Introduction: Amazing Buttons Box for Kids

Picture of Amazing Buttons Box for Kids

There is the project I build for my two years old son. He like playing with all kinds of buttons he found everywhere. But they almost done nothing for him, except the ones on my dryer. So I decided to give him an box full of buttons that take different action on lights and a motor.

Step 1: Choose Components Wisely

Picture of Choose Components Wisely

For my son and for many other kids, it's not only what the buttons do, but how to manipulate them and trigger them. So it's a fairly choice to get different types of buttons like one you swap, some you lift, other you pull or push. So I found about 10 types of buttons from an electronic store nearby.

The actions I planned for the buttons is to trigger some lights and one motor. I have chosen leds for almost all of them except for two, because I wanted the box to work with batteries. I used four C type batteries, so the box works a while with this power source.

Step 2: Mesure All Components

Picture of Mesure All Components

The best way to fit all components on and in the box is to take some time to mesure all of them.

The holes I needed to place the parts do not needed to be so precise, so I used a compass and a ruler. Otherwise I would have been purchased caliper.

Step 3: Plan Where to Put the Parts

Picture of Plan Where to Put the Parts

I used a vector drawing software to create the plan where I would and could place all the buttons and the other parts. This step can be done by hand on a paper, but it's much faster to do it with a drawing software. It's possible and easier to move parts to fit them along each other. Especially because it's not much difficult to place part on the surface, but it's harder to think of the space they take inside the box.

Step 4: Cutting Holes

Picture of Cutting Holes

After I stuck the paper to the box, I drilled the holes. I also use a rotary tool to cut bigger round holes and the square ones.

Step 5: The Electronic Circuit

Picture of The Electronic Circuit

The project is almost done by wiring the component. But I decided in the while to add some electronics to it. A flip flop led flasher and an AND gate. The AND gate is used to make the two arcade button light up a led only when they are pressed together. The flip flop make two led flash when the pull button is activated.

I first made a prototype of the two circuit and test the speed of the flip flop flasher. I used two 2N3904 for flasher because I already have it in stock. You can easily find this circuit on the web also the gate circuit I made with two 2N2222. But it's not the essence of the whole project here, so I will cut here for this part.

After the prototype was tested well. I used a prefabricated circuit board to assemble the parts. I also place header to connect wires, so I can unplug it if I need to work on it.

Step 6: Wiring All the Parts

Picture of Wiring All the Parts

Like you see, the wiring is a total mess. Why? This is because I did not plan it well and I start soldering wire one after another. By chance it's not so important in this project. I tried several times to close the box to finally get to it. But the next time I will have to change the batteries I will get to this process again. So if the alkaline batteries do not last long, I planned to replace them with rechargeable ones and add a connector to the box to recharge them.

I put the circuit board in an antistatic bag to isolate it from the unprotected buttons poles.

Step 7: In Action

Picture of In Action

Thank you. If you have any questions or you want to know about my other projects go to


kelseymh (author)2010-12-21

That is so cool! Two year oIds? I know plenty of undergraduates who would spend hours playing with this thing. What an awesome toy for your son!

I guess that English is not your first language: there are some odd grammatical constructions in your text. If you are not offended, I would be happy to make some suggestions for changing the words here and there.

kevinfilteau (author)kelseymh2010-12-21

You are right, english is not my first, but I do my best and I will be glad if you help me! Thank-you.

Kevin, you speak and/or write well enough to be understood, that's for sure. This is a great toy, I want to make one for my son! I have so many old electronics laying around too, I never thought about using them for something so fun. Great piece of work, thanks for sharing!

kelseymh (author)kevinfilteau2010-12-22

You're most welcome. Everything was understandable, and we Americans appreciate you writing in English (though I wish Instructables had more projects in first languages). I'll send you a PM with some comments on the text; it doesn't seem really appropriate to do that here.

