Do you have a love hate relationship with your kids TV time?
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty darn sick and tired of hearing about how bad TV is for your kids.
‘Cause I know. I get it… please spare me another post or article about WHY my kids shouldn’t be watching TV. It’s just another slap in the face as to why I’m such an inadequate mom when my kids have watched Caillou for the last 2 hours on a Saturday night.
The truth is, I hate it too. I hate using the TV as my babysitter. But when I get home from work and have to whip up a meal for the family, I need a little help!
On those weekends when I’ve been waiting on the kids the entire day I need a little breather!
I can only hear “MOM” “MOOMM” “MOOOMMMYYY” “MOOMMMMMYYYYYY” so many times before I want to check myself into a psych ward voluntarily.
So the reason I have such a huge issue with another “TV is bad for your kid” post is because I need solutions.
So, after reading my 100th article (okay… maybe a bit less) about how my kids were gonna turn into a socially awkward, obese, violent, child with ADHD from watching TV, I personally set out to find ways to replace TV time.
The whole point is to distract the kids so I can do what I need to do. Whether that’s cook dinner, get a breather after work, change the babies diaper, do laundry, do dishes, clean the house, play therapist to husband… Whatever.
And what better ways than toys and gadgets?
The Round-Up Process
So, not all toys will do because most toys are 1-minute-wonders. I had to make sure that the fascination lasted beyond unwrapping the toy from the box. All you mom’s know what I mean…
So here’s what I looked for in the toys:
- Engagement: How long will a kid play with the toy? If it’s interesting enough to engage a kid for a whole 5 minutes… well, a toilet paper would do.
- Educational component: How much educational component is built into the toy? My 2 year old doesn’t need to be doing the multiplication tables or anything, but will it introduce him to letters, numbers, and sounds? What about problem solving and spatial development? Check!
- Creativity: How much creativity will this allow for the kids? We all know that creativity is a skill that we need long after baby-hood so toys that allow the kids imagination to run wild was high on the list.
So, without further ado:
25 Educational Kids Toys That Replace TV Time
“The DIY wired dollhouse” that contributes to STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and math) skills. Better than a traditional lego, you can build working lights, elevators, and lamps! The panels can be used to build single or double story houses, balconies, backyards and build her own furniture. This toy was developed by 2 female engineers from Cal-tech, MIT, and Stanford to inspire the next generation of female tech innovators. I use the term “she” loosely here. Doesn’t mean that boys can’t play with the house either. I just didn’t want to have to type in she/he all the time. My son would love this and probably steal this from his sister.
Your ear drums might hate you, but happy kids with no TV = happy mommy. With over 1,300 positive reviews I think other moms agree that this toy is a winner. It has 4 different playing modes: free play, letters, numbers, and a follow along with LED lights to keep kiddos engaged.
How amazing is this toy that introduces kids to how electricity works! Kids get to design and build electrical circuits by snapping together parts. Everything needed is included… so, no tools required. You can build a photo sensor, flashing light, and an adjustable… Volume Siren! Well, if I don’t get to it first, I guess the kids can play with it too.
I’ve been eyeing this toy for a long time. Not that I support using the iPad any more than watching TV but this toy is absolutely amazing. The reality is that although I don’t like iPad consumption anymore than the TV, kids cannot be ignorant of technology either. Everything in moderation, and if there were any amount of moderation that had to be done, it’s with OSMO. It takes the physical world and combines it with digital.
The kit comes with a reflector, base, 5 apps, and all the pieces used to play with the games. You connect the iPad to the base, place the pieces in front of the iPad below the reflector, and the physical pieces get projected into the games that are being played on the iPad.
This is my personal all times favorite. My mom bought it as a birthday gift for my 4 year old son and he absolutely LOVED it! The best part was that his 2 year old sister, and myself (cough, cough) couldn’t let go of these things. It’s SO much more than legos. It has magnets built into each piece and they stick together. I don’t even know how to describe the satisfaction you get when those pieces just “CLASP” together… it’s a weird satisfaction. You can build so many things with it, 2D and 3D versions. I had to consider buying a set for my daughter, and myself (cough, cough) because I kept stealing all the pieces from my kids. And talk about engagement… this is one of the few toys that my kids will play with for over an hour!
