Hate Buying Batteries? Try These 25 Gift Ideas Instead!

Batteries are the bane of my existence. As a mom of 10 kids (and 1 adult son), there are two things that really irk me about battery-operated toys:

  1. They’re expensive to keep replacing and a nuisance to remember to replace them, and…
  2. They take away crucial elements of imaginative play.

I don’t know about how things work in your household, but in ours, battery-operated toys are played with when the children first get them. Afterwards, we keep forgetting to replace the batteries once they’ve worn out (or simply can’t afford 100 new batteries every 3 months), and once-expensive toys end up getting broken or thrown away.

It’s a waste of money. 

As for #2, what’s the fun of playing with toys that pretty much do everything automatically? Instead of little girls pretending to make their baby dolls coo and babble, most of today’s dolls do that for them. Instead of little boys getting to make truck or train sounds, the toys do it for them. Many of the key elements of imaginative play are being stolen by the latest technology and gadgets. In essence, they’re taking away a child’s natural talent for pretending.

So, in case you haven’t figured it out, battery-operated toys do not (for the most part) exist on our Christmas lists. Of course I’ll make exceptions if my children really want something, but that will likely be the only battery-operated gift they receive.

There are so many wonderful gifts out there that are simple, fun, educational, spark the imagination, and do not require batteries, so I thought I’d share some of our favorites with you today.

25 Toys That Do Not Require Batteries

1. Shopkins


I know some of you are probably scratching your heads wondering what’s so great about Shopkins. When my daughter started asking me for them a couple of years ago, I asked her the same thing. I just couldn’t wrap my brain around what they’d be used for.

Since then I’ve found out- quite a bit, actually. Not only do my children use these for pretend play, but they make dollhouses for them, make their own board games and use these as the game pieces, and use them as math manipulatives, among other things. These are definitely worth checking out!

2. Lincoln Logs

Yep, they’re still around, and they’re just as fun and educational as ever.

3. Kinetic Sand

You might think I’m crazy for even mentioning sand as a gift, but I’m telling you, I- I mean, the kids- love this stuff. It doesn’t make a huge mess like you think it will because the sand actually stays together. It feels so neat between your fingers, and it works great with plastic molds.

4. Melissa and Doug playsets

At first glance, these products may seem pricey, but they are so worth it. They’re sturdy, detailed, and come in so many varieties that you’re sure to find something that will appeal to your kids. This particular set pictured is the “School Time” set, and my kids had a blast with it. They used to sit for hours playing school quietly together with it. Melissa and Doug truly do create quality products.

5. Legos

Now I couldn’t create a list of great gifts without including Legos, could I?

6. Imaginarium Puppet Theater

This is just one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. My kids have always adored making puppets and putting on shows for each other. While there are certainly puppets you can buy to accompany this, homemade puppets give the added bonus of an engaging hands-on activity for your kids that will produce items with sentimental value.

7. Cabbage Patch Kids

I was 9 years old and in 4th grade when these dolls came out. Perhaps that’s why they made the list- and why two of my daughters are getting them this year. Other than being nostalgic for me, though, I love that they are just dolls. (At least the ones that I’ve seen up until this point.) They don’t poop, pee, burp, make sucking sounds, or say, “Mama.” Those activities are left up to the child playing to act out if they so choose to.

8. K’Nex

Although these are not for younger children due to the small pieces, they are such a fabulous idea for engineering-minded children. My 16 year old son still likes to put things together with these, and I’m always amazed by the designs he comes up with because I am sorely lacking in building skills. The extent of my engineering feats used to be Lego bridges that any Kindergartner could build. With STEM being so popular these days, K’Nex really had a head start on that movement with this awesome learning tool.

9. Play-Doh

I know that adding this to the list seems like a no-brainer, but I think that in all the hustle of trying to get the biggest and most advanced toys, we forget old favorites like this that will do loads more for your child’s brain than any electronic toy.

I also particularly love this brand of Play-Doh because, while it’s fine to get it at the dollar store if your’re low on cash, there’s just really no other brand with the high quality  texture of the real thing.

10. Puppets

Okay, I’ve thought about it, and even though I think homemade puppets are optimal, not everyone will agree, and Melissa and Doug really do have some adorable puppets available.

11. Tonka trucks

Another oldie but goodie that has stood the test of time. They’re not remote controlled, they don’t light up, and they don’t say, “Vroom,” in ten different languages, but they are sturdy, dependable, well-made, and they spark the imagination. Now those are qualities I look for when choosing toys for my kids!

12. Dollhouses

Boy, do I remember the dollhouse I had growing up. I used to sit and play for hours with it, as my own daughters do now with theirs. There’s just something about being the puppet master of your own little worls where you can arrange the furniture any way you’d like (and rearrange it as often as you’s like!) and create little scenes of family life straight out of the imagination.

13. Life of Fred doll

Life of Fred Doll

If your kids are working their way throught the Life of Fred, this Fred doll is the perfect gift. What a wonderful way to bring Fred Gauss to life!

14. Life of Fred Kingie doll

Life of Fred Kingie Doll

And we can’t forget Kingie! He’s as much the star of the show as Fred is in our house!

