Toy Workshop: Making simple battery operated toys switch accessible – anyone can!

By: Sharon August-Dalfen, OT 9, August 2017

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This week, at Beit Issie Shapiro, a small group of occupational therapists and speech therapists from the day programs gathered in the library to “play” in a workshop led by Frank Marciano, engineer, maker, father to a child with disabilities, and owner of ELI – Equipment for Life Improvement. The goal of the toy workshop was to learn to how assemble an electric adaptor to make simple battery operated toys switch accessible. Frank gave us an overview of basic electronics and off we went to play with our battery operated toys.

Toys Workshop

As an OT I am constantly on the lookout for engaging, purposeful, challenging and age appropriate toys. Even with the abundance of toys on the market this is not a simple task. Moreover, when certain toys are identified, they are frequently not accessible for children with disabilities. Subsequent to this workshop, if we wanted to modify a toy we would have to rely upon volunteers or pay a company to adapt it at a significant cost. Thanks to Frank, we can make these adaptors on our own and in a cost effective way. We were pleased and motivated to become independent in this task and are excited to make more toys accessible for our students.


Toys Workshop

The excitement began a few days prior when we sent each other pictures of potential toys. We all seemed motivated to come up with innovative toys and go beyond the obvious:  powered cars and dogs. As a group we succeeded in coming up with some original ideas. A battery operated bubble gun, a toy blender, and a singing bird were but some of the toys. A few of the toys we chose were more complicated and could not be adapted as simply, reinforcing that we still have much to learn.

bubble gun

Splice the wire, attach electrical tape, add a metal conductor…but make sure the wires do not touch!” – These were the beginning steps…a few more steps and finally, there we were inserting this “homemade adaptor” between the batteries in the standard casing.  Success! – With simple switch activation the toy was responsive. Noa Nitzan, who organized this workshop, immediately realized that we needed a basic “kit” for Beit Issie Shapiro, and soon we will have our own mini-electronic workshop.

As an OT, the diverse skills and talents required of me are never ending. Indeed, as I was fiddling with the wires, I was already wondering if I could save some money and DIY (do it yourself) the next time a fuse blows in our home (yes, this does happen frequently).  Frank made sure to remind us that we are just beginners and to stick to adapting toys. Thank you, Frank, for a fun and productive afternoon!

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