I love fat brain toys. The name says it all. Another cool play on the traditional lego, these toys use suction cups to attach to each other. Whenever there are building block type toys that can create unlimited amount of building variations it sucks the kids in. If your kids have siblings they try to compete in building the largest and “bestest” structure, which eliminates the need for mommy or daddy to sit around with them.
Can you allow your kids to get any more creative then building their own marble run? You can make a whole lot of different designs then drop your marble to see it slide down… how fascinating and engaging for kids to build their own contraption. Let their little imagination run free!
The Dado cubes allows kids to combine art and science as they explore architectural principles. They learn proportion, balance, structure, and color. It helps kids with visual spatial development and problem solving through design centered fun.
Another personal favorite of mine. My kids absolutely love this bloxx set. Unlike the other toys that are very miniature, these blocks are meant to be built and stacked to life-like sizes. You can stack these as HIGH as your own height. The kids get a kick out of stacking and seeing how high they can build the structures… then they like to run right through it and smash it down like they’re king kong. Hey, as long as they’re playing and not in front of that TV.
There’s something absolutely engaging about life-size type toys for kids. My kids love everything and anything that are twice their size, especially if they built it and they can knock it down. These blocks are meant for interlocking like legos. Unlike the Bloxx that can only be stacked these have a lot more variations to what can be built.
Supervision required for this cool edible chemistry kit. I know when I was a kid I wanted to eat and taste everything that had color in it. How cool is it that there was someone else out there who had the same desire enough to make it into reality? Kids can eat their pretty colored chemistry experiments. Fizzy drinks made from cabbage, color changing foaming jelly, and polymer pudding.
What child doesn’t love wet squishy things they can play with? These cool little bead balls start out as hard balls but add some water on them and they become a bouncy, squishy, and beautiful jelly water beads. They are non toxic, won’t fade or bleed, and non flammable. Soak them in water for about 3-4 hours for a bowl full of jelly beads they can play with for hours.
I haven’t met a child that doesn’t like to build and hide in their make believe hideouts. I used to throw blankets over a few chairs that were spread out and pretended that I was living in a castle or hiding out from the monster. This sets takes it a little further with rods and connectors to build an actual base of a structure. Throw a blanket over the structure and they have their own tent to call it whatever their creative mind desires.
This sewing kit is the perfect starter kit for kids who want to learn sewing. It comes with everything they need to get started including pre-cut felt pattern shapes, 8 colors of embroidery floss, stuffing, fabric, rick rack, needles, scissors, measuring tape, straight pins, thimble, pin cushion, buttons and a pom pom strip. You can let your child choose her own colors and designs to let their imagination run wild with creativity.
Another favorite toy of my kids. It took us a while to figure out how to even play with this toy as the interlocking mechanisms are so small that I thought we had got a lemon… until it took one bright, smart person to read the instructions… duh! There are so many ways to create complex shapes with these toys. Unlike traditional legos that you just put together and stack, these actually interlock to create specific geometric shapes ranging from simple to complex. I’m apparently not that smart as 2 turtles can combine 100 ways but I was able to figure out just 4. This is another toy where my kids get drawn in for VERY long periods of time and fight over the pieces.
Who doesn’t love building things and seeing it all come crashing down? Now, throw in some clowns around a circus obstacle course and you have yourself a winner! These big, chunky domino pieces were made for little hands. The dominoes come with 70 different colors and 10 beautiful (not scary) looking clowns with a storage bag included so the pieces don’t go missing under the couch. The dominoes can be set up in multiple different courses for hours and hours of knock down fun for your little ones.
These cute, wacky monsters are for more than just bowling. You can set them up as regular bowling pins and watch your kids knock them down or you can use the monster dolls to just play and cuddle with. These soft and squishy monsters are made with very vibrant colors and can help kids with counting, color recognition, balance, and hand-eye coordination. Just make sure your animals don’t get to it first as dogs and cats have been known to love these furry monsters just as much.
