Kid-Powered Toys

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There are a lot of observable differences one can discern from a Montessori- or Waldorf-inspired playspace and the average (“21st century”) playspace, but the one that gets commented on the most for me is the lack of battery-powered (and, often, plastic) toys.

Ella has a few battery-operated toys: a viewfinder for her photography tray, a motorized car (purchased for a grandparent’s house with a big, hilly yard and unsafe street traffic), a singing teapot, a “drill,” and her light table. We’ve had many more come through our home, but they have either made their way to a grandparent house or have been given away. The reasons that these toys have not stayed include:

  • they are “entertaining” rather than engaging
  • they become boring after they become predictable
  • they are costly to maintain and many become useless if the power “dies”
  • they are over-stimulating and fixed at specific developmental levels
  • they are annoying (!!!)

Many parents would initially balk at this idea, seeing a lack of battery-operated toys as archaic and stubborn, but there is good research to back up the assertion that open-ended, “kid-powered” toys have more staying power and foster greater imaginations and independence skills. Battery-operated toys have been linked to shorter attention spans, lower emotional regulation, sensory integration delays, and language acquisition delays, amongst other developmental red flags. Surprising, given that many of these toys claim to be educational, or that many parents think that buying these toys will make their kids happy: the research is consistently showing that we are building children who are entertainment-dependent and less able to self-regulate and communicate by choosing these toys.

How do we opt out, or at least regulate the influx of battery-operated toys, to protect our children’s development? For my part, every Thursday (starting tomorrow) will consistently feature a review for a toy, learning product, or book, OR DIY project instructions. If you have a suggestion for a product or book that you would like to see either reviewed or DIYed, please drop me a line!

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