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Unplugged Play: Book Review

Unplugged Play:  No Batteries.  No Plugs.  Pure Fun, by Bobbie Conner, Workman Publishing, 2007

Unplugged Play sounds like a neat concept book.  I like the idea of the book very much and like that there are a lot of hand-on activities and games listed.  However . . . I just can’t help but think that for a book about play it is unfortunate that everything is just so structured.  There are so many—rules—argh. Play is, in my mind, more free-form and natural.

One of the items in the book has to do with toddlers and sand.  Many boys love to play in sand—but the book says don’t let your child throw sand.  Really?  Well, I don’t think they should throw sand at others but throwing sand is great fun and think about everything they are learning.  Is using a sifter really the only appropriate way to play with sand?

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I am torn between liking Unplugged Play and finding it really difficult to take.  Yet there are classic games that I kind of forgot about and I do admit it might be handy to have this book when everyone needs a change of pace.  There are a lot of good activity ideas here.  Plus there are book lists, game lists, and a few craft recipes but those things can be found elsewhere as well.

That said, again, I am having a hard time with this book.  It just seems a bit disrespectful to kids and takes away the natural discovery of things.  Instead of giving a toddler a tray and a ball and seeing what he may do with it, there are specific directions about telling the child how to hold the tray and how to tilt it so that the ball will move etc.  What if that young boy would come up with a much better activity with the ball and the tray.  Well, if we show him exactly what we want him to do with them, that discovery is gone.

She does mention something about play for toddlers and that the book doesn’t imply a rigid set of rules for play but only basic ideas for play– but the way Unplugged Play is written really doesn’t present things quite that way.

Under self-directed play you would expect play, directed by the child.  Nope.  According to Unplugged Play the parent has a job to provide playthings and be a supporting actor waiting in the wings.  Every now and then you are expected to get things started.  By that the author suggests you say “Can you build two different kinds of buildings from these LEGOS?  Well, what if you just waited.  What if you gave that young boy some time to think about what he might like to do with the LEGOS?  Perhaps your boy was just going to start building (in his own self-directed way) and you interrupted and stopped him from creating?  Self-directed play is not to be directed by a parent or a teacher.

Some of the directions are rather silly as well.  “Sledding:  “Place your child in the seld and pull her around the park or yard.  Although your toddler isn’t ready for coasting downhill at top speed, she will still be absolutely delighted to have you pull her through the snow, safe and sound on flat ground.”  My son loved sledding down hills when he was little.  We went down little hills and he squealed with delight.  There is no need to stay on flat ground.

Is this book worth a purchase?  You decide.  I think if you find this cheap—maybe for a couple of dollars, and wanted to use if for a list of ideas to pull out when you just need something different to do, it might be worth the purchase.  When I started this post the Kindle version was around $2.50 but now it is over $9.00 (Amazon prices jump all over the place so double check if you want to order) Paying less than $3.00 might be a good choice.

As much as I wanted to recommend Unplugged Play, and liked the concept of it, I just can’t get past what I see as some major negatives in this book.  I will see if I can find some better selections and post them soon.

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