Lithium Rain (author)kelseymh2010-12-27

Undergraduates? Pfft, you post-docs aren't too good to play with the button box, don't act like you don't want to... :P

kevinfilteau (author)kelseymh2010-12-21

I will give it to him sunday. I can wait!!

mikolynn (author)2012-01-26

Nice project, Time ago I make one light box, but you do it better!
If you want to replace battery system, maybe you can use the "joule thief" method to save in battery cost... ;)

1161858 (author)2010-12-28

the big button seems to be the funnest so far and how come there was no music, :D

beemakka (author)2010-12-27

Kevin, this is so timely and something I had in the back of my mind for my grandkids, the oldest of whom is only 2 but already so techno savvy. As usual, an idea is one thing, putting it into reality is another (disorganized procrastinator) but you have provided the impetus...good on you!

paschott (author)2010-12-27

That's pretty cool. If we had a younger kid in our lives, we would definitely be considering this as it looks awesome to keep younger kids entertained (and even some older ones).

Steve-Abx (author)2010-12-27

Its not dangerous in this instance but anti-static bags are conductive.
You will get some current flow through the bag which will reduce your battery life.
You would be better off with a "normal" plastic bag.

kevinfilteau (author)Steve-Abx2010-12-27

I did not know that. Thank you for the information!

Lithium Rain (author)2010-12-27

I've had this same idea, but never implemented it. Nice button box!

DrakerDG (author)2010-12-27

The idea is pretty good for the variety of buttons, but I think in the case of push buttons, sounds can be deployed on different frequencies to stimulate the sense of hearing also.

dmdsanchez (author)2010-12-25

Would it be possible for you to post the parts list and instructions on how to do this?

kevinfilteau (author)dmdsanchez2010-12-26

I unfortunately don't have any schematics, plan or procedure to build that box. I purchased some buttons, LEDs and lights on an electronic supplier on the fly. I made a plan for the part disposition and start soldering thing together. Like you can see, it's a total mess inside the box.

But you can find the circuit for the flip flop here I use the second circuit with the 2N3904. Try first on a protoboard for the resistor and capacitor values. If I remember correctly I use 100uf capacitor and 1k resistors. Not sure at all. For the And Gate I use this circuit Every LEDs need to be wired with a resistor. You can use the classic V=IR formula. In my project I use 470ohm. There OK for the high brightness LEDs, but to high for normal LEDs. For the rest, is only wiring a switch with a LED.

I hope I answer your question at best.

dmdsanchez (author)kevinfilteau2010-12-27


bmohr (author)2010-12-26

I echo everyone else's comments about what a great job you did. I had thought about building something like this for my son a while ago, but never did it. Good thing your son has a more industrious dad!

HARaaM (author)2010-12-26

It needs an analog meter, and a pot/knob, and also a digital one.
And color codes 0-9, lighting colored bulbs.

kevinfilteau (author)HARaaM2010-12-26

Great idea. Maybe in the next version with a microcontroller.

TheMonkeyMan (author)2010-12-26

would be awesome if it made loads of freaky sounds

Haha! No sound please. And he doesn't like too much think that make loud or noisy sounds anyway.

bastion72 (author)TheMonkeyMan2010-12-26

Except if you're the parent. Then all of a sudden the box wouldn't work anymore.

kevinfilteau (author)2010-12-26

Back from Christmas parties. My son really loves his box. And play with it with attention and curiosity. I didn't find all of the function yet. So many hours of fun to come.

I show the buttons box to friends and family and they like playing with it too! It's a really fun and relatively simple project to build. And to play with it too.

Thank you all for your comments and your appreciation!

DavidKaine (author)2010-12-26

Oh My God. This would have been my dream toy when I was just a young'n, and I would have made good use of it when it came to my later years when I started experimenting with electronics and building projects. I'm certainly going to keep this in mind for when I have a child/children of my own. I'll also make sure to design it in a way (using a breadboard, connectors, etc...) so that it can be repurposed as s/he grows older.

MROHM (author)2010-12-26

You have a nice layout here!! I could have not done a better job here! I hope your 2 year old enjoys the button box!

MROHM (author)2010-12-26

What a awesome project!! Many moons ago I installed a 2 LED flasher and a SIREN in my son's fire truck. He played with his fire truck for hours!! I installed the flasher at the rear of the truck and the siren at the bottom of the truck. I wired 4-9 volt batteries in parallel for more current output. The only problem was that my son wore out the pushbutton switch that triggered the siren( I changed it 3 times!!!) Anyways he had FUN with the FLASHER/SIREN for hours.

