggle switch as it also requires quite a bit of force to move.
On the day I’m writing this article he is now 2 years old and uses all the switches with fluid motions and no issues.
BE AWARE!!, this is not a certified kid’s toy, and I wouldn’t recommend leaving the kid to play with it without the supervision of an adult.
My kid knows that I keep it on the shelf and when I don’t remember to give it to him, he comes and asks for the “white box” to play 😊
Here are few more pictures, and a Youtube video.
Best of luck.