I’ve said before how I don’t like TV, iPad or any electronics to replace good ol’ play time. However, everything needs to be done in moderation. In this day and age kids cannot be ignorant of technology. Instead of giving the kids an iPad or tablet to play games or watch videos, why not have them program and learn to code… ROBOTS.
Dash and Dot are robots that teach our kids to code and program. Teaching and learning in a fun, playful environment make children enjoy learning. With Dot, kids get to program its lights, sounds, and sensors and have this little mini robot come to life. The app comes with many tutorials and built in challenges which minimize the need for parent participation and instructions all together. I love time with my kids but any activity that doesn’t require me to be at their side to give me a little “mommy time out” is everything I need in a toy. Dot is compatible with Apple or Android.
I loved science as a kid. What’s not to love about erupting color changing volcanos, making a sunset in a test tube, and growing colorful jelly crystals. The kit introduces little minds to the basic principles of science with experiments that they won’t have at school. Any learning that’s introduced with fun and fascination will stay and grow with the child for the rest of their life. Ignite the curious spirit in your child by introducing them to a science kit that will dazzle their imagination. The kit comes with everything you need to start the experiments. Although older kids will need little to no supervision younger kids will need to be supervised. So if you truly need that mommy time out, try another toy. If you like spending time with your little one, grab one now and make that volcano.
Invite budding engineers to get hands on experience with the simple mechanics of gears to see how and why gears are the building blocks of engineering. Cause and effect learning at its best, create a gear train, horizontally, vertically, or both, using the gears, bases and connector pieces, then watch as turning one gear starts the movement of all the connected cogs. Gears supports STEM by introducing children to sorting, grouping, counting, designing, constructing, and putting physics into play with spinning gear movement; learning gets more intricate as children’s abilities advance.
Lite Brite lets kids create images with light. It comes with fresh new features including new character shaped pegs and reusable templates allowing kids to create endless designs. It comes with 150+ pegs and different light variations ranging from steady light to multiple blinking light options.
22. Tobbles ($26.95)
Looking gorgeous is one thing. Gratifying to hold in your hands is another. Each sphere has a dual texture and is weighted for hours of balancing fun. Creativity, experimentation, and innovative play take on a new spin. The 6 uniquely weighted pieces come together to carefully balance, nest, and recklessly spin. Tobbles encourages sensory exploration, hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and visual spatial awareness, Tobbles is a dynamic toy with truly endless possibilities. Stack, topple, spin, balance, wobble, tilt, and wiggle.
Get your kids to build car tracks that can be used with battery operated cars. This fully customizable car track comes with 225 pieces of track, 1 x-track, 2 battery operated cars, and a tunnel. This track kit enhances a child’s problem solving skills, teaches cause and effect learning, and engages creativity. They can build multiple track designs to keep them engaged for long periods of time.
Help the owls get back home before the sun goes down! This cooperative game is meant for kids 4 years and older. The game allows for all the players to play together in a team environment so that no one feels left out. This easy game that grow with your kids allows them to learn simple strategies, problem solving, following direction, taking turns, social development, cooperation, and team play. This game has won multiple parent awards and is a favorite among teachers at preschools and kindergarten for being the most engaging and fun for kids.
25. Oldie But Best: Coloring Books and Reading Books
No matter how many toys I buy I’m always amazed at how engaged the kids can be when they are bored and have nothing but books or coloring books.
They can draw and read for long periods of time if “the parents” allow it. I’m SO guilty of it. I get consumed by this desire to keep them busy that I forget to allow them to simply be bored and explore what they already have in the house that will spark their creativity and imagination.
NOTHING will replace parent interaction. Even if it’s a few minutes a day out of our busy schedules, reading 1 small book to our kids will go a very long way in igniting everything in them… especially their love tank.
Is TV completely bad for kids? Nope. Everything in moderation. In today’s digital age it would be naive to think we can keep our kids away from TV or cell phones indefinitely.
But I also want to replace some of that TV time with activities that I know will engage them, increase their creativity, nurture their problem solving skills, get them involved in creating and designing.
There are SO many amazing toys and gadgets in the market today beyond this list. I hope this list will lead you in the right direction to replace that TV time with activities of substance.
Have you used any of these toys? Do you have any other ideas beyond toys that’s awesome for engaging kids? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below.