Beeping noises. Jangly music. Flashing lights. Hard-to-open battery cases. And by the way, batteries not included.
These are some of the hallmarks of the electronic, techno-toys that litter our kids' rooms. When new, they make a big splash, but with a few shining exceptions, they seldom last.
In our ongoing quest to give our young children a chance to "unplug" as often as possible, we are always seeking out engaging techno-free toys. Fortunately, this is not too hard a task since almost all of the great, classic toys are free of any electronic bells and whistles. And smart toy-makers continue to come out with creative new toys that engage the mind without having to plug it in.
Now that we are plunging headlong into summer, we are especially drawn to toys that take the kids outside. Our gardens are calling for small green thumbs to turn the soil, plant a few seeds, pull a few weeds, and happily wield a garden hose. To get the little ones started in the garden, you might like to offer them their very own garden tote with tools, along with a small plot of land. Then stand back, and watch the dirt fly! For children who can't resist wild flowers, a flower press can become an absorbing hobby. And city kids need not feel left out. A sunny windowsill is just the place for a wee enchanted garden to grow.
Building materials are another essential category of tech-free toys. Left to their own, screen-free devices, preschool kids predictably gravitate to their blocks. When you hear a long silence in the play room, you may be sure that someone is up to no good, or that a magnificent block structure is being built. Traditional wooden unit blocks can serve as the foundation, while all manner of gorgeous new fantasy blocks provide decorative appeal. And for the more whimsy-minded builders, Tinkertoys have never gone out of style.
Finally, as we kick off the summer, we want to tout one of the all-time great outside toys: the Mini Kick Scooter. By far and away, the best three-wheel scooter available, this bit of flawless engineering will have your preschooler whizzing out the door all summer long.
Let's be honest: having kids can be fun, but it can also be exhausting. Whether you have one child or a brood, it seems you're always running to and from practice, games, rehearsals, recitals and more. Toss in your own needs -- errands, workouts, the... read more
You're with your kids, and you're stuck in a long line at the drug store. Or waiting for a plane to take off. Or trapped in a car for two more hours. What to do? Here are some ways to pass the time. Maybe they don't all sound incredibly compellin... read more