AT (author)2010-12-26

Put a chair behind it and you could fly a star ship with that thing! Awesome. I don't know it if would be more fun to play with it or to build it. Great instructable.

Azayles (author)2010-12-26

This is absolutely fantastic, and a great look back on a long ago (but by no means forgotten!) childhood!
When I was a kid I had a giant wooden chest made from MDF to put toys and stuff in, and I cut loads of dials and pretend switches from cardboard to stick on the top so I could pretend the box was a great big machine :P This 'Ible is a wonderful reminder of days gone by, and a marvellous idea on how to revisit the past and make a great big box of buttons and switches that actually works! :D

Gonna hit up Maplin as soon as I'm able and just go crazy with switches, lights and bits of wire.
Thank you for a great instructable, and a wonderful and precious dip into a long ago memory.

maxglitz (author)2010-12-26

You've brought back the fondest memories of days when imaginations didn't require too many things. One of my neighbor playmates' dads built a flat-sided plywood teepee shaped thing that was supposed to be a rocket ship. Single round windows on each of the four sides. He loaded it with all kinds of switches and dials that did absolutely nothing. But to us, we were blasting off into space. This was in the 50s. Nobody had walked on the moon yet.

buckskinben (author)2010-12-23

I had one of these as a kid, although it was not as complicated as this one.

Biggsy (author)2010-12-22

I would have loved this when I was younger... or even right now.... I remember sitting in the back of the car on long car journeys pretending to flip switches in the back of the car as if i was in a spaceship... Would have loved something like this then

Lance Mt. (author)Biggsy2010-12-22

I'm going to make one for myself, but rather than a box, a panel of some sort. Not too large, but large enough... For what i don't know.

Biggsy (author)Lance Mt.2010-12-23

Awesome... post some pics and let us see how it goes!

lemonie (author)Biggsy2010-12-23

I would have said the same but you got there first.


Revan_Taros (author)2010-12-22

can i put that on layaway?

kevinfilteau (author)Revan_Taros2010-12-22

Hahah! It's not so expensive for the parts if you made it yourself. About 100$. But much in time, about 25-30 hours. And these are much more expensive!

lenhumbird (author)2010-12-22

How would you make a puzzle out of this? You know, like a Rubics Cube, with a specific solution, and an intrinsic prize for solving it, like a slot for bacon?

kevinfilteau (author)lenhumbird2010-12-22

A this time is not much like a complex puzzle. But like I tell earlier, I plan to make another one with a microcontroller. When my kid will be much older, maybe he will want a more complex box.

Revan_Taros (author)2010-12-22

don't let him take it to an airport...

kevinfilteau (author)Revan_Taros2010-12-22


jeff-o (author)2010-12-22

Very cool. I should build one for my kids, too! Then maybe they'd stop touching the buttons on the TV and stereo...

Screamo (author)2010-12-22

i luv buttons xD

chouf (author)2010-12-22

my son would LOVE it; he's also a "button-man", dryer, washing machine, camera, PC, anything that can be pushed or pressed is a potential toy ;-)

MrGreggan (author)2010-12-21

This is a great toy you're making for your son! My dad also made something similar for my brother & I when we were kids. It became all manner of things... The control panel for a rocketship, a computer keyboard (this was in the mid-60's), music machine, etc. We have very fond memories of that box, which I'm sure your son will also.

MrGreggan, you have the wrong last name, since it was MY father who built a rocket ship, music machine, button box... ! I really dropped my jaw when I read your lines. It sounds like exactly the same machine! Dads are great :)

Mike73 (author)2010-12-21

Awesome project. What a pitty my little one is already 8 years old.
But I really like this. I have to keep this in mind.

kevinfilteau (author)Mike732010-12-21

If my son continue to love playing with this kind of stuff, I'll plan to make a box with more functions with a microcontroller : ) Adult will like much to play with it too : )

Mike73 (author)2010-12-21

Wow. What a mess. Lol :-)
I know this from when I do electrical stuff, too.

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