Los Alamos Makers Make Switch-Adapted Toys For Carrie Tingley Children’s Clinic

A CoderDojo student adapts one of their toys to give to a kid in need. Courtesy photo

CoderDojo Los Alamos

As a matter of business, toy makers tend to make toys to sell to the widest possible audience. For kids who don’t fit that demographic, there are few and expensive options for independent play. To add to that burden, toy drives – community efforts to provide toys to needy kids – overlook these kids who need toys the most. This is why we decided to adapt off-the-shelf for those kids for the holidays.

First, we reached out to Carrie Tingley Children’s Clinic to see what kind of toys kids wanted. After we had the wish lists, we looked for pre-made adaptive switches, but they are cost-prohibitive and rarely in stock. CoderDojo Los Alamos students helped design a button that could be 3D printed for pennies and eliminate our dependence on that supply chain. The next part we needed were 3.5mm “headphone” audio cables. This is the standard connector for switch-adapted toys so kids would be able to use our buttons on their switch-adapted toys and vice versa. Because wired headphones are an obsolete technology, these wires are kind of expensive. For the toys, we raided thrift shops and our kids’ toy chests, but as introverts, we struggled to get the word out for toy donations. Fortunately, some local toy drive organizers came to our rescue and let us dig through their donation boxes for switched toys.

Even Santa showed up to adapt toys. Courtesy photo

We started building toys at the beginning of December and were able to make 30 toys by our deadline The biggest challenge was figuring out how to connect our buttons to the toys. Stuffed toys required opening stitches to find the buttons buried inside. Hard plastic toys required drilling or cutting a hole to route the headphone cable. The process could take over an hour. What made it especially tedious was that every toy was different, and so were the processes to adapt them.

Our box of adapted toys. Courtesy photo

On December 21, 2022, we delivered the toys to Carrie Tingley Children’s Clinic where they were immediately a big hit. These kids finally got what typical kids take for granted: toys made for them.

This project was organized by CoderDojo Los Alamos and Los Alamos Makers. To see more projects we’re working on to make a positive impact in our community, visit https://CoderDojoLosAlamos.org/making-for-good.