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Best Unplugged Games and Toys That Don’t Need Batteries

Best Unplugged Games and Toys That Don’t Need Batteries


Kids need toys and games that encourage creativity and independence. While electronic toys have their time and place, for everyday play you’ll want to have these unplugged items on hand. These are the top games and toys that don’t need batteries!
Travel art kit from SOhandmade on Etsy

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Toys That Don’t Need Batteries

Several years ago I was at the toy store, perusing the aisles and looking for something my toddler daughter would enjoy. I walked out of the store empty-handed.

  • First off, I didn’t want to buy her anything that made noise, was electronic or needed batteries.
  • Second, so many of the toys were waaaaay too pricey for what they were! Cheaply made and wouldn’t last very long, despite the high cost.
  • Third, I didn’t want to purchase anything that she’d outgrow in a month or two. I was looking for toys she’d be able to play with for several years. My daughter needed games to play that weren’t one-and-done.

I went home and looked at the toys that I’ve purchased for my kids over the years, the favorites and the classics. Those unplugged items that have proven their worth in gold. These are the toys and games that get frequently pulled out, played with and that foster imagination. Some items I bought when my now-teenagers were babies. My littlest one still plays with them today!

Photo credit: RopeDeco on Etsy

Resist the Urge to Follow the Rules

Good toys with long lasting play power don’t need specific instructions. There’s no reason to sit down with kids and walk them through how to build with LEGOS or instruct what to do with a ball. There’s a time for structured games and rules, of course. But when you want to encourage creative thoughts, just having the right toys available for kids is enough.

Don’t worry if you think your child isn’t “playing with them right”. There’s no right or wrong way to play! When kids start using their imagination you’ll find that they’ll use their toys in a variety of ways. Parenting is allowing your children freedom in ways that will allow them to be inventive and stimulated by their surroundings. Having toys that don’t need batteries at home helps to encourage that creative side.

Outdoor Toys

Let’s start with the outdoor toys that don’t need batteries. Many outside games are “kid-powered”. If your kids resist playing outside without friends, consider joining them in an outdoor activity. Use of large muscle groups is important when it comes to exercise, balance and flexibility (skills they won’t gain while laying on the sofa!)

Pop-Up Soccer Goal – Can’t go wrong with balls for outdoor play. A football, baseball, basketball and soccer ball are perfect for kids of all ages. The great thing about a soccer ball and these pop-up goals is that very little outdoor space is needed. Also kids can play alone, using the goal to trap the ball.

Photo credit: Pixabay
  • Ultimate Frisbee by Wham-O – My big kids are SO into playing Frisbee with friends lately! They even play Ultimate Frisbee during P.E. at school. If the Frisbee craze hasn’t started in your area, take one to the park and see how many kids ask to join in!
  • Little Tykes Playhouse – Fresh air, sunshine and a heavy dose of imagination. An outdoor playhouse is ideal when shared with neighborhood friends who can join in the pretend fun.
  • Giant Bubble Wands – Who said that bubble-blowing is a calming activity? Kids have to use their whole body to get into making these giant bubbles!
Photo credit: Pixabay

Things That Go

Train tracks, cars, trucks and vehicles – the things that go are some of the best toys that don’t need batteries. Rather than remote controlled cars (that always seem to drain batteries within minutes!), look for vehicles your kids can maneuver by hand.

Brio Classic Deluxe Train Set – I bought a Brio train set for my eldest 20+ years ago and it’s still in perfect condition and played with weekly! These classic wooden toys are an investment but quite possibly, your grandchildren will play with them someday too.

Looking for fun things to do with your toddler? Check out these ideas for brain-boosting games, indoor exercise, toddler-friendly crafts and healthy nutrition. #AD
  • Fisher Price Little People Helpful Neighbors Garage – I had this iconic toy as a child and love that it’s still made with the same battery-free features. A metal bell that “dings”, a hand-cranked elevator and the spiral ramp. So perfect for toddler and preschool vehicle lovers!
  • Wooden Vehicles –  These carved wooden vehicles just feel good to roll. No batteries required, these cars are sized for smaller hands and sturdy for hours of playtime.
  • Tonka Truck – The classic, large steel dump truck is built for rough outdoor play. Hours of sandbox entertainment, as kids move and dump dirt.

Family Games

There’s nothing quite like family game night! It’s a bonding experience for sure. But it’s also a chance to teach kids about healthy competition, brain building exercises, and good sportsmanship. Game play is one exception to following the rules of play. Make sure everyone who plays is refreshed on the guidelines of the games.

Apples to Apples Disney Version – Already own and love the original Apples to Apples Game? Try one of the other varieties, including Junior, Disney, Bible or Big Picture. This is a family favorite of ours!

  • Memory Match –  The preschool classic game, memory matching tiles can be used in variety of ways to make the game easier or more challenging.
  • Beat the Parents – An eye-opening question and answer game where everyone can learn along. Entertaining and educating, it’s a winning combo!
  • Dominoes – Traditional game that’s appropriate for a wide range of ages. And when you don’t want to play by the rules, use the dominoes to stack and knock over!
  • Shut the Box – Play alone or with up to four people, this simple dice game offers basic math skills and healthy competition.

Magic Set – When I was 8 years old, I was fairly certain I was going to be a magician! I had a magic set and my dad and I would practice tricks together for the stage shows I’d put on for my family. Learning slight of hand skills can improve coordination and confidence.

Fostering Imagination

Toys that encourage imagination transport a child into a world of creativity and wonder. Look for toys that can be played with alone or with a friend/sibling. Open ended toys that don’t need batteries never tell your kids what to do – kids are able to manipulate and use the parts to their own advantage.

