Playing in a No-Battery Zone

DVDs, videos, iPods, PlayStation, DS, Wii, kid Web sites–the electronic play options for kids are endless. While there are many fun and quite a few educational electronic toys and entertainment products available, there is no substitute for ordinary, old-fashioned play.

By its nature, electronic play encourages isolation; kids connect with a gadget and tons of animation instead of making real human contact, depriving them of cultivating their social skills and friendships. Also, the majority of electronic games require little physical action beyond the wiggling of fingers, diminishing the volume of exercise and the attendant physical development children experience.

I’m a believer in balance in all things. Having electronic toys in our home is part of the fun my family experiences. The challenge is not to let these devices dominate my kids’ playtime. In her book Unplugged Play (Workman Publishing, 2007), Bobbi Conner gives these suggestions for promoting a “no-battery zone”:

1. Provide toys that allow variety–balls, a sandbox, building blocks, art supplies, etc.
2. Change it up by encouraging all types of play: High-energy and physical play; quiet games, arts, crafts, music, building, imaginative play.
3. Make your home a place that other children enjoy visiting. It’s easier to control the kinds of games kids play on your own turf.
4. Don’t micromanage your child’s play. Let him explore matters on his own. Offer a quick demo then back off.
5. If your child looks stumped, toss out a play-inducing challenge: “What sort of fort could you make with these boxes and blankets?”
6. Let grandparents, friends, and gift givers know you prefer low-tech or no-tech play for your child. Until your child is in school, try to avoid high-tech anything–they won’t be left behind.
7. As kids get older, set up a Family Electronic Play Plan. You–not your child–decide how much time is allotted for electronic play each week and when it fits into your routine.
8. Create a regular time for Family Game Night–once a month or once a week–and put it on your calendar so you don’t forget and kids look forward to it.

By Terri Hall-Jackson, contributing writer,


Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

KS Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Danielle I.
Danielle I6 years ago

I was very fortunate, my 'baby' who is grown up now (well getting there lol) wasn't interesting in electronic gaming and didn't want a playstation until she about 14. In her early childhood she went to a Steiner based kindergarten where toys were all made of wood or bamboo etc. Nothing plastic allowed. They took them on bush walks, had a vege garden the kids helped create.
I was of that mind (obviously) and, as she had no siblings I was very involved in her play time.
She loved dancing and music, being read to, drawing, we would make bird feeders and then sit and watch the birds come out to eat and she would shriek with delight. With great supervision we dipped rainbow candles and they were gifts for grandparents, teachers etc. We would wake to the beach and 'chase' the waves and laugh and laugh. Made papermache many things that were fun and creative. Those memories last forever and I am so glad that my daughter remembers us planting veges and flowers and her coming home from school and running straight out to the vege garden to eat fresh grown peas. Picking our own strawberries....rather than her highest score on some box in front of the tv.

Bon L.
Bon L7 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Mari Basque
Mari 's7 years ago

No batteries unless you can recharge them! People throw them away and they end up leaking acids into the ground and this gets into our water, crops and hurts animals as well.

Nicole Andrea
Nicole Andrea8 years ago

This is a great article! I think the idea of an Electronic Play Plan is effective. For one thing, the electronic games should be kept away from the children so that they have to ask you for them. The other toys, books, papers and markers/crayons/pencil crayons/pencils, and unstructured "props" for "let's pretend" games, should remain within their reach at all times.
One important thing you have forgotten though: SEND THEM OUTSIDE!!!!!!! Who would want electronic games with all that room to run around and be wild ;)

Edwin Krkljus
Ed K9 years ago

Amen! We're sedating our kids with too much passive entertainment, instead of letting their natural curiosity lead them in their playtime. And the more toys they have access to the less happy they are, and the void just gets bigger. There is no replacement for the great outdoors. And when inside, they like mimicking what grown ups do anyway. The fact that we wean them off of this natural behavior and hook them on all the flashing and noisy seizure inducing contraptions is a fault of our own making. If you have kids, you have an obligation towards them. Your time is now theirs! Make the best of it. Don't shove them in front of something just so you can get your work done. The foundation is being built, whether you put quality into it or not, it continues. You have one shot to shape a life, a manufacturer is not an adequate replacement for a parent in any sphere of development. It takes commitment to be a parent, full time. You had your chance to live your life, now set it aside and live for your children. The selfish child in you must be laid to rest, and the pull of society enticing you to fulfill your 'needs' and desires is ruining your relationships, especially with your children, spouse, and family all together. Not to mention yourself. The world needs real parents like never before! Choose to be one today, because those next 20 years go by very fast.