Why Everyone Should Give Non-Tech Toys as Holiday Gifts (with suggestions)

The holiday gift giving season is upon us. Never before have we been offered the ease of procuring whatever we want to give to whomever we want. Online retailers deliver unique items to our doorstep at all hours of the day and night with the slightest bit of effort on our part. We have access to a staggeringly expansive selection of all manner of items to give but we still often end up purchasing the most touted and “pushed to the top of our Amazon queue” items. 

When I look at these lists of “Best Toys” and “Top 10 Holiday Gifts” I am often disappointed. 

While technology itself, or technology enabled toys, will always be heavily represented in these lists I’d love to challenge all of us, this year, to include toys that are tech free in our offerings. We could change the world if we gave priority to toys that encourage a sense of embodiment creative invention, and presence. Technology enabled play items often short change these opportunities. In addition, they elevate the stimulation a child experiences in relation to play things creating an innoculuation type reaction to toys that might encourage the development of boredom tolerance or creative expression and struggle. Boredom tolerance and the ability to persist are correlated with creativity and resilience. While technology focused items certainly feed a desire to persist, they are often doing so via addictive neural pathways. This is different than focusing ones attention on slow moving tasks or in playing in such a way that small failures can lead to new insights and growth.

Why not privilege toys that offer children more? Not more all-sensory-channels-stimulation or more bells and whistles, but, instead, more opportunities to be present, in their bodies, in playful and curious ways? This may require more than normal buy in but getting this is worth it for the massive creative and resiliency that can be developed through such play. Legos and Playmobil are toys that develop creativity and imagination as are any number of “pretend play” props (think costumes, props for story telling, and such). Skill based toys such as Kendamas, diabolos, Yo Yos, jump ropes, and juggling balls allow a child to try, fail, succeed in powerful ways. Musical instruments are fantastic as are art supplies for open ended exploration. Gifts of experiences (think: tickets to a play or makers faire or sporting event or gift cards to local golf ranges, improv theater classes, or circus arts schools) are similarly wonderful. Kinetic sand and thinking putty may seem like a bland gift but can become treasures as one becomes familiar with their regulating potential when over stimulated. All these things and more could be huge helpers in raising children who can focus, delay gratification, and regulate their internal selves and their outward expressions of that self. 

And this doesn’t apply to children only. In my home you’ll find adults playing with legos, balancing on the balance boards, sketching in the blank books left out and about. Having non tech fueled toys and fidgets on our desks at work and on our coffee tables at home can provide us with the impetus we need to put our phones down. Add a single player hand held game (such as Rush Hour) and you’ll find you lose track of your phone for hours. It is worth considering gifting everyone with these fun, alternative items.

Some Non Tech, High “YES” Toys:

Skill Toys (Kendama, Diabolo, YoYo, LunaSticks, Gyro Ring, Perplexus Puzzle Balls)

Body Based Toys (Balance Boards, Flow Rings, Pull Up Bars)

Coffee Table/Desk Toys (Pattern/Shape Blocks, Etch-a-Sketch, Finger Labyrinth, Manipulatable Hand Held Games (e.g: RushHour), Pipe Cleaners/WikkiSticks, Thinking Putty, Kinetic Sand

Creativity Building Toys (Art Supplies (e.g: Paint/Brushes/Canvases, Leather and Leather Letter Stamps, Clay), Sewing or Weaving Supplies and Tools, Musical Instruments, Costumes)

Experiential Gifts (Tickets to plays or concerts, Memberships at local museums/zoos, Subscription to a gift of the month or book of the month club, Valuable coupons to take the recipient and a friend skating, to a movie, to a car race, dancing, to a festival, Cooking/Sewing/Art classes)


If you live in the Portland area, join me on December 9 from 6:30-7:30 at Thinker Toys (in Multnomah Village) for a fun book signing event that will also offer you the opportunity to buy incredible non tech toys for everyone on your list. A copy of Deviced! Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World plus some great creative toys makes the perfect gift!

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Doreen Dodgen-MageeComment