Household appliances become less mysterious when you take them apart. In older consumer electronics gadgets, you can often find a treasure trove of wiring harnesses that make the component connections more easy to decipher. The Disco Age was also the Golden Age of Wires. A 1970s Trinitron or VCR harbors an inner beauty. Modern multi-layer PCBs and highly integrated circuits are a black box of their own. The common VCR or an old hard drive is a wonderful starting point as they are full of electro-mechanical devices and actuators. They are also easy to find.
When an appliance dies, I remove the power cord, and I help guide the disassembly. For consumer electronics, a small assortment of screwdrivers will do the trick, as well as a set of small Torx wrenches for Apple products and cell phones. Remember to look under the stickers for hidden screws. Old laptops are especially fun, and don’t forget to check out all the LCD light distribution layers (but be careful with the small fluorescent bulb)
For more gadget flow, just let your friends at work know that you want their broken devices. I have received a steady stream of cameras and cell phones and even a big Ethernet patch panel.
The inner components are exciting for the kids as they are real toys. They can be reconstituted into objects of the imagination, such as SLAC@Home or a nuclear power lab.
At this point, your spouse is going to start getting upset. You’re on your own there. Good luck.