15. Tegu blocks

Tegu Blocks: 40 Piece Magnetic Wooden Set

This is fantastic for building fine motor skills and encouraging critical thinking skills. One great feature of these wooden blocks is that they are magnetic, so it does help to alleviate some of the frustration children feel over their creations tipping over too easily.

16. Stepping Stones- Chalk and Chuckles

Stepping Stones -  Chalk and Chuckles

In this day and age, board games seem to be a thing of the past in many families. However, board games are a great way to spend some much needed family time together, and this game, in particular, is perfect for the little animal lovers in your family.

17. Trucks- Make a Match- Wooden Memory Game

Trucks - Make a Match TODDLER - Wooden Memory Game

Memory games have always been huge in our house. The one problem we have with them, though, is that since the cards are made out of cardboard, they tend to warp after being handled too much by little fingers. This set takes that problem out of the equation, as this memory game is wooden. Good thinking!

18. uKloo Early Reader Treasure Hunt Game

uKloo Early Reader Treasure Hunt Game - Building reading skills in a fun, active learn to read game!

This game is loads of fun for early readers. In fact, they have such a good time playing it, they don’t even realize it’s educational! That’s always a plus, right?

19. eMedia My Guitar Beginner Pack

eMedia My Guitar Beginner Pack for Kids, with 3/4 Size Guitar

I know you probably think I’m slacking off because of the “eMedia” in the title, but this was not an oversight. The guitar itself is an actual beginner’s guitar- no batteries necessary. It does come with software to aid in teaching children how to play it, but since software doesn’t technically take batteries, it made the cut!

20. Magic School Bus Science Club

Magic School Bus Science Club

My kids and I absolutely LOVE watching “The Magic School Bus”. This series really is the cream of the crop when it comes to entertaining, yet informative, educational programming. The science club is a 12-month subscription to have wacky science experiments delivered to your home every month. I can’t think of a better way to practically apply the lessons learned in this fast-paced and amusing series.

21. Science Art Fusion Bundle

Science Art Fusion Bundle - Making Art, Learning Science

This amazing bundle comes with six different kits containing projects which combine science with art- two of my kids’ favorite subjects. I really, really wish I had stuff like this growing up. Seriously. It’s just not fair!

22. Wall Play Sets

Preschool & Kindergarten Wall Play Sets

Anyone with kids is well aware of their seemingly constant fascination with walls. Whether it’s taping 150 pictures they made to the living room wall (or gluing them like one of my rascals once did) or drawing on it with permanent markers, kids just really love the idea of using this nice, flat surface as their own art gallery/play area. These wall play sets are perfect because they give kids an opportunity to play on the wall to their hearts content, and since these are made for that very purpose, they stick and unstick super easily.

23. Peel, Play, and Learn Re-Usable Stickers

Peel, Play & Learn Reusable Stickers:  Mini Sets

Do you remember Colorforms? I might be dating myself, but they can’t be that old because I used to get them for my oldest son (or maybe he’s old, too!) I just loved them. Like dollhouses, they provided an outlet for all the fantastical thoughts that were constantly swimming through my head. These sticker sets remind me of those. Unlike regular stickers which stick and stay, these stickers can be used and reused over and over again.

24. eMedia Violin Starter Set

eMedia Violin Starter Set

This is exactly like the guitar set but with the violin instead.

25. Habitat and Life Cycle of Ladybug Sensory Box

Habitat and Life Cycle of Ladybug Sensory Box

Sensory bins are all the rage these days, and this ladybug sensory box doesn’t disappoint! These activities are perfect for providing hands-on experiences for young learners to help them better connect with the theme being explored. As with the Science Art set, I wish they had these when I was little!

Before I go, I also wanted to give you some great tips on not only saving money with your holiday purchases, but also toy tips that will help keep your precious little ones safe with this great graphic by ConsumerSafety.org.

holiday toy safety

Be sure to visit iHomeschoolNetwork.com for other Christmas Gift Guides!

iHN Christmas Gift Guides

Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

22 thoughts on “Hate Buying Batteries? Try These 25 Gift Ideas Instead!”

  1. I’ve actually noticed that my kids don’t enjoy battery operated toys nearly as much as imaginative toys. Many of the things on your list are family favorites! My daughter loves Shopkins, too. Everyone shakes their head at them, but she seems to enjoy them. (And…they’re battery free!)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A great list! My in laws buy us a box of batteries each Christmas and they last a good portion of the year… but I do prefer my boys playing with blocks, board and dice games, science and crafting kits, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Okay, first, I’m so glad you explained about Shopkins, because my Gv learned about them from her older cousin who showed her a box in the store one day and now that’s all Gv can think about. We’ve even had to go “visit” them there since! Second, OhMyGoodness yes on the Colorforms! My Muppets set was my favorite! I was actually thinking of buying the classic set for Gv for Christmas this year, but they were just out of our budget. I did, however, find a tiny set at the $ store yesterday, so I’m sooo excited to introduce her to them! #FridayFrivolity

    Liked by 1 person

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