What IS wrong with batteries? Aside from the very obvious environmental hazard. Well, it isn’t the batteries themselves I find problematic. It’s the very toys we power with them.
When my now six year-old daughter was an infant, we went out and bought one of those “educational” Fisher Price play tables. I have no idea what it was called, but it drove me nuts. She’d press a button and lights would flash or sounds would emanate from it. She wasn’t particularly crazy about it, and I frankly despised it. What in the world were we thinking? Clearly we weren’t. Did we really think she’d learn her ABCs from it? Does an infant even need to know her ABCs? No. And, no. Although we’d paid upwards of $40 for it, I longed for the day when it didn’t work quite properly and I could justify disposing of it. The day eventually came and I put it to the curb with relish….it was removed by a shadow figure before BFI even arrived the next morning.
As time passed, we began to avoid any toys that required batteries. Yes, batteries became costly, but more than that, the purpose of the toys seemed more to entertain than educate. Certainly there’s a place for entertainment, but under the guise of education? What would that teach our kids? That in order to learn they must be entertained? That the “good” “educational” toys require batteries? But we shouldn’t have been looking for toys to educate in the first place. We should have been looking for toys to inspire creative thinking and problem solving…toys that let kids BE kids. Toys like blocks and Lincoln Logs, baby dolls and play kitchens. Games like pickup sticks and checkers. Arts and crafts supplies. ANYTHING to inspire imaginative play.
I can’t say we completely eschew any type of “modern” toy, but we have eliminated those that require batteries. On any given afternoon, our children can be found playing with their Littlest Pet Shop pets or creating a grand adventure with kitchen stools, books and a plethora of playsilks….today it was a trip to “old Mexico with Skippyjon Jones”.
For them, the Leapster will be what Atari was for me. Something I thought I wanted and needed, but I did well without.

Previously published on Practically Unplugged Kids.