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SALT LAKE CITY — The Internet of Things (IoT) is all the rage, and there's a good chance your children's wish lists include at least one toy that leverages IoT technology. But believe it or not, battery-free toys are still popular with most youngsters.
A 2008 study by Harris Interactive found when kids ages 8 to 18 were asked to name a specific brand or toy as their favorite, the two most popular toys had no batteries or electronic technology.
That's welcome news, because tech-free toys can offer benefits that many electronic gadgets can't. For starters, traditional toys typically encourage kids to play together, which is great for development. Traditional toys also tend to inspire creativity and encourage children to use their imaginations while interacting with the real world around them.
We aren't suggesting you shun all electronic gifts, but putting a few of these tech-free toys under the tree might be just what Santa would suggest.
Ages 0 to 3
My First Gym, $60 —My First Gym is a parent's dream. It's made with a sturdy wooden frame and holds eye-catching toys, rattles and rings that encourage your little one to stretch and play — without blinking lights or blaring music.
Jelly Bean Racer, $20 — This kid-powered ride will encourage your toddler to get moving and develop gross motor skills along the way. As an added bonus, it's affordable, durable and totally adorable.
Superhero Capes, $35-$65 — If you're looking for a one-of-a-kind kid's gift, a superhero cape from Lovelane Designs is the perfect fit. Handmade and printed in the United States, these capes will encourage creative and empowering games of pretend.
Personalized Flash Cards, $25 — Far from the standard flashcards you had growing up, these Pinhole Press flashcards can be customized with pictures of family members and other recognizable people or things. Simply upload your own photos, add corresponding words, and watch as your little one builds confidence with this early reading activity.
Multi-Solution Shape Puzzle, $20 — Puzzles are excellent tech-free toys that can help your toddler develop an array of skills, but they usually end up at the bottom of the toy box once mastered. That won't be the case with a P'kolino multi-solution puzzle. These puzzles feature double-sided pieces that produce several different outcomes, so they'll hold your child's attention long into the new year.
Ages 4 to 11
Lego City Space Port, $120 — Legos have been pleasing kids for decades, and the Lego City Space Port is no different. It includes nearly 600 pieces and five minifigures that will keep your young one's imagination going for hours on end.
Lost Civilization Excavation Kit, $19 — The young explorer in your life is sure to love Seedling's Lost Civilization Excavation Kit. It comes with everything budding archaeologists could want — digging tools, notepad and colored pencils — to learn to engage with the world around them.
Build-It-Yourself Woodworking Kit, $35 — Woodworkers young and old will have fun with this quality woodworking kit from Lakeshore. The kit comes with more than 80 pieces, including kid-friendly tools and step-by-step project instructions.
Magic Set, $35 — Let your child engage and entertain your whole family with the help of the props they'll find in this highly rated magic set by Melissa & Doug. As they master these tricks, they'll also be honing their confidence and fine motor skills.
Zoingo Boingo, $30 — If you want to encourage your child to get up and move around, this pogo stick will do the trick. Kids won't be able to get enough of this toy that lets them bounce, twirl and leap like they never thought possible.
Ages 12 to 18
Tinker Crate, $20 per month —Subscription boxes are gifts that really keep on giving. If your tween or teen has an interest in science, math or tech, they're sure to love the hands-on activities contained in each monthly Tinker Crate package.
PowerSeeker Telescope, $70 — Encourage your family's budding astronomer with the PowerSeeker telescope. They'll never look at the night sky the same way again.
Make Your Own Ukulele, $40 — This make-your-own ukulele kit is an awesome way for the tween or teen in your life to feel the accomplishment of making something by hand. The kit includes everything needed to build a fully playable musical instrument — and once they're done, they can paint it to reflect their own sense of style.
Slackers Zipline, $80 — Turn your backyard into the neighborhood's best amusement park with Slackers Zipline. Once it's set up, this toy is one that the whole family can enjoy together.
There's nothing wrong with children wanting to stay connected with the latest devices — just make sure to balance those high-tech gifts with a few of these non-tech alternatives to help your kids remember how to enjoy a simple, unplugged holiday season.
Sarah Pike is a born-and-raised Nevadan living in Utah. She freelances and teaches college speech and writing courses. You can find her on Twitter at @sarahzpike.