Thursday, 24 March 2016

Make a Techie Mother's Day Card

A talking card makes a perfect gift for Mother's Day. You can record a personalised message to say thank you for everything.

Tech Age Kids ran a Mother's Day workshop recently where kids made creative Talking Cards for their Mothers. Why don't you try make one at home.

Also See: Moving Mother's Day Card with littleBits

In this post we used a BeeBot Electro Mat as our recording device. We've picked up a few from eBay and it turns out they make fab voice recording devices for young kids. If you can't get your hands on one of these devices, we've suggested some alternatives to record a personalised message.


You will need:

  • Paper cardboard to make the base of your card - we used to pieces of A4 sheets to fit the 30 cm x 30 cm board
  • Decorative items to decorate the card. 
  • A craft cutter to cut out paper designs and your play buttons. 
  • Scissors, glue, pens, pencils and sticky tape
(Paint and bulky decorations don't work well with this craft activity)

Finally you need a device to record your message. We used a BeeBot Electro Mat as our recording device which requires 4 AA batteries.

What are BeeBot Electro Mats?

BeeBot Electro Mats are plastic mats that go under floor mats used by the older version of the BeeBot robots. Each set comes with a control box which can be used to make 4 short sound recordings. The sounds are then triggered when a BeeBot drives over the corresponding sensor.

The BeeBot's must have a replacement magnet door to trigger the sensor which contains a reed switch. The control boxes work with the older battery operated BeeBots so they are now cheap to pick up on eBay in the UK.

(You can also trigger other outputs such as lights and motors with the control boxes but we didn't need to do that for this project.)

The BeeBot Electro Mats act as a simple introduction to hardware control for young children. The control boxes can run on batteries or be connected to a power supply.

An alternative would be to use an Arduino or Raspberry Pi board and connect reed switches and speakers and write some code. But the control box allows a younger child to be much more independent with the project.

Another option would have been to use push triggered individual voice recorders which are used in soft toys, such a Talking Gift Tag available at Amazon UK or a bulkier alternative Heart Shaped Message Recorder available at Amazon USA.

How to Record a Message

QUICK FACT: The reed switch is an electrical switch operated by an applied magnetic field. The switch is actuated when a magnet is brought close to the switch.
Recording the sound is easy. You just hold down a button on the control box until a light flashes and then speak while holding the button down. The sensor cables are all colour coded so it's easy to check for the corresponding trigger point.

The sound volume is pretty good if you speak clearly and close to the microphone. It's not high quality, but that's fine for this project.

The recording is played back using a magnet. A reed switch in the sensor is actuated with the magnet.

How To Make the Card

Make the Base

Start by making your base card. Fold the two A4 sheets together to make a folding card.  Overlap the two sheets to fit the 30cm base and stick together with glue. Cut off any excess card.

Prepare the play buttons

Use a craft cutter or scissors to cut out play buttons for the card. These correspond with the coloured wires on the device, so you will need Black, Red, Green and Yellow.  This makes it easier for the child to know where they are recording their message on the card.


Now let the kids get creative and decorate. We put out lots of decorative items, pens, pencils and crayons on the table and let the kids decorate as they wish.

Record your message

Open your card and fix the left side of the card to the left side of the mat.  Now glue on the play buttons to correspond with the speaker areas on the mat. Clip the sensors of the recorder device in place on the rear of the mat. Make sure you match the colours.

Make sure your device has batteries. It requires 4 AA batteries and the cheap options work perfectly for this project.

Have fun recording four separate voice messages for the card. The time is only about 7 seconds, so have a think and practice of what you'd like to say.

Make a Wand

You need a magnet to playback the recording. We used the BeeBot battery door (already in the kit) to make a flower wand.  You'll need a flower shape cut out of card, a wooden lollistick, decorative items and sticky tape.

Stick the lollistick to the battery door with sticky tape and stick this to your flower shape, decorate. Hand the wand to your mother, to playback her messages.

Happy Mother's Day

We've already had Mother's Day in the UK, so here is the lovely card I received, made by my young boys - heart melting stuff, I say!

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