Project ::Deconstruct Monitor

My mom was cleaning out her basement and came across my husband’s ancient computer monitor, and for some crazy reason she didn’t want it. So she asked my sister to deliver it to my house…which is over 300 miles away!! What a good sister. But guess what? We didn’t want it either!

So, this big ol’ dusty tan hunk of Apple history became the perfect toy to deconstruct…with grown-up help because it turns out that monitors have tricky pockets full of icky stuff that can be deadly if messed around with in the wrong way. Lucky for us, my more-tech-savvy-than-me husband was up for the challenge!

Capacitors are Dangerous

Capacitors are dangerous. This you need to know. Our monitor was in storage, inactive, for about ten years so there was very little chance of being shocked by a charged capacitor. However, you have to be smart and can read more about it the truth of cathode ray tubes (CRT’s) and shock danger here if you’re interested in carrying forward in your own similar take-apart project.

If you decide to try this at home, with kids or adults, there are some warnings you should heed.

See the end of this post for a list of suggested items for take-apart tinkering.

project ::deconstruct monitor

After reading up on the dangers of endeavor, we decided that we’d only take Project Deconstruct Monitor so far before it would find itself at the town recycling center.

I’m not an advocate for anyone getting hurt, so use your best judgement and do your research, folks.

Tips for taking apart machines

  • unplug your machine
  • stay away from CRT’s (I know, we didn’t follow that advice — be smart)
  • wear goggles (again — be smarter than we were!)

project ::deconstruct monitor

Before the monitor met its fate, we brought out some tinkering tools to explore with: scissors, screwdriver, and flashlight. And N loved it! She got her hands right into the wires and asked loads of good questions. It was really fun for all of us to see exactly what was inside a monitor.

project ::deconstruct monitor

N got her flashlight out to get a closer look at the circuit boards, wires, and metal housing pieces.

project ::deconstruct monitor

And she even got to give the screwdriver a spin or two.

After this, my husband carted the whole thing off to be recycled by professionals, and suggested that next time we take apart a simple keyboard or mechanical clock. Agreed!

Aside from being on edge about safety, this was a great project for matching my child’s interests (she’s taken note of other deconstructed computers lately), supporting curiosity, encouraging exploration of the unknown, and giving her a more intimate understanding of the inner-workings of our computers. Who knows, she may be a computer scientist one of these days!

Good objects to take apart

  • sewing machine
  • clocks
  • bicycle
  • toys
  • toaster
  • old fashioned telephone
  • typewriter
  • fax machine

Tinkering with KidsIf you or your child likes to take things apart, check out this book, Unscrewed: Salvage and Reuse Motors, Gears, Switches, and More from Your Old Electronics. Bonus: The table of contents contains an inspiring list of take-apart objects to get the ideas rolling.


  1. This is Great! My Father would be proud! His favorite gifts are broken things! My brother once gave him some broken clocks for a gift (really)! he grew up tinkering…He still Loves to fix things…not computers! My other brother is a computer repairman!
    N is going to be an engineer or something of that nature since she has such a fascination of things like this!
    This is a Great story! I will have to think about what he have deconstructed lately?

    • ha! so your brother could probably tell me what all those doo-dads are actually called! you and your brother must make your dad so proud 🙂

  2. On my list of things to do! Glad you found out about the safety hazards – I’ve been meaning to let Henry take apart SOMETHING – just gotta find that thing.

    • i know what you mean. we’ve been purging junk from our house and i don’t have anything i’m willing to part with. i’ll be on the hunt too!

  3. For Mother’s Day I got to do all the things I wanted. We took the kids for a morning hike. When we came home we set up a tinkering box. We sat out on the lawn and the kids worked on taking apart an old phone. Then I rushed off for a kidless lunch with my Mom and Grandma. What a perfect day. And I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE our tinkering box!

    • what’s not to love when the tinkering gives mom a much needed break?!? and now i see that i need a tinkering box too! and great photo — thanks for sharing!

  4. Great project! My four year old son just finished a homeschooling class at our local co-op where he got the chance to do just this. Every week he helped other kids take apart old computers, game consoles, cell phones, stereos, etc. He had a great time de-constructing with the “big kid” tools, smashing things when he could, and seeing how things worked. An awesome learning experience.

    • Wow, Acacia! What an amazing class for a four year old! I can think of a lot of kids who would love that.

  5. Love this post!

    We took apart a kettle a while back, then made it into something new… enter glue gun fun! Wrote about it here if you fancy having a look.


    We now have a tool kit for the children to tinker and take things apart. It is tricky finding old ‘machines’ worthy of a good old investigate though. Old clocks and carpet sweepers are good ones. And old cassette tape players. We are always on the look out for them!

    • LOVE this photo! Look at the focus! You’re so right — for months now I’ve been scratching my head over what we can take apart, and now I see that I should consider poking around second hand stores or freecycle.

  6. This deconstructing is surely constructive for her curious mind bubbling with questions!
    Pari is always taking something apart. Though she has inclination for art, it looks to me as though her real passion lies in gadgets and technology..! Phew!

    • Same here Rashmie! Our kids probably have a lot in common.

  7. We did just this – taking apart an old radio – a couple of weeks ago. My 4-year old really enjoyed the entire process and still keeps all sorts of spare parts in his everything goes box and plays with them from time to time. The hardest part was to find a non-working gadget to take apart! Took me a few trips to the local flea market.

    • Ha! This seems to be the issue that we all share around this project. Someone would make a lot of money if they’d just open up a store 🙂

  8. We spent our morning taking apart an old cassette player and a very simple digital clock. $5 at the thrift store yielded about 2 hours worth of focused work and inquiry. I mostly loosened screws for my 3.5 year old, then he did the rest. So much fun!

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