Looking for a beautiful and individually configurable MP3 player for my little daughter, I quickly came across the children's MP3 player called Hörbert (available at German Amazon-Store). A very nice device, well made and actually exactly what I was looking for - but a bit too expensive (about 200,- EUR / 230,- USD) for my taste.
So together with my wife I decided to create a very personal player. Ideas and influences from a previous project, which resulted in a beautiful Activityboard, helped us with the implementation.
Beside the sound chip (DFPlayer Mini ), which plays the MP3 files, I needed a small 2-watt loudspeaker, some cables, some old boards, an old trolley, a converter from 9 to 5 volts, a 9V battery, some paint and all sorts of small stuff, which you could screw to the finished music station as a toy. Finally I ordered some nice colorful buttons to choose the music tracks.
The result was a fragrant MP3 radio and toy which didn't even cost 50,- EUR (about 58,- USD). Further down you will find some more information about the implementation.
The principle is relatively simple and also the material costs are kept within limits. Here it is recommended not to buy everything again, but to search the cellar or the lumber room. Here you will often find old light switches, boards, shelves, handles or even toys that can be wonderfully reused.
The functionality is kept as simple as possible - 4 songs can be directly controlled via the 4 butterflies. Through the eyes of the sun the volume can be adjusted and more children songs can be switched through, which I copied to the 8gb SD card. As a small highlight on the back side a light switch was coupled with a small traffic light, which consists of 3 simple LED lights. A little color here and there - ready!
There are no limits to your own creativity.
Step by step - building instruction
Our version of the music and game station was based on a trolley from an old desk.
In addition 2 remaining shelves from an Ikea cabinet, and a few wooden dowels.
Use a jigsaw to bring the shelves to the right size, so that they can be used optimally as front and back. After cutting, smooth the edges with a little sandpaper.
Then holes are made on the front with a drilling machine. Insert and glue the wooden dowels into the holes.
Since the music player will later still be used for the technology and you may have to use it again and again (e.g. to change the battery), it is recommended to fasten the back a little differently.
I have decided here for 2 simple hinges from the DIY store to close from the back a door that you can open and close as needed easily. A small padlock prevents later unwanted access by the child and serves at the same time as a toy and design element.
In the next step a drawing was made on paper, how the corresponding front should look like later. In our case for the front: 4 butterflies and a sun. This will also be the control unit of the music player. The four butterfly heads as well as the two eyes of the sun are replaced by coloured buttons, over which the song selection can be made and the volume can be regulated.
The loudspeaker should be hidden under a small car, but we decided to adjust the plan again and place the loudspeaker under a small house.
Now drill holes for the buttons and a shaft for the loudspeaker. The parts are fixed from the inside with a hot glue gun (or other glue). The whole trolley was painted white with toy varnish and painted with some details.
The back consists in our example of a traffic light, a street and 2 cars. For the traffic light 3 LED lights were simply connected in series and connected with a light switch for switching on and off.
After painting it is recommended to seal the whole with clear varnish (toy varnish), so that the painting lasts longer. At the end a motoric loop was attached to the upper side of the trolley, which we bought on eBay for only 3,- EUR.
The children's MP3 player is now optically finished - only the interior is missing. Here it is recommended to first create a test circuit, fill the SD card with some songs and start a test run if everything works as it should.
A small circuit for controlling the titles was soldered together relatively fast. A corresponding circuit diagram can be found directly at the manufacturer in section 2 - AD Key Mode.
Only with the required resistors I had to improvise a bit and connect existing resistors in series and parallel to get the appropriate ohm values. You can find the corresponding formulas and calculators quickly if you ask Google, for example. 🙂
If everything works as it should, you can solder and install everything. I then fixed all the cables and the MP3 chipset inside with the hot glue gun so that nothing could slip back and forth on the device while playing. It doesn't look very pretty from the inside, but it shouldn't either. 🙂
Update 1 - external toggle switch for power supply
After some testing it turned out that the board draws a lot of current to convert the 9v voltage to 5V operating voltage even in standby mode.
