Electronic devices and toys are everywhere. How parents feel about them covers a huge range of thinking. Many people fall somewhere in the middle – they want their children to have the necessary technology skills for today’s world but they don’t want them dependent on electronic devices as their sole source of entertainment.
We are often asked to suggest the best non-electronic toys for children. The list presented here represents some of our personal favorites to encourage creative play for a variety of ages. As always, good judgment needs to be used for very young children who may not be ready to play safely with some of the items listed.
• Books. And by this we mean the old fashioned ones printed on paper. There’s a place for e-books, but not on this list…….
• Puzzles. Puzzles can cover ages from toddlers to adults. Start with simple puzzles and help your child work their way up to more challenging ones. If you have the luxury of keeping a puzzle table set up, it’s a perfect family activity. Working on a puzzle together allows for some great conversation time with your kids where they have your full attention. Consider starting a “puzzle exchange” with other families to keep your supply fresh without a lot of expense. Another idea is to donate puzzles you are ready to part with to senior centers. Senior adults are often encouraged to do puzzles as a simple way to maintain physical and mental dexterity.
• Wooden blocks. Don’t skimp and buy a small set. While they can be pricey, they’re an investment in hours of play and will last for years. Blocks can teach a lot about cooperative play, overcoming design challenges, basic engineering skills, and simple physics principles.
• On a similar note….Legos and Duplo type building toys. In addition to the skills already mentioned for blocks, these types of building toys help improve fine motor skills.
• Balls. So many sizes and so many possibilities. If you’re aiming for indoor play with balls, looks for spongy materials or very soft inflatables. If you have a safe outdoor space, the sky is the limit. Literally.
• Anything with wheels. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, vans – anything that can be pushed or rolled will do.
• Clay or play-doh. These materials allow for a lot of creativity and provide an excellent release for little fingers that need to keep moving.
• Sets of toy animals or other small figures. These can be played with alone or incorporated into block play.
• Crayons, paint, markers, and various papers and other art supplies. Open-ended art allows children to explore different materials. Not everything created has to be a keep-sake. The act of exploring the materials is valuable too.
• Musical instruments. Simple musical instruments that are child sized can generate parades, concerts, and solo performances.
• Dress-up clothes. Keep your eye out at thrift shops for Halloween costumes, dance recital outfits or other child sized hats, clothing and accessories. Children of all ages love a chance to be someone else.
• Basic board games. Classic board games have stood the test of time. Many families regularly hold a family game night as a way to bring everyone together for good old-fashioned fun.
• Homemade toys. Hint- check Pinterest for some great ideas on how to craft some unique toys from inexpensive materials. If your child is old enough, they can create the toys themselves. Read through the directions with them and be sure you are ready to assist with any step that requires adult help, such as cutting something with a sharp knife.
Summer is a perfect time to make a commitment to some of these “throwback” toys that don’t require electricity or batteries. Spend a little time WITH your children introducing some of these and before you know it, they’ll be hooked. Enthusiasm is contagious……. Have fun!