What to do when you have a toddler who you'd like to empower with independence, but your light switches are too high? And what can you learn from the solution to this simple problem? I found out this weekend, when I solved this exact problem...

Us engineers frequently come up with complex solutions to simple problems. It's the "curse of knowledge." We do it simply because we can. Plus, working on something hard and succeeding makes us feel intelligent.

The Overly Elaborate Engineer's Solution

Like a typical engineer, I started thinking about adding a lower light switch, so my daughter could switch on the bedroom or bathroom light herself. However, I didn't want a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Children grow fast...

My next idea was to somehow integrate one of those pull-cord switches into the existing switch. No new holes in the wall needed, but this is getting tricky.

Simple is Usually Best

At some point I started searching the internet for ideas, and stumbled on a simple low-cost DIY solution. Their design won't work on our switches, but it blew all my ideas out of the water with its simplicity. 

Adapting it was easy. All I needed was a stick on hook, and a light stick with a ring at the end (which I made out of a paper clip). My daughter is thrilled to be able to switch the lights on and off. They've been going on and off all day. ;-)

I may replace the paper-clips with a more robust ring later.


For me, this was a timely reminder to stop trying to be clever. The simplest solution is usually the best.**

The second lesson is one of humility. I previously posted a video titled "Software developers, we need to have a chat about unnecessary complexity." in which I berated others about designing overly complex and painful to use software. I too, can fall into that trap, and come up with unnecessarily complex solutions myself (although mine pale in comparison to the ones I mentioned ;-) ).


** The simplest that does the task effectively.