Toddler Jukebox Requires No Quarters or Button Mashing

Ahh, toddlers. They’re as ham-fisted as they are curious. It’s difficult to have to say no when they want to touch and engage with the things that we love and want them to play with. [Shawn] feels this way about his son’s interest in the family Sonos system and engineered an elegant solution he calls Song Blocks.

The Sonos sits on a dresser that hides a RasPi B+. Using bare walnut blocks numbered 1-12, his son can use the Sonos without actually touching it. Each block has a magnet and an NFC tag. When his son sticks a block on the face of the right drawer containing embedded magnets and an NFC controller board, the B+ reads the tag and plays the song. It also tweets the song selection and artist.

The blocks themselves are quite beautiful. [Shawn] numbered them with what look like Courier New stamps and then burned the numbers in with a soldering iron. His Python script is on the git, and he has links to the libraries used on his build page. The Song Blocks demo video is waiting for you after the jump.

17 thoughts on “Toddler Jukebox Requires No Quarters or Button Mashing

    1. You are right that, generally speaking, rare-earth magnets *on their own* and kids don’t mix (hence the BuckyBalls magnet product being banned after at least one toddler died and thousands ended up in hospital after ingestion).
      In this case though, the magnets are glued into a block of wood that is too large to ingest. I’ve subjected the blocks to much more physical stress than a child could muster, and am confident that there is no material risk of a child being able to access the magnets. Many children’s products contain such magnets. A good comparison would be Tegu blocks. It’s all about how they’re used.

    2. Oh, grow up. Its obviously weak enough for the toddler to remove, and large enough that the toddler can’t eat it. What’s the worst that could happen? Oh No! He got the block stuck to the fridge with a piece of paper underneath!

      Great job on the music blocks!

      1. Thanks a lot! Re: the fridge – I was hoping so too, but it turns out that the magnets are too far into the blocks to attract strongly enough to really stick to a fridge. Only in combination with magnets in the drawer is there enough attractive force to keep it on. In retrospect, I could have used even larger magnets in the drawer and then put iron slugs in the blocks instead of magnets. But I already had some magnets kicking around so that’s what I used.

  1. Nice. My son would love that. He’d drive me mad with his choice of music though! Whilst the wooden blocks looks nicer, wouldn’t a picture showing what the song was be more appropriate for a toddler?

    I must get round to hooking stuff up with my Sonos. I’ve got a Connect that I used feed into my TV’s audio input. However my new TV detects the lack of video signal and cuts off the audio. A microcontroller-generated “what’s playing” video signal would do the trick. Nothing stopping me apart from finding the time…

    1. Hi Oxfred,
      That was my first thought too, but I really love wood blocks so that’s what I went with. I did think about putting the song titles or a picture on the blocks, but I also wanted to be able to easily change the songs up over time so numbering made more sense (I can change the songs purely in software). I’m pleasantly surprised that he’s learning the mapping pretty quickly. There are 12 blocks, and he definitely knows what songs correspond to at least half of them. This after about 2 weeks of use, and he’s 20 months old. I’ve also printed a sheet that shows the number to song title mapping, so as he learns to recognize letters and words, he’ll be able to consult that.

      Cheers, Shawn

    1. Hi Hirudinea,
      I chose walnut specifically because it’s a hardwood that wears well, so hopefully splintering won’t to be a problem (they’ve taken a beating already, and so far so good). I didn’t want to treat them with anything because, naturally, they do end up in his mouth from time to time.
      You’re right – he has pulled the drawer open a couple of times, so I’m going to rig up a bracket on the back to keep it closed.

      Cheers, Shawn

      1. I toddler-proofed a few of our kitchen drawers. The system uses a latch, that only unhooks if I hold a (fairly strong) magnet against the drawer front. Works a treat, but I just realize that might ironically not be the right thing in your case ;)

  2. Watching the different blocks being attached, I thought it would be fun to use powers of two and to teach math at the same time by having to select the right combination of blocks for a song. Every so often the block numbers could change while the song numbers remain constant so they have to keep doing math to get the music they want.

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