Put a Bib on It

Batteries Not Included


Play doesn't require batteries! “The more a toy does, the less your child has to do.”

I remember reading a fabulous article on Wired a few years ago on the top five best toys of all time. The list was a comprehensive one: stick, box, string, cardboard tube and dirt. Despite the fact that I often hear folks joking about what a waste it is to buy a child a toy since all they want to do is play with the box, we’re all still guilty of buying them toys. A lot of toys.

And I honestly can’t help myself, sometimes, when I see musical benches or ridiculously cute baskets of fabric vegetables. But with Christmas right around the corner, I’m especially cognizant of not only how few toys Miss E actually needs (I’m not prepared to say she doesn’t need any, and that may make me a no-good terrible consumer), but what kinds.

Browsing the discarded toys at the consignment shop where I frequently buy her clothes, I feel like I’m in a blinking, buzzing, battery-operated graveyard. And I feel like there’s a reason the aisles are overflowing with these kinds of toys, and why I’m guilty of digging deep in bins to get to the good stuff: wooden blocks, shape sorters, puzzles, sets of felt animals. All too often the toys that claim to be educational or purport to teach my daughter how to say please, thank you and calculate for X are merely entertaining her, not engaging, not encouraging exploration, and certainly not giving her imagination much room to work.

Are noisy toys evil? No. Are they causing my daughter harm? Probably not. But are they necessary? I just don’t think so (and I’m not the only one). She has a picnic basket that plays music when you open and close it that she loves, and I’m contented to keep it among her collection for the little bouncy dance that follows every opening and closing of the lid. But she also dances when I sing or when we listen to music, and she makes her own music with plastic containers full of rice and rattles and bells. I don’t think she needs to push a button to learn cause and effect or bright, flashing lights to reward her curiosity. The world is reward enough.

Author: Jillian Kuhlmann

Mama. Nerd. Writer.

4 thoughts on “Batteries Not Included

  1. I totally agree with you, we as parents have the ability and right to choose what we want our children to learn when playing with their toys. We have always encouraged ethan to use his imagination and don’t let him play video games all the time or just sit in front of the tv. I have encountered this issue this year when looking for gifts for ethan. when trying to figure out what to get him for Christmas and I have decided to buy him a tablet. I did not want to pollute my childs mind with propaganda and having to have the latest technology but I see kids with ipads at the age of 3 and 4 and I ask myself wow aren’t they too young to be playing on these devices but then I realized what these kids can learn from them too. Ethan needs help with math and he is reluctant to just do flash cards so I think the tablet will help him with this and we will monitor his activity and what he plays and for how long. His imagination and learning how to use his brain and common sense things we will distill in him and hope this will help build confidence in math for him. So I agree the singing basket is a definite keeper (haha) and I will keep in mind what I read in your blog when trying to find that perfect gift for that perfect lil girl.

    • You’re doing the best thing you can just by being mindful and involved! Kids will be exposed to things and play with things that may not always be “perfect” and that’s okay. I also try to remember that a battery operated toy (or something like a tablet) for a toddler is a totally different experience than it is for an older child. Right now she just gets so much more out of simple manipulatives, so that’s what I try to give her. But like I said, she loves that basket! And we incorporate it into meaningful play, so 🙂

  2. I completely agree! I have discarded more then one noisy toy and my home is much more peaceful and my daughter avoids being over stimulated

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