Preschool STEM Play: Computer Deconstruction

You know those activities that don’t exactly go as planned?  This is one of them.  Luckily it went the best way possible, into a totally engaging educational activity.  My daughter and I spent an hour pulling apart some computer parts, screw by screw and had an amazing STEM learning experience along the way.  I’ve got some tips for how to make your computer part tinkering session go just as smoothly. Keep reading for this week’s Love to Learn Linky, too. This post contains affiliate links.

Computer deconstruction is perfect preschool STEM play because tinkering with electronic parts helps kids develop creativity and problem solving skills.

Computer Part Deconstruction Supplies Needed

This project is really about using what you have available.  We went dumpster diving at the recycling center for some computer parts and came home with a keyboard, monitor and printer.  No actual computer, but still lots of fun parts.

Recycling Center Left Brain Craft Brain

You’ll need:

  • Computer parts (keyboards, monitors, computers, printers, etc.)
  • Screwdrivers of various types and sizes
  • Wire cutters
  • Pliers
  • Container to hold loose parts
  • Safety glasses / goggles


  1. Please do not work with CRT (cathode-ray tube) monitors.  These hold high voltages long after being unplugged and used and can be safety hazards without correct safety procedures.
  2. To ensure that any residual energy in the components has been discharged, unplug the equipment and let it sit for at least a day before opening and working on the parts.

Computer Parts Before Left Brain Craft Brain

Computer Deconstruction How To

There’s not really that much to it!  Just start taking stuff apart.  It helped to have a big table because these components take up a lot of space.  Also be sure to have a tray or bowls to catch small pieces.  You would not believe how many screws there are in a keyboard or monitor!

A little note here about age.  My daughter is 4 and totally loved this activity.  With some simple supervision, this makes a great preschool STEM activity.  Older kids will love doing it all by themselves.

Old Keyboard Play

The keyboard was a lot of fun.  Way more than we expected!  The first job was to pop the keys off…

Popping Keys Left Brain Craft Brain

Then we explored the insides, which were a total surprise to her and me.  Where were the standard circuit boards? The thin film circuits we found are the inspiration for some projects we have coming over the next few weeks.

Keyboard Insides Left Brain Craft Brain 750x750

What’s What Inside a Computer?

Unscrewing Circuit Boards 2 Left Brain Craft Brain

Then came the monitor deconstruction.  I got a lot of “What’s that?” type of questions in this part.  And honestly, I didn’t know the answers.  Umm, it’s a thingamabobber with a widget attached. (I’m a chemical engineer not an electrical engineer!) So I went to Google and found this awesome Electric Component Guide from uCHobby to help answer her smart questions.  Print it out and then play a game of match the part.

Circuit Board Closeup Left Brain Craft Brain

How to Have a Successful Computer Tinkering Session

Tinkering is an amazing thing, especially in little kids.  Its open ended nature helps them experience true creativity and learn problem solving.  And it really doesn’t take much to have a successful tinkering session because kids are natural explorers. Success comes from a state of mind, not from stuff.

Peeking in the Monitor Left Brain Craft Brain

Some things to bring along for a successful computer part tinkering session:

  • Curiosity – Exploring, testing, trying, questioning, learning is what this is all about.  Curiosity is the energy that drives this engine!
  • Time – Don’t rush these sessions.  Sometimes the coolest moments come once the kiddos are comfortable with the materials.
  • Something New, Something Old – Although my daughter will tinker repeated with old stuff like nuts and bolts, sometimes the new things bring about the most excitement.  She had never seen inside electronics, so the curiosity kept her intrigued.  But it was the tried and true screws and screwdrivers that kept her going without frustration.
  • Questions – Get the kiddos thinking about what they’re doing with some open ended questions like:
    • What do you think that part does?
    • How could you make it easier to take apart?
    • How would you sort the parts?  Try it! (i.e. by color, size, etc.)
    • What was the most surprising part of the component? The process?

More Computer Part Play

Jacquie from KC Edventures shared a fun computer part activity in last week’s Love to Learn Linky.  Make Your Own Robot anyone?



60 Day Junk Play Challenge

60 Day Junk Play Challenge

I was inspired to play with old computer parts by a really cool series called the 60 Day Junk Play Challenge.  It’s hosted by Best Toys 4 Toddlers who was inspired to find toys for her kids everywhere but the toy store.  Click on over for ideas to make the most of your recycling bin!

Science, Tech, Engineering, Art, and Math Fun for Kids

Looking for some more STEAM inspiration that use can use right now? Instant gratification style? Check out STEAM Kids: 50+ Hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Math Hands-On Projects for Kids ebook! It’s packed full of a year’s worth fun learning activities that will wow the boredom right out of your kids.

Love to Learn Linky

Now it’s time for some more links! I hope you’ll join us for a fun and educational linky party. Bloggers, share your posts every Thursday and watch as we round them up and share them all over the place. Almost anything goes, we’re just hoping your activities teach kids (or us!) something (science, art, cooking, behavior, crafting, parenting etc…).

The Love to Learn Linky is hosted by:

Love to Learn Linky Features

Here’s what my Love to Learn Linky co-hosts are sharing this week:

18 Non-Traditional Easter Egg Hunts for Kids || One Time Through

And now it’s time for the links!

[inlinkz_linkup id=511876 mode=1]

21 thoughts on “Preschool STEM Play: Computer Deconstruction”

  1. This is quite an interesting activity. My 3 year old would love to do this. Let me fish out some old electronics and see if they can be tinkered with! Thanks for the idea!

  2. I really loved the idea of this activity as I think my 2 little boys would enjoy doing this together. After mentioning it to my parents they were concerned about exposure to toxins. Is this a valid concern with computers these days?

    1. leftbraincraftbrain

      Hi Erin–

      Toxin exposure is not nearly the concern that it used to be in CRT televisions where it was very dangerous. I was not concerned, however, please decide what is best for you and your little ones.

  3. This really inspired us Anne! We had recently picked up a make your own robot book from the library and we decided to take apart some old cell phones to look for parts for our robots. So much fun!

  4. Oh this looks like such fun, but how did you handle the power risks in the monitor and the heavy metals in the computer bits? I’ve always wanted to do projects with a monitor but as an adult the warnings about the power they can hold for so long has always scared me off. Is there some way of knowing the power is discharged?

    1. leftbraincraftbrain

      That’s a really good reminder! We did not work on a CRT, but a flat panel LED display which doesn’t hold the voltage that a CRT does. I would not recommend working on a CRT due to the high voltage or the heavy metal exposure without detailed instructions on how to stay safe.

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  7. I am so excited. I just replaced my old keyboard and I remembered your post! I can’t wait to tinker with it with my 5 year old daughter! I have a feeling the old keyboard will be more colorful and glittery than in it’s “normal life”! Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. leftbraincraftbrain

      Have fun! Did you see the other post that has 8 ways to play with an old keyboard? We went a little keyboard overboard :)

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