Cheap and Effective Light Switch Extenders for Kids


Introduction:

Cheap and Effective Light Switch Extenders for Kids

My wife and I see value in the Montessori style of education and are always looking for ways to incorporate some of those philosophies, such as an emphasis on independence and freedom within limits, into our son's daily life.

My son doesn't love dark rooms or hallways, and wants the lights turned on before he moves into those areas. Seeing an opportunity to teach independence by allowing him to turn on the lights, I built these dirt-cheap and super-easy light switch extenders.

The Results?
My son is super excited to turn on the lights by himself, and I watched him learn a new skill in only a few seconds.

Pro-Tip: Early and frequent reminders that the light switch extender is a tool and not a toy may help to reduce the number of spontaneous toddler raves in your rooms and hallways - enjoy!


Step 1:

Purchase the Materials - Under $4

  1. In this picture, the dowel rod has already been cut. The raw materials are typically longer.

Here are all of the required materials - all of which are commonly available at your local superstore or hardware store:

  • 3/8" diameter wooden dowel rod.
  • A pack of small screw eyes.

Note: You will need two screw eyes for each extender.

Step 2:

Collect the Tools

These are the tools I used:

  1. Measuring tape
  2. Hacksaw & Miter Box
  3. Drill & Drill Bits
  4. Sand Paper
  5. Needle-Nose Pliers

Step 3:

Cut & Prepare Dowel Rods

Cutting

  1. Determine the desired extender length that is right for your light switches.
  2. Use the hacksaw and miter box to cut the dowel rod(s) to the chosen length.

Note: Depending on how high off the floor your light switches are, and how tall your kiddo is, your target length may be different from what is shown in the picture. I chose a 12" length because I bought 36" long dowel rods, and maximized material usage - and my kid can still reach it.

Preparing

Using the sandpaper (or sanding block, or bench sander, etc.), sand the each end of each rod. This doesn't need to be a perfect job, just enough to smooth out any rough edges.

Step 4:

Drill Holes in Extenders - One End Only

  1. Determine the appropriate drill bit to use to match the screw eyes that you have. You might find this page useful. If you're not sure what the proper size is, favor a smaller size first, you can always make the hole bigger later.
  2. Drill the hole as close to the center of the rod as you can, and only as deep as you need in order to accommodate the threaded length of the screw eye.
  3. Test fit a screw eye, expand the hole if necessary.
  4. Repeat for all extender rods, but only on one end of each extender.

Step 5:

Attach the Screw Eyes

  1. It is easier to hook the second eyelet onto the first if you unscrew this one a little bit first.
  1. Install one of the screw eyes into the hole.
  2. Use a pair of pliers to bend the loop of this screw eye open, but only a little. Don't over-stress the metal.
  3. Hook another screw eye over the end of the loop that you just pried open.
  4. Use the pliers to "pinch" the loop of the first screw eye around the second.
  5. Repeat for all other extenders.

Step 6:

Drill a Mounting Hole in the Light Switch

Warning - Electric Shock Hazard

Please exercise caution and common sense when drilling into the plastic toggle on the light switch. The plastic toggle itself does not carry electricity, but components near it do. Even if the light switch is in the OFF position, there is still a live wire connected to the switch terminal. So, switch off the breaker(s) to these circuit branch(es) before you drill.

The Work

  • Using the same size drill bit as you used for the dowel rods (perhaps 1/64" larger) drill a single hole into the plastic toggle:
    • Position the hole as close to the center of the switch toggle as possible.
    • Drill straight into the toggle.
    • Drill only as deep as you need to accommodate the threaded length of the screw eye, no deeper.

Note: I installed 5 of these extenders throughout my house. When drilling into them, I discovered that some switch toggles seemed to be solid plastic (requiring more pressure), while others felt a bit hollow (requiring much less pressure). Keep this in mind when drilling. Favor light pressure on the drill so that you don't unexpectedly drill into the components of the light switch.

Step 7:

Mount the Extender to the Light Switch

  1. The plane of the screw eye is perpendicular to the floor - it "points" to the floor and ceiling.
  1. Simply thread the screw eye into the hole in the plastic switch toggle.
  2. Finish with the loop of the screw eye in a "vertical" orientation as shown. This gives the overall extender a cleaner push/pull feel than if the loop was horizontal.



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