Bringing Down The Volume On Electronic Toys

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Confession is good for the soul, right? Many years ago I was a sound engineer for children’s noisy books. Now that I have three kids of my own I finally get why parents weren’t so excited when I showed up with freebies for their kids. I understand, really. In the interest of redemption, I am sharing a method for safely and permanently bringing down the volume on these devices.

In yesterday’s post about electronic toys many of you explained that your biggest beef was the noise. I know that lots of parents cover the speaker grille with tape, but if you have younger kids in the house then that could pose a safety hazard, or maybe your older kid will just figure it out and take you back to square one.

Here’s the deal: when I was involved in the design of these things there was no standard for volume levels. The rule of thumb was to make them audible for suggested usage, but salespeople always encouraged us to make them loud enough to cut through the noise level in a big-box retailer. Beyond frayed parental nerves, I always worried about little kids who might hold the speaker right up to their ear, boombox style. I’m not sure if things have changed in the last decade, but if you want a compromise between tossing your noisy toys or resigning yourself to the volume then here’s an easy fix.

  • Locate the speaker housing. Sometimes these are easy to open but generally manufacturers conceal access for purposes of aesthetics and safety.
  • Find a way to get to the speaker. If the sound module isn’t screwed into place then it’s likely affixed with adhesive. Gently pry it off of the book or toy without disrupting the battery contact. Don’t worry, you’re not undoing anything that isn’t easily redone.
  • Remove the back of the module and locate the speaker. You will be shocked to discover such a dinky little object behind all of that racket.
  • The volume can be permanently reduced by taping the interior of the speaker cover. If the device is way loud then go for duct tape, or make a smaller adjustment with blue tape. Because the batteries are still connected you can put the cover back on to test results before reassembling the toy. Get the exact adjustment you want by layering, and if covering the back of the speaker grille is insufficient you can layer tape on the speaker itself.
  • Once you achieve the desired level put the module back together and reattach. Hot glue is best, just remember to use a low temperature glue gun on plastic.

Now enjoy the relative silence.