This leads to the fact that the battery had to be changed relatively frequently.
For this reason I switched a simple toggle switch (on/off) between the positive pole of the battery and the board. I placed it on the bottom side, i.e. in the bottom right outside. There it is easy to reach but not visible.
So you can easily disconnect the whole device from the power supply. The lifetime of the battery has been drastically increased.
In addition, I led the control LED of the board to the outside and replaced this yellow LED with a red one. So you can always see at a glance whether the MP3 player is still switched on or not and if necessary you can operate the toggle switch.
Update 2 - Mounting bracket for padlock from 3D printer
Since the own child and also gladly times the child visit wanted to open the player, I had already mounted some time ago a small device with sliding wedge from wood. But since children are clever, they quickly found out how to get to the inside of the device.
Fortunately, I am now the proud owner of a 3D printer .
A holder for a padlock had to be found - said, done! 🙂
Since I still had a small padlock, I could measure the whole thing directly and create a design at Tinkercad.com.
All I had to do was export the design, start the 3D printer and wait (about 13 minutes) until the printing was done!
Conclusion and closing remarks
I am very satisfied with this self-construction. The sound quality is excellent, especially for children's songs, and the player is very easy to use. The circuit was designed so that a song is always played, and the player then switches off automatically - so interactive play should be possible and the battery should last some time.
It was a lot of fun to plan and realize this little project, and now to watch our daughter playing on her new MP3 Player radio . I think for hobbyists this is a great thing, which can still be rebuilt and extended as desired. Also extremely cheap!
Who has built his very own children's MP3 player, can also send me some information about the implementation and photos. I would like to present your projects to the readership here! 🙂
Product recommendation - MP3-Player for Kids
If you don't want to build your own MP3 player, you can simply order a children's MP3 player like Hörbert. Actually available for example at german Amazon-Store.
Spielzeug - MP3-Player für Kinder: hörbert - aus Holz! Tragbarer kindgerechter MP3 Player, mit Batterien und eingebautem Lautsprecher, Lautstärkebegrenzung und SD-Card. Besonders Robust für Mädchen und Jungen - sogar für Kleinkinder. Keine Kopfhörer und ohne Display. 9 Playlists.
- Wooden MP3 player suitable for children. Portable, with built-in speaker. Volume limiter can be switched on for sensitive ears. Without headphone connection for safety reasons.
- Immediately ready to play: 140 minutes of music and radio plays included. E.g. music from Sternschnuppe-Verlag or the radio play "Däumelinchen".
- Resume function: When the power is turned on, playback starts from the beginning of the last track played. Mechanical on/off switch. No pause function because of danger of confusion between "Pause" and "Off".
- Includes memory card for 17 hours of content (SDHC card, 4GB), including software for easy recording with Mac or Windows. Includes batteries (4x Mignon/AA batteries) and printed manual.
- Surface lacquered for easy cleaning with a damp cloth. Loudspeaker grille and screws are made of stainless steel. Manufactured in Germany.
hörbert is a portable music and radio player with great sound! The robust and beautiful wooden housing quickly makes it the darling of children, and the easy operation makes even the smallest children fun. To get you started right after unpacking, hörbert already contains more than two hours of music, radio plays and audio samples. Batteries and a memory card are also included.
How does hörbert work? Behind the coloured keys are several music titles or radio play chapters, which are 'zapped through' by pressing them several times. You'll be amazed at how quickly your child navigates safely through his or her collection of music and stories.
hörbert's content is stored on a memory card, on which you can play music and radio plays on your computer (Mac/Windows). You can also easily dub audio CDs. The supplied card has a capacity of 4GB and a repertoire of 17 hours. There are no moving parts inside hörbert, so our portable MP3 player is much less sensitive than most children's CD players, so hörbert continues to play unwaveringly when it's worn, or even when bouncing on the sofa. Fresh batteries last up to 50 hours of play at medium volume, saving you the hassle of changing batteries. You as parents will be particularly pleased about this long battery life.
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