Technology is great, but when it come to younger children, it has not-so-great aspects, including the creation of ecowaste, negative effects on children’s attention spans and problems associated with social media use by preteens. And, less importantly but of more immediate significance, the hunt for the right size of battery or the misplaced charger.
If you’re looking for old-school, no-tech gifts for kids or grandkids, here are some great suggestions with old-school prices as well. (An important note when shopping for young children: Always take note of the suggested age ranges on the product, since some toys contain small parts that pose a choking hazard.)
Toddlers are among the hardest age to buy for, and parents and grandparents often choose gifts with (literal) electronic bells and whistles, but there are alternatives. Because young children’s motor skills are still developing, it’s important to pick gifts that won’t be frustrating, and safety is paramount. That’s why this soft bowling set is a great choice: The large foam balls and pins aren’t dangerous if wielded as weapons, and they won’t make noise or damage items if used (or thrown) indoors. This adorable wooden bowling set with monkey and giraffe “pins” is another option.
Construction toys like Legos, Duplos, wooden blocks and TinkerToys are among the most popular toys in every day care, preschool and kindergarten. (Budget-friendly tip: Legos and Duplos often show up in resale shops catering to parents.) For very young children, wooden ABC blocks help develop motor skills as well as letter recognition.
Similarly, tangrams were among my children’s favorite activities and would keep them occupied for hours. The sets come with tiles in various shapes and colors; kids can use them to duplicate a pattern on a card or create their own objects and scenes. The pieces are usually too large to pose a choking hazard, although younger children would lack the fine motor skills needed to play with them.
There’s something about buying wooden toys that always makes us feel better than giving something plastic. This Amish-made wooden paddlewheel boat is powered by — you guessed it — a rubber band. Or try the alternatively powered balloon boat.
Dolls and dollhouses are great for imaginative storytelling play. This fold-and-go wooden dollhouse is easy to store or transport and comes with two wooden residents and 11 pieces of wooden furniture.
Finally, board games offer a great no-screen alternative that can bring the whole family together. Think Roll & Play is billed as “your child’s first game,” and I have it saved in my Amazon cart for when my grandchildren are just a little bit older. Tots roll a large fabric die with different colors on each side, then pick a card that matches that color and follow instructions like “roar like a lion.”
Go Away, Monster takes the “there’s a monster in my closet” bedtime routine and turns it into a game: The board shows a bedroom scene, and players take turns by picking an item from a bag filled with cardboard pieces. The game pieces — a bed, a lamp, a teddy bear or a friendly looking monster — are chosen by feel. The goal is to collect all the items you need, but if you grab a monster, you shout “Go away, monster!” and fling it away — which makes losing your turn less traumatic.
Try doing that with a gadget with a screen!
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