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Picture of Take Apart and Rebuild Toys
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This is a collaborative project made and written with Aaron Graves!

The best way to become a maker is to immerse yourself in making and institute some time in your life or classroom where you un-make stuff! Taking things apart is a great way to learn how things work. Aaron Graves and I have a whole book of makerspace projects you can do with your family, your classroom, or your library. This is one of our fun maker projects for the whole family we were saving up for a low cost making book.

One of our favorite ways to teach kids to tinker and get creative is by making Franken-prototypes. Plus, un-making is a great way to learn how stuff is made and a fun way to get creative when you think you don’t have many resources. Anybody can do this project with relatively no money spent! Let’s get making!

Take Apart Rules

  1. Don't Force anything.
  2. Always use the right tools for the job.
  3. Be safe! Wear gloves and safety glasses if needed.
  4. Go slow.
  5. Don't break anything
  6. Challenge yourself: Can you put it back together and it still work?

Step 1: Gather Toys

Picture of Gather Toys

Ever wonder what is inside that kids toy that makes it make music only when you tilt it? Or how a kid’s piano works? Or what is inside a remote control car? Now is your time! If you are in a library or school, have your makers bring old, broken, or thrift store toys to your makerspace and host a take-apart hour! If you want to do this with your kids at home, have them choose toys they won't get upset about taking apart (trust me on this one!) Since you won’t have the exact same toys as we do, just use this project as a guideline for things to look for when you are taking apart your own toys.

Children (and sometimes their parents) outgrow some toys rather quickly. Sometimes toys are bought that don’t work well in the first place. Look for toys that don’t work or that you want to give a new life. Do not buy new toys to take apart as that would defeat the purpose of this project! However, you can find a plethora of amazing discarded electronic toys at thrift stores. You can see in our assortment of toys we are working with in this project: a broken remote control car, an annoying musical baby cellphone, a discarded baby doll, and a white giggle box my children ripped out of a toy it came in years ago.

Classroom Tip: Request old or busted toy donations from parents and patrons. Scour thrift stores for older electronic toys preferably from before 2002 as the guts were more fun back then! Don’t buy brand new toys to take apart!

nsekkins7 days ago
This is such a great project; we do these toy-take-aparts with our students around the holidays. Who wouldn't want a Franken-toy for Christmas? You can also use the parts for wood circuit blocks. Wire and solder each to nails on a piece of lumber, then add power blocks and switches!
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M.C. Langer14 days ago
The Force is strong in you. Great Instructable! You definitely have my vote. :-)
colleengraves (author)  M.C. Langer13 days ago
Thanks! Appreciate that!