You’ve probably been there. In that room with the bright plastic toys strewn all over the floor, beeping and buzzing and humming away while they’re ignored by the child who is happily playing with a cardboard box and some crayons. The commercials promised hours of uninterrupted peace for you, and learning opportunities filled with smiles and laughter for them.
While there’s certainly space in our hearts (and playrooms) for a few well-loved, high tech toys, they don’t need to be the only options at hand. In fact, the opposite may be true.
Unlike many electronic toys, battery-free options require more active participation. This means they encourage imaginative play, problem solving skills, and critical thinking. They offer opportunities for collaboration between children, and don’t require constant battery replacements or recharging.
In a world of trendy toys and touch screens, where can battery-free options be found? We rounded up a few of our favorites that are sure to keep kids from yelling, “But I’m bored!”
Do you have a little one who is always on the move? A common pastime for many children in Africa is to make tiny vehicles called galimotos out of whatever they can find, including sticks, water bottles, and repurposed scrap materials. Our artisan partners in Kenya took their lead and refined the designs to make the Galimoto Girl and Galimoto Boy from intricately twisted wire and string. And the best part? As your child pushes their galimoto, the sturdy, handcrafted legs pump the little bike’s pedals!
For some battery-free creative play on the go, there’s nothing better than travel-ready art supplies. If you’re waiting at a restaurant or an airport, the Artist Tool Roll-Up Pouch is a game changer. Pack up some crayons and colored pencils, stickers, and a note book with blank pages, and watch them create masterpieces. If some focused artwork at home is what you’re looking for, Color Your Own Wall Hangings are a fun option.
Put down the screen and have a family game night with these battery-free options from around the world. Mancala is a classic and the Triangle Puzzle Game is sure to be a new favorite. The Peace Star Puzzle is just as much fun for adults who don’t like to be idle as it is for children who like a challenge. You can even toss this Travel Chess Set into your carry on to make a trip fly by. Just keep in mind that these games are best suited for older kids, due to their small pieces.
If you’re looking for battery-free toys because you need a break from the incessant noise and music coming from the general direction of the toy box, then perhaps musical instruments are not for you. But before you judge instruments for being too chaotic and loud, consider that they encourage children to learn to make their own music. Music isn’t being made for them. Some of our favorite ways to make a joyful noise are the handmade Tanuni Seed Rattle, a Wooden Clacker, a Reed Slide Whistle, and the Flower Flute.
Finger puppets are a go to solution for kids who have a boundless imagination. Since they’re small and light-weight, it’s easy to stow them away in a bag or drawer, so they can be ready for the moment your child is seized with some theatrical inspiration. Pull out a few different characters and watch them make up stories and sagas that would make Shakespeare jealous.
When it’s nap time, a battery-free buddy that’s always ready to cuddle is just what they’re looking for. There’s no need for a doll that talks or plays a lullaby when what your little one really needs is some calm and quiet. Artisans in India are have come to the rescue! Kantha stitched sari fabric has been lovingly pieced together to create a menagerie of new friends like this cat, dog, and giraffe.
When boredom descends upon children, you don’t need to automatically reach for the nearest screen or the toy with the trendy technology! Point them in the direction of battery-free options and watch their imaginations and creativity take over.