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Our 9 Favorite “Unplugged” Toddler Toys

Like most children in 2013, my son has been exposed to electronics. While I am not at all proud to admit it, over the past few weeks and months, he’s had more exposure than I’ve intended. It started with a single episode of Sesame Street a day. It was just a nice way for him to get some music, and counting and becoming familiar with the alphabet, and he just loved (and still does love) it. We still limit him to one hour a day of Sesame Street and aside from some occasional Sunday football, the TV is off during Eli’s waking hours.

But other technology began to creep in over time. First it was a single iPad game (Peekaboo Barn), then it was a few more, then it was free reign of an old iPhone, and before we knew it, our son was basically addicted to electronics. Because there’s good evidence that this isn’t great for developing brains, we’ve been on an electronics cleanse this week. We’ve been limiting him to using toys that don’t plug in or require batteries, and that he has to interact with directly. I’m not planning for this to be a lifetime ban, but it was clear that we needed to make a change.

After just a few days of decreased electronics time, we saw a big change. There were fewer tantrums, less strife when transitioning between play, and meals or sleep, and Eli is playing independently for greater durations of time. Even though it’s only been a few days, there are definitely a few toys that Eli has been especially fond of. These toys don’t cost nearly as much as their battery-filled counterparts and are almost all perfect for travel and public spaces because most of them are pretty quiet. A win-win.

  • 1 of 10
    Best unplugged toddler toys

    Click through for our favorite plug and battery free toddler toys!

  • Coloring Books 2 of 10
    Coloring Book

    No one is trying to reinvent the wheel here, but coloring books have been a huge hit with Eli this month. We thought he would prefer the big chunky crayons, but it turns out that we were very wrong, and that the skinny classics are his favorites.

     

    Buy this toy at Amazon for $6.99

  • Dots 3 of 10
    Dots

    So this is actually a homemade toy, but it absolutely saved us on a few cross-country flights this month. I took an old  soda bottle, emptied it and cleaned/dried it, and then filled it with multi-color pom poms from Michaels. Eli loves to put them back in (over and over), and we've even been working on some colors. The dots are super cheap, so we don't worry when we periodically lose a few.

  • Travel Doodler 4 of 10
    Travel Doodler Pro

    We originally bought this for our flight because it was clean and quiet, and now Eli just can't get enough. He can sit and play with this for 20 minutes at a time, happily coloring, scribbling, making dots, and then erasing, over and over. We got the travel size, and it's perfect for his little hands.

     

    Get this at Amazon for $10.04

  • Knob Puzzles 5 of 10
    Knob Puzzle

    It's taken Eli awhile to figure out how to put the pieces in right side up, and we still need to help a bit from time to time, but these animal puzzles are always a hit around here. Eli will take the pieces in and out, and identify the animals over and over.

     

    Get this at Amazon for $15.55

  • Lift-the-flap books 6 of 10
    lift-the-flap books

    Eli's great-grandma bought him this book in October, and I could never in my wildest dreams have imagined how much he would love it! He plays with it every day, has learned how to identify many of the items in it, and has learned a plethora of new words and sounds. Some days, we have to hide it for a few hours because he's so obsessed (books need naps too, trust me).

     

    Get this at Amazon for $8.99

  • Drum (and assorted musical instruments) 7 of 10
    Drum

    This is the only non-quiet one (it's also pretty big), but it's a major favorite these days. We like it because it's not just a drum, but it also has several other musical instruments that have letters and make a variety of fun sounds. Eli also likes to store some non-musical items in the drum when it's not in use.

     

    Get this at Target.com for $22.99

  • Toy stroller 8 of 10
    Toy stroller

    I really wasn't sold on getting Eli a stroller, but it is hands down his favorite. He loves to put his stuffed animals in it and push it all around the house. I like it because it keeps him moving, but it also encourages some pretend play, which is a new skill we're trying to foster a bit.

     

    Get this from Amazon for $16.20

  • Alphabet Blocks 9 of 10
    Alphabet Blocks

    We got these awhile ago, but they had fallen a bit out of favor until this week. Eli is newly very interested in letters and stacking, so these are a great way to tap into both of those interests. He can identify several of the letters already and is now stacking 6-7 of them (and then knocking them over!).

     

    Get these from Amazon for $14.39

  • Tip Truck 10 of 10
    Tip Truck

    When we were in Washington D.C. last week, Eli had the best time pushing around some "big kid" trucks, so we picked up this small push truck for him (we don't really have space for huge ones unfortunately), and he has been loving it. He likes to put various small toys in the bed of the truck and of course he loves to ram it into things. Especially bare toes.

     

    Get this at Amazon for $13.77

What are your favorite “unplugged” toys?

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