Playmobil toys – With seemingly unlimited themes, Playmobil offers high quality play sets that include a jungle safari, fairy garden, Scooby-Doo, pet hospital and police station (my son is playing with that set in the photo).

Why do kids need free time for imaginative play? These are the tips for squeezing in free play and ideas for the best toys
  • Hearth & Hand™ with Magnolia Wooden Dollhouse with Furniture – My dad made me a dollhouse for Christmas the year I turned 8. We would make furniture together with tiny picture frames from magazine pages and food from clay. Those are special memories! This dollhouse is beautiful and simple, the perfect heirloom, and pretty enough to keep in the living room.
  • Kid’s Play Tent – This teepee from A Mustard Seed is a beautifully made retreat for children. Made of durable, washable fabric, the tent offers a private area for kids to relax. My daughter stores her plush toys in the inner storage pockets and has made this tent her personal reading nook. Plus it’s a chic addition to her bedroom decor!
  • Finger Puppets –  While these dolls are a creative way for children to play, there’s an added benefit to using finger puppets at home. I’ve used them successfully with my children to help them talk through feelings or even to ease them into waking up (Bonus: finger puppets take up a lot less space than plush toys!)
  • Dress-Up Clothes – The colorful dress up items from WildThingsDresses include super hero capes, animal face masks and dragon wings, all in gender-neutral styles.
Photo Credit: Wild Things Dresses on Etsy

Crafts and Creativity

Crafts and activity kits expand your kid’s creativity. Art can speak to kids in a positive way, where there’s no right or wrong method and healthy messes are encouraged! Creative crafts are a tactile toy that no two kids play with the same way.

Kiwi Crate – High quality crafts and learning boxes, with something for all ages! Another thing I love about this monthly subscription is the easy ability to switch between the lines. I’ve been able to change between the Kiwi Crate for my youngest, Atlas Crate for my travel-obsessed kid and Doodle Crate for the crafty teen.

Two kids looking at the Atlas Crate globe kit
  • Rock Painting Kit – Our community loves to paint and hide rocks for others to find. Kids would love this kit that gives them all the tools they need to paint their own designs.
  • Fairy Garden Kit – Nature loving kids will adore this whimsical DIY Fairy Garden Kit from Etsy. Invite fairies into the yard with this craft kit especially for children
  • Travel Art Pouch – This high-quality on-the-go art kit satisfies a child’s need to create and draw. I’ve found it particularly great for my child when we have to wait in the car. This version from SOhandmade is beautifully designed and quality crafted for years of use!
Adventure Awaits Art Pouch from SOhandmade on Etsy
  • Shrinky Dinks – This classic craft is just plain sheets that allow kids to color, cut then heat shrink down to a diminutive size. Perfect for making unique ornaments and suncatchers.
  • Play Foam – Mess-free and great for kids who love to play with textile items. The tiny foam pieces stick together allowing kids to model it as they wish. Looking for more things to entertain young kids? Try these things to do with preschoolers at home.

Toys for Builders

You’ll know if your kid is a builder when you find them stacking up anything they can around the house! Encourage the technical side of their brain with classic building toys. High quality made items will grow with your child, making these construction toys an excellent investment.

Many kits come with instruction manuals with guidance to build specific structures. However most kids will use their own creative instincts to come up with their own amazing ideas!

GEOMAG – This high quality Swiss-made STEM toy includes magnetic spheres, rods and panels for unlimited construction possibilities.

  • Magformers Magnets – Think outside the LEGO box for other creative toys that your builder will love! These magnet sets combine building with movement for maximum creativity.
  • Bristle Blocks – Classic preschool building with soft bristly-edged blocks that easily slide into each other.
  • K’Nex – These rod and connector building toys snap together easily, allowing builders to make moving creations that have no limit. Younger kids will love the easier-to-manipulate classic Tinkertoys.
Best Practical Holiday Gifts for Kids
K’nex offers unlimited play for kids who love to build
  • Lincoln Logs – Use these traditional wooden notched logs to build more than just log cabins. The feel of real wood (versus plastic) is a wonderful tactile experience.
  • Learning Resources Gears – Some kids are just fascinated by moving gears, and this toy satisfies on all levels. Build and then turn one pog to see all the gears move.
  • Playmags – Sturdy magnetic pieces can be manipulated to build colorful structures.

Creative kids aren’t always the best at cleaning up after themselves! Check out these top kid’s toy organization ideas.

Water Play

Just add water and see what you get! These are some of the best toys that don’t need batteries. Many kids love to splash, dumping the water on their head. Other kids find the water relaxing and just love to watch it slowly pouring out of cups. In any case, all kids need to bathe – so a few bath toys are always welcome!

Skip Hop Stack and Pour Buckets – These simple and small buckets have different holes and slots in the bottom, releasing the water in a variety of ways.

  • B. Toys Fish & Splish – End the day on a wet note by encouraging water play in the tub. This set is particularly fun because it’s also functional – the toys are also a comb and nail brush.
  • Boon Building Bath Pipes – The pipes suction to the wall, so that kids can pour water through. Arrange the pipes so that water flows through each without spilling.
  • Water Table – Ideal for the kid who wants to play with water all day long! A water table encourages play and curiosity as kids float and pour to their heart’s content.

Looking for More Gift Ideas?

These experience gifts offer family bonding and memory making, without the issue of having more stuff.

This post originally published on November 21, 2017 and has been updated and republished.

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Angelique Schumacher

Wednesday 16th of December 2020

What a great list! Less batteries; more imagination! In an era where everything needs a charger or batteries, this is so refreshing.

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