Bobbi Conner is the creator of the public radio series The Parents Journal; she hosted this program for over twenty-four years. Deriving from both her experience and countless interviews with educators, psychologists, pediatricians and other experts on childhood development, these books advocate strongly for our children’s need to play, away from screens, exercising their motor skills and emotional learning.
These books are ideal for both parents and educators looking to remember how games are supposed to be: fun, inexpensive and available at all hours. They come just after The Play First Summit, where an extraordinary array of educators from all over the world stated, accordingly, that our children need to play -unplugged from electronic devices- now more than ever.
All three books carry suggestions organized in four levels: Solo Play, Parent & Child Play, Play with Others, Party Play. I find them all fantastic, because just riffling through the suggestions provides you with a ton of new ideas for each one of these different situations.
Also, the main DIB recommendation approach for unplugging is golden: D stands for Delay, as in not going to a screen as first choice of entertainment. I stands for Introduction, as many of the games provided here are not known to your child. Finally B stands for Be Selective, because very soon the sheer pressure of electronic devices will be overwhelming and you may have to yield and select some content from the gazillion offers available.
All in all, I found the books to be instructive, interesting and well organized. I have to say I was very proud of my child limited screen time: he only played on a tablet on weekends and we just watched a 40 minutes Netflix show after dinner on week nights. However, the Covid 19 Pandemic sent all my careful no-screen time flying out of the window. With online learning, not being able to leave the apartment for days at a time and no visits from friends, he is on a screen sometimes up to 5 hours a day, and that is not what a healthy kid should be doing!
These are strange times, and any good suggestion may be what makes a difference in your child’s approach to playing.
So let’s see what these books have to offer.
Playing for Children Under 3 Years Old
Unplugged Play: Toddler 155 Activities and Games for Ages 1-2. By Bobbi Conner. Illustrations by Bart Aalbers. Workman Publishing © 2020
It is a sad and true fact that, now; even babies have too much screen time. There are conversations out there about the guilt this provokes on parents, but, as day care facilities close down, and the lucky ones still being able to work from home are expected to cope with everything at once… how can you provide a safe play environment for your baby to use, while you try to cook, clean, work, etc.?
The Solo Play section of this book is amazing and uses a lot of household items to promote single play: from muffin tins to pillow cases, to crumbled pieces of newspaper, you get to turn all of them into safe toys (taking some necessary precautions, of course). The refinement of motor skills with easy games such as sorting, placing, stacking and rolling are very good. Also, the list of suggestions for a good read aloud for babies is a true classic. There are suggestions for what to look for on games and toys, and a special recommendation to visit Beyond Play for kids with different abilities.
Price: $12.95 USD
Playing for Kids Aged 3 to 5
Unplugged Play: Preschool 233 Activities and Games for Ages 3-5. By Bobbi Conner. Illustrations by Bart Aalbers. Workman Publishing © 2020
Anyone with a toddler around the house knows how curious, energetic and all absorbing they can be. That’s because they’re at their best: learning how to walk, use tools, jump, run, and because they’re willing to manipulate everything around the house. So the tons of activities proposed here are life savers: from homemade glue that will allow them to play with sticky stuff safely, to songs to play when inside the car, to interviews where you flip things around and ask him/her what they’re favorite things are, many things are valuable and work as eye openers.
Sometimes play is just the ability to pause and have some down time; sometimes it will be messy and loud and will help kids run and burn extra energy, but it will always be necessary and fun.
Price: $12.95 USD
Playing for Kids Aged 6 to 10
Unplugged Play: Grade School 216 Activities and Games for Ages 6-10. By Bobbi Conner. Illustrations by Bart Aalbers. Workman Publishing © 2020
Now, when we are talking 6 to 10 years old, we are talking about a sophisticated level of play.
As many parents with cooped up children know, sometimes a little nudge in the right direction might be enough. However, family nights, playing together with your child and giving yourself time and permission to just be with him/her might work wonders as well.
The activities suggested in this book encompass all type of scenarios: from solo play to group play, from indoor play to outdoor play…even some future activities for birthday party games (remember those?) that will help your children to safely entertain themselves and, at the same time, gain some independence.
I was glad to see many musical, artistic, crafty and reading activities suggested alongside the very much needed kinetic ones. And the homemade recipes are very good, from bubble mixture to play dough to home maid paint; these are sensible, well tough out books.
Price: $12.95 USD
About the Author
A public radio journalist and writer, Bobbi is the author of The Giant Book of Creativity for Kids (Parents’ Choice Recommended Seal) and Everyday Opportunities for Extraordinary Parenting. Conner’s public radio program, audio interviews, books, and articles have been featured in mainstream media.
Disclosure: These books where provided to me for review purposes, but all opinions remain my own.