As the kids get older our household acquires more and more objects that use batteries. When they were babies, we had the odd singing toy and of course the baby swing. My computer-oriented husband wired a cord and plug to the swing so that it couldn't run out of juice right in the middle of getting the baby to sleep as it was prone to do.
Now, though, we have been collecting Thomas the Train sets. Every engine is equipped with one or two batteries of various sizes and weights; oddly enough they are almost all different from each other. Some take size "C", some "AA", some go in the engine, some in the coal car behind. In one respect they are all the same, however: as soon as they get dropped, they burst open and scatter batteries across the floor.
My daughter, with her penchant for all things lit or moving, loves battery-operated toys, especially flashlights. The trouble is that her attention span is approximately 2.8 seconds long so she routinely forgets to turn anything off. As her frugal mother, this drives me nuts. Batteries cost a lot and it really bothers me that a toy can get only a single use before it sits overnight in the "on" position, draining its power and rendering it useless again. Her brilliant solution is to go buy more batteries.
Right now her flashlight, her little camera she got for Christmas, most of her trains and her letter/number board all sit mutely in the toy box. I finally drew the line and knocked batteries out of the budget for a while.
My husband had a different solution. For a long time we have lacked a light on the back porch. So I got a battery-operated light and installed it above the back stairs, solving the problem of no wiring. Like his daughter, however, my husband left it on all night shortly after it was installed and suddenly there was no light on the back porch again. Then to my surprise, a new battery-operated LED light appeared there one day. Not only was it working, it was equipped with an automatic "off" switch so two minutes after we use it, it shuts itself off and conserves its precious power supply.
What an amazing solution! Now why don't the flashlight, the camera, the train and the number toy all have this useful piece of engineering? I highly doubt that I am alone in the number of batteries I purchase to supply power to toys that don't work because of being let to run under the couch for three days. Perhaps the toy manufacturers have a conspiratorial compact with the battery makers to give them as much business as possible by not only including huge numbers of batteries in their products, none of which are included at purchase, but to make sure their toys are as difficult as possible for toddlers to turn off, thus ensuring that an entirely new supply of batteries will be required at least daily for any toy to actually function as advertised. Perhaps.
They day I find a toy with an automatic off switch is the day I know that there is something good and pure in the world. Until then, my poor daughter is going to have to resort to plain old-fashioned dolls or blocks that don't require batteries at all but might, in fact, require a little imagination and creativity instead.