Want a new craft that really brings the wow factor with some super easy circuit work for kids? Check out these adorable Circuit Bugs!
Jackson is really into circuits but after many years of using his Snap Circuits he was ready to move onto something different. I’ve been trying to find a way to get the boys more interested in crafts and after some research and inspiration from some fellow tinkers (Club Tinker on Facebook is a great community!), I came up with this super cool little activity that got a resounding “WOW” from the boys!
These cute bugs incorporate great fine motor and creative crafting skills, but also circuit work that will keep your older kids enthralled and challenged.
This is not an activity for little kids. Working with the circuits and batteries is something that should only be done under adult supervision and only by older children that can understand not to put anything in their mouth! It is also quite complicated, so I would say this activity is for 8 and up with lots of parent supervision and guidance.
To make your own Circuit Bug you will need:
2 LED Lights
Insulated Copper Magnet Wire
Batteries – CR2032 3V
Popsicle Sticks (Optional depending on your design)
Start by setting out your LED lights. You will notice one leg is longer than the other. The longer one is the positive pin. Before going any further test your LEDs by inserting the battery between the legs. If it doesn’t work, try turning the battery around. If it still doesn’t work try a different LED or battery. You want to make sure you have working parts right from the beginning because the chance of circuits being interrupted is quite high as you work through this project.
Cut your wire. I recommend cutting it a bit long and trimming it later to the final length. We started by measuring the length of the clothespin twice (or in the case of our dragonfly we went really long and doubled his length which included a clothespin plus popsicle sticks). Strip both ends of your wire, about 2-3 cm in length. You want enough for a good connection but not too much that you raise your risk of circuit interruption. My wire was quite thin so I did this with a pair of scissors by scraping the wire along the scissors. If you have a thicker wire you can use wire strippers if you have them.
Take your two sets of twisted wires and test them on the battery. Throughout the construction I recommend you keep testing the circuits. It is very easy to interrupt the circuit. At times I even secured the wires to the battery with a clothespin so I could ensure the work I was doing wasn’t interrupting the circuit.
This project will require some patience and trial and error.
After building your Circuit Bugs, up the challenge by building a potato battery!
The next step can be done a few ways. You want to attach the LED’s to the legs of the clothespin or onto popsicle sticks by having each leg on either side of the wood. This will help prevent the wires touching and causing a short. You can simply set the LED’s there and snug them on but if you want them more secure I recommend wrapping the pins onto the wood with electrical tape. If you are going to get shorts in your circuit this is where they are most likely going to happen.
You may also want to tape the wires against the body, or if you have lots of extra you can wrap it around the clothespin. Make sure to leave the extra dangling from the end so you can attach the battery.
Start building your bug! You can do this however you wish. We simply wrapped the pipecleaners around the clothespin to create the look we wanted. By bending and twisting the pipecleaners we were able to secure them and make quite a stable design. We went with a Dragonfly, Beetle Bug and Bumblebee.
As you build keep testing that circuit! I intentionally left the leads really long on the dragonfly to show the wires, make the wiring a bit easier on that one, and it worked with the look of that bug. I can always go back and trim those up, but for the purposes of our project I wanted variety and a chance to show off the wiring to my six year old in a very obvious way. He found it much easier to insert the battery into the dragonfly design. In the beetlebug and bumblebee inserting the battery is quite snug and was hard for his little fingers to do.
When you are completely finished building your bug it is time to trim the excess wire. I recommend you do both the negative leads first: trim then strip, then twist them back together. Then do the same on the positive leads. I didn’t do this one time and it was a pain trying to figure out which were my positives and negatives again!
Wrap the negative leads around one side of the clothespin end (the tight part that clamps shut), then wrap the other side with the positive leads. Make sure the stripped portion is on the inside. Then simply insert your battery to create life in your circuit bug!
If it doesn’t work, turn the battery around. If it still doesn’t work you will need to disassemble your bug to find the point where your circuit is being interrupted. Testing throughout the construction helps with trouble shooting.
They don’t have an on/off switch, so to turn off your bug simply remove the battery.
We had so much fun with these little critters. I hope you enjoy your circuit bugs!