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Play the Old-Fashioned Way: Unplugged Play

Unplugged Play Ideas for Activities for ChildrenHave we forgotten how to play?

Children learn through playing–they learn about the world around them, about interacting with others, and even about themselves. In light of recent studies that television may be harmful to children under two and that older children still need to temper their tech-time with lots of face to face time, it seems time for old-fashioned play to make a comeback.

But what do you DO with a child all day? New parents used to get ideas from friends and relatives. Now, so many of us live far away from our families, though, and neighborhoods just aren’t what they used to be in many parts of the country. Enter Unplugged Play: No Batteries. No Plugs. Pure Fun.

This heaven-sent book gives you plenty of ideas to keep minds and bodies engaged, from ages one to ten. All the activities are interactive, open-ended, and imaginative. Author Bobbi Conner is realistic that sooner or later children will encounter and become fascinated with technology. She also knows that a zero tolerance policy is neither realistic nor even desirable. So, she provides ways to minimize, rather than eliminate, the use of electronic games.

Because I have a 16 month old, I focused on the toddler section. The Association of American Pediatrics recommends no television under age two. So how do you fill the day? And don’t you at some point have to do the dishes, answer the phone, or even possibly read a book that has more words than pictures?

One of the best parts of this book is that for each age range, Conner suggests activities to occupy children’s attention with parents, alone, or with other kids. For toddlers there are color matching games (like Library Pockets), active games (like Hallway Bag-Ball), and party games (like Sidewalk Painting–no paint needed). Literally hundreds of ideas for stumped parents.

And you can do all of this not only without electricity, but also with just a handful of inexpensive props, like laundry baskets, funnels, and muffin tins…and a little imagination.

Whether you are in desperate need of suggestions or an enthusiastic lover of play who would just like to mix it up a little more, you’ll find hours of fun ideas in Unplugged Play.

WANT IT: Buy Unplugged Play: No Batteries. No Plugs. Pure Fun. ($11.53)

WIN IT: Leave a comment by 5 pm EST, December 20, with a simple idea for Unplugged Play for children of any age group. You’ll be entered for your chance to win one of two copies. U.S. Only for this contest. Make sure to leave a URL or e-mail where we can reach you. Or, use a nickname and THEN shoot us an e-mail to tell us your nickname (make sure to leave the comment first). More chances to win coming up, so stay tuned!

Filed under: Advice, Books (Activities), Books (Advice), Tips

88 Responses to "Play the Old-Fashioned Way: Unplugged Play"

  1. redron says:

    so many things to choose from. One of our favorites was a night without power. The only convience allowed was indoor plumbing. We cooked outside. We slept outside. We played games outside. And before going to sleep we told a story. I began it and then another would add and then another. We did that until I decided that the story needed to end and another begin. It was a fun night for all who attended.

  2. ErinB says:

    measuring cups and spoons have proved to be way more interesting and entertaining than all the expensive toys!!
    ekb713 at hotmail dot com

  3. Becca says:

    My daughter has found many fun uses for our laundry baskets. I hope she’ll always play with this much creativity!

  4. Dee says:

    Dining room chairs are the best! Line them up to play “train,” or put them in a circle with a blanket over the top for a tent.

  5. 2migirlsmom says:

    We use differnt pans and bowls to make our own drums. Then we see what else we can find to make musical instruments and have our own band

  6. Erin & David says:

    Take your kids outside and give them some flour and some water and let them play.

  7. melonkelli says:

    When it’s warm out we “paint” the driveway/house/yard with big paint brushes and a bucket of water.

    taureau AT yahoo DOT com

  8. Kelly Malloy says:

    Good old fashioned play dough is always a hit at our house – and it works with all ages from our 23 month old to our 14 year old!

  9. CallMeKelly says:

    1 cup of cold water slowly mixed with one cup of flour then divided into small containers and colored with kool aid or food coloring yields a bounty of safe finger paint… I like to mix up a batch before baths and sit my boys in an empty tub… let them paint away and then rinse ’em off…


    empty plastic bottles waiting to be recycled make great bowling pins… as your child gets older and more coordinated add water to weight the “pins”.

