The Silence of the Toys




Introduction: The Silence of the Toys

About: I've been an experimental high-energy physicist for 20 years (since I started graduate school in 1988). I got my BS in physics from UCLA, my Ph.D. at Caltech, and did a post-doc at UBC before moving to SLAC...

This Instructable was inspired by an article from one of my first issues of MAKE. It can be applied to just about any noisy toy, although the details are specific to this one.

We have an infant mobile (Tiny Love's "Symphony-in-Motion" with remote) which plays annoying-after-the-Nth-repetition electronic versions of classical music fragments, at either high or low volume. Since our daughter really enjoys watching the mobile, the obvious solution to our annoyance was to install a mute switch.

Step 1: Parts and Tools

You'll need one "electronic" component, and a few tools:

A subminiature SPST three-position switch. My lab has a drawer full of C&K 7203 switches, which is actually SPDT. For a slimmer SPST version, order the C&K 7103 (pictured) for a few bucks from Mouser, Allied, DigiKey, Jameco, or your favorite distributor. This switch has three positions -- the middle one is open-circuit, just what we want for blessed silence.

Triangular screw bits. Our mobile's case has some, really weird "security" screws with triangular recessions in the caps. I ordered a set of four bits from McMaster-Carr Industrial Supply (items 5941A11 through 5941A14).

A soldering iron, solder and flux. You will need to know how to solder already.

Step 2: Open the Case

If you can't open it, you don't own it.

Disconnect the mobile's armature from the control case, and unscrew the box from the side of the crib. Remove the batteries. Undo the four triangular screws connecting the two halves of the case.

Inside you'll see two wires connecting from the control board on the front half to the battery compartment on the back. Be careful when you open the halves, and especially where you set down the back half. If you stress those wires and break one of the solder joints, you'll have to fix it yourself.

The "volume switch" (a simple two-position SPST switch with three contacts) is also mounted on the rear half of the case, with three wires (red, white, and black) leading from it to the circuit board mounted in the front half. Again, be careful not to stress these wires or you'll have a much larger project on your hands.

Step 3: Remove the Volume Switch

Carefully remove the little switch from its recess on the rear case, and take out its molded plastic cover as well.

There are three leads connected to the switch: the red lead is for "high volume", the white lead is common, and the black lead is for "low volume". Keep track of these wires so you can connect them to the new switch (Step 4).

With your soldering iron, release all three leads from the switch terminals, and put the switch and its molded plastic cover aside. If you have a spare-parts bin, that's a good place for them. If not, consider this a place to start :-)

Step 4: Install the New Switch

With the plastic cover gone, the new switch should fit through the open hole with no trouble. The plastic tab that was holding the old switch in place may be in the way. If so, you can cut it off with a sturdy knife, grind it down with a Dremel, or even just break it of in stages with a pair of nippers.

Push the switch through the hole from the inside, and secure it with the large keyed washer and nuts included. I used both nuts on the outside to make sure the switch doesn't come loose over time.

Solder the white to the center contact. Solder the red (high volume) lead to the right-hand "contact. This corresponds to flipping the switch to the left, matching the icon printed on the case. Solder the black (low volume) lead to the left-hand contact, corresponding to flipping the switch to the right.

Yes, it is a bit confusing. The fourth picture below should make it clear what's going on.

Step 5: Verify Functionality

Before you screw up (the case), make sure you haven't screwed up!

Put the batteries back into the compartment of the back of the mobile, and turn it on from the front panel. With the switch in the "high volume" position, the music should start up pretty loud. Flipping the switch over to the "low volume" position should quiet it down some, but it's still there. Finally, putting the switch in its center, vertical position should turn off the sound completely.

If you don't have sound when you turn on the mobile, start troubleshooting:

-- Are the batteries installed correctly?

-- Is the green ON light illuminated on the front panel? If the red "remote" light is on, push the switch again.

-- Check the exposed contacts and solder joints. Use a multimeter to confirm continuity along the leads from the speaker through the switch. and check for continuity or open-circuit between the contacts when the switch is in each position.

Step 6: Close It Up

Once you've confirmed that your modification works as desired, you're finished. Put the two halves of the case back together, and re-mount the mobile wherever you had it. Now you can turn off the music whenever you want, preserving both your sanity and some small fraction of battery life.



