MAKE Magazine's Jeff Highsmith wanted to build his 4-year-old son an interactive model of an Apollo spacecraft. The result was the surprisingly complex play area seen here – but to really appreciate the thought and effort that went into this project, you really must watch the making-of video. Seriously, this'll blow you away.
It has a control panel full of interesting displays and whiz-bang space sounds. A joystick controls lights and sounds for the engine and thrusters. The payload bay has a motorized hatch and contains a robot arm that can be remotely operated over video feed to deploy payloads like toy satellites. Headsets provide an audio link between the spacecraft and Mission Control in the other room, so my sons can practice collaborating on their space missions.
The creativity at play here is just so impressive (I mean, using a kitchen cutting board as an LED diffuser for the status panel? Genius!), and Highsmith's meticulous documentation process makes the assembly an absolute joy to watch. Repeat viewings are encouraged.
The video up top covers most of the play area's features, but there are many more details (and photos) to be had in Jeff's project writeup, over at MAKE.
H/t Laughing Squid