  10. Esther says:

    Tubes from toilet papper are great for telephone games.

  11. Mommy Cracked says:

    It’s messy, but one of my favorite things to do when I was growing up was making mud pies.

  12. jeske_posse says:

    I reuse my 1 year old’s old formula cans as drums. When you take the printed label off there is shiny aluminum looking container underneath. I put uncooked rice, large balls etc (non-choking hazard items) inside and use elmers glue to secure lid. I decorate the outsde using non-toxic marker and fun shapes, word or phrases that we are working on. My son loves to hit the containers, watch them roll, shake them. He even is trying to stack them…and knock them over when I stack them!

  13. Shannon says:

    I liked taking all my moms kitchen ingredients and made something rather gross looking but it would keep me busy for hours, I will pass this on to my son. lol

  14. laralin2266 says:

    I get out boxes for the kids. What kid doesn’t love to play in a big box?

  15. ChristiS says:

    My husband has glued together some styrofoam packaging stuff from a recent purchase to create some spaceships for my 2 sons, ages 4 and 6, to use with their Star Wars figures. They LOVE it! Dh did this as a child, hence the idea!

  16. Alyson, Brett & Girls says:

    One of our favorite is to take a bowl of water and paint brush and let them ‘paint’ the world!

  17. Shari says:

    I wish my daughter would be satisfied with playing with old boxes or tupperware but she’s into more glitz and glamour (and she’s only 18 months!). We pull old clothes and blankets out of drawers and put them on all her different dolls, or we find lots of ways to learn about colors by matching crayons to different colored things around the room!

  18. Becky says:

    I like to let my son string beads on a shoelace.

  19. Anonymous says:

    playing hide and seek

  20. Cindy says:

    One day my 3 year old discovered that the aluminum cans I was saving for the recycling bin made great bowling pins. He stacked them, counted them, and came up with all sorts of crazy configurations.

  21. maddgiggler says:

    Homemade playdough is the best!

  22. Mama Zen says:

    I let my daughter bathe her plastic dinosaurs in the sink. She thinks this is just the most fun!

  23. Audra says:

    We have a huge container full of dress up clothes. The kids love dressing up and showing us their outfits. It’s easy to find things to add to it at yard sales and thrift stores.

    I’d love to win this book because I’m a mom of six and while I always had a vivid imagination growing up and would play for hours, I think I’ve forgotten how to play. This book sounds like it would help me play more as well as give ideas for when I need to get things done and they need to play nearby.

  24. JewelsHud says:

    I’ve started doing baking with my toddler – this is a great activity for both of us!


  25. shimmala says:

    Bubble wrap. Haven’t found a kid (not even my crawling 12-month-old) who doesn’t like jumping/crawling/moving on the bubble wrap and popping those bubbles!

  26. chris swanson says:

    I love the game twister–kids and adults love it!

  27. Sundi says:

    Building towers with blocks seems to occupy my toddlers’ time more than any other activity! They love to see who can build one the highest without it falling down!

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  30. Heather says:

    So many fun ideas; Play doh (home made of course), coloring, water colors and other craft ideas are always popular at our house.

  31. cdrury says:

    home made play dough is always the best and baking cookies!!!

  32. Danielle says:

    My son loves to have outdoor bubble baths in the summer!
    He puts on his swimsuit, gathers his favorite tubtoys, and we fill a baby pool with water and bath bubbles and he has a great time scubbing himself and his toys clean!
    dansan826 at yahoo dot come

  33. Anonymous says:

    Wow. Jenna Glatzer posted a comment? I used to subscribe to her newsletter for writers. I think it was called AbsoluteWrite.

    Anyway, my unplugged kids’ activity has to do with my husband being a musician.
    Since we have a piano and a couple of acoustic guitars and bongos around, we sometimes just improvise and jam as a family.
    Even when it’s bad, we have a blast. My 9 year old loves it.

  34. purango says:

    Simon Sez

  35. lilyk says:

    we like to play board games

  36. Heather C says:

    Balloon volleyball always brings giggles in this house.

  37. […] reviewed Unplugged Play last December on Mamanista because it is full of imaginative,  interactive activities for infants, toddlers and elementary […]

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