    • Fix It! Contest

      Fix It! Contest
    • Creative Misuse Contest

      Creative Misuse Contest
    • Water Contest

      Water Contest

    23 Discussions

    Thank you! Developmentally, I think the "noise" is good for infants -- the stimulus helps their brains correlate different sensory inputs and build up the "pattern library" it needs to function. You may know that fussy or crying infants can be calmed rapidly (on the order of seconds) by very loud white noise (turn on a vacuum cleaner). I don't think they perceive this stuff as noisy or boring or repetitive, because they don't have the life experience to make those attributions. Unfortunately, we adults do have those perceptions, so ...

    untill you get to the age when you go clubing and regress back to the pac man era, going round in circles listing to repetative music an eating pills. its not all progress

    im no child psychologist but yes the music probably is a positive stimulus. That said i feel it should only be there if the child has chosen it to be! put yourself in the mindset of a baby and think how frustrating it would be to have a repetetive (and not v melodious) tune playing that you couldnt stop! if you want them to hear music play something good quietly in the background and stay there so u can see if the child likes it or not. that said Kelsymh seems to know the score so maybe im wrong!

    when I was much MUCH younger, I remember my Mom's use of the radio (playing country / western music) on most of the day and part of the night. Nothing against those that like that music, but this was one of the reasons I started listening to Classical when I was old enough to get my own records :-)

    My son is more receptive to actual music than cheap cop out fragments that are programmed in to these devices.

    Because the designers do not understand the needs of the parent. Most of these designers do not have their own children and it comes as a complete shock to them just how annoying that these gadgets are to parents when they are knackered and tired from several days of screaming baby and they expect you to put up with some cheap half tone piezo speaker ear piercing shrills of tunes that come out of whatever device that they have added music to... are akin to chalk on a slate blackboard. Boy, if I ever came in to power, my first mandate would be to fine these manufacturers for their past crimes against all parents. Well anyway, of the two people I have met that work in the toy industry, one is a sales rep and the other works in the packing department, guess which one is the parent out of the two...

    Better then fining them, would be to make them have to live for a full week with the toy going on in their house 24 hours a day. Maybe the design would change a bit then, eh? :-)

    Again, very detailed and nicely done. Reminds me of what I did to one of our old "ringing" telephones, years ago, when we would get late night/early morning callers (rotating shifts are horrid). There was a volume slide switch on the bottom of the phone, but it didn't turn the ringer off, just muted it somewhat from a ringing sound down to a dull thunking sound. So I opened the phone, found the "ring and tip" wires, and ran the ring wire through a simple on/off switch. No more thunking noise :-) But if I DID want it to ring, a click and it was back to normal.

    6 replies

    Years ago my father and his siblings shared a cottage as a result of a mis-guided will...relationships between them were to say the least-strained.  My uncle installed a telephone at the cottage without consulting my dad. (This was unheard of! "telephones were for the city only!" according to my dad.) Anyway, I thought I'd share my father's way of dealing with annoying telephone ringing. 1. utter obscenities at said phone, and mutter not so very nice statements about sibling. 2. rip phone from the wall. 3. open door that leads to the lake. 4. hurl said telephone to the depths of said lake.  Done.  No more bothersome ringing. 5. remember that small children have big ears and will repeat the story even when they turn into 53 year old grandmothers ;0)

    :-)    I remember my last "BELL" telephone,  I actually installed a "kill switch" so we could sleep at night (being my hours are a bit odd anyways).  Turn it off at night, and no ring.   Forget to turn it on in the morning, and no one bothers us all day LOL 

    Good idea.  Back in the 1960's there were no on and off buttons, and I forgot to mention that the phone was on a party line, so we got other peoples rings too

    Yes, I remember having a "partial" party line  (one other family on the line) and for awhile,  we had to listen for the "proper" ring....but that soon changed, as I remember installing a box that only allowed our ring through,  BUT I found out the hard way that an answering machine could NOT be hooked up to a party line LOL   I got some of the weirdest messages.....

    Thank you for your kind praise of my I'bles!

    What I've appreciated most about the site is how smooth and simple they've made the interface. I had documented my crib modification as a straight HTML page (using Emacs!), and turning it into an I'ble was quite easy. That gave me the incentive and desire to use I'ble to document other projects (and to complete projects in order to document them!).

    The positive feedback and support of the membership here has helped as well.

    Impressive Resume, too :-) Now I know whom to ask about that branch of physics when I have a question ;-)
    I mean, recently I started to read The Great Design: Particles, Fields, and Creation - by Robert K. Adair (have you seen the book?). But it is a little intense for me at the moment. I really need to brush up on my math skills again (not that I ever had any real skills in mathematics).

    Easiest way that I've found to turn the volume down.. Take case apart, find speaker and cover most holes with electrical tape. It will not silence the toy, but will make it much softer and appropriate for small children, as some toys are really too loud for such little ears (as well as annoyingly loud to Mom & Dad's!) This way, they still get to enjoy the music, but not at the horrid volume it was before. And you get less migraines! :)

    1 reply

    A simpler solution with that particular mobile is to put the switch in the middle (between high and low) and it results in no music. Sweet silence (except for the clacking of the mobile and giggles from the baby)!

    1 reply

    I'm confused... That's exactly what I did, as described in Step 1 and Step 5.

    The built in switch from TinyLove was a three-terminal two position, with ground on the center pin, and separate leads for high- and low-volume on the two end terminals. I replaced that switch with a three-position one, with the leads connected to the terminals in the same way. The center position of the new switch is off; the left- and right- positions correspond to the same high and low volume as before.