by Kaitlin Kersten, Occupational Therapist,
Jodi Knight, Speech Therapist,
and Lindsey Hefel, Physical Therapist
TOYS! Nearly every child has a list a mile long of toys they want for Christmas. But as any parent knows, those toys take up a lot of space! And sometimes, are not played with very often.
This holiday season, the Pediatric Therapy Team at Southwest Health would like to offer our suggestions (based on our professional expertise) about some of the best gifts for boys and girls of all ages. Gifts and toys that are multipurpose and long lasting are great so kids can get several years of play out of them! Toys that promote discovery, problem solving, movement, and interaction with others are at the top of our lists. And don’t underestimate the value of experiences as gifts. Maybe a COVID-friendly trip to the zoo, some painting or woodcarving classes, a play/ musical, or museum trip.
Developmental gift suggestions by age:
Birth-1 year: Colors, music, and animated caregivers that talk to them are essential at this stage!
Rattles, colorful toys, musical/ light up toys, soft books, singing (even awful parent singing), nursery rhymes, board books, touch and feel books, pillows and blankets to promote movement while they learn to roll/ crawl/ walk. Experiences could include going on walks or driving around looking at Christmas lights.
1 -2 years: Look for things that allow for free play, encourage discovery and imaginative play. Engaging caregivers are still essential at this stage for language, social, and emotional development.
Blocks, sorting cubes, push/pull toys, zig-zag tower, plush doll or animal, jumbo simple puzzles with knobs, balls, large Duplo blocks/ Legos, nesting toys, bubbles, board books, sweep and mop set, trucks/ cars, scooter/pedal toy, musical toys, doll house/school bus/ farm, kitchen set, play food, Play-Doh (consider homemade). Low cost activities could include making pine cone birdfeeders and playing in the snow.
3-5 years: This is an age where independence becomes a theme. A few focuses should be playing as a group, developing fine motor/hand strength and skills. Kids love to be story tellers around this time, so let them develop their own story! We see kids around this age develop strong food preferences, continue to offer foods in a low-stress play-based environments.
Kinetic sand, gear building set/magna-tiles, homemade superhero cape, Etch-a-sketch, balance “bike”, puzzles, books, Play-Doh, Legos/ Duplo blocks, stomp rocket, vet set, Lincoln Logs, dress up clothes, life-like doll, insect/ butterfly kit, mini ukulele, magnetic letters, jump rope, clay, story maker, slime kit, arts and crafts set, coloring books, marker sets, board games such as Connect 4, Candy Land, and Monopoly Junior, sports equipment, musical toys, sensory tubs (rice, beans, water, etc.) For experiences, consider going on a nature walk and playing eye spy, or have kids help with baking Christmas cookies.
6-8 years: This is a time of social rules and fairness. Friends are important. Children are learning to read.
Science kits, Walkie Talkies, board games such as Guess Who? and Sorry, Squigz starter set, over the door basketball hoop, Dominos chain reaction, Hula Hoop, karaoke microphone, latch kits, slime kits, craft kits, fold and fly airplanes book, Barbies, super heroes, Legos, board games/ card games, sports equipment, Easy Bake Oven. Some experiences could be making paper snowflakes and decorating windows, write and illustrate their own book, snow painting with bottle water and food coloring, or meal planning and shopping for a list of ingredients.
9-12 years: Toys that promote independence, responsibility, and money management should be the focus.
Sports equipment, Legos, Barbies, dolls, musical instruments, science kits, arts and crafts, camera, remote control cars, games, STEM activities, robots, tie dye kit, skateboard, scooter, bike, over the door basketball hoop, reversible sequin notebook, board games such as Trouble and Battleship, crystal growing, droid kits. Experiences to add in to the holidays could be virtual museum trips, a history tour, planning a meal from a budget, coming up with dinner ideas and volunteering at a soup kitchen.
Teens: Interpersonal relations are paramount, think of games they can do with peers.
Make-up (if you are comfortable with that), journal, arts/crafts, cooking/ baking supplies, Legos, camera, technology, jewelry, grooming kits, headphones/earbuds, Amazon Echo/Google Home, luggage, gift cards, fun socks, clothing, shoes, hair accessories, novelty items, water bottle, blanket, lightbox, room decorations, game Cards Against Humanity, tie dye kit. Experiences for this age group would include volunteering with different organizations, adopting a cause, meal planning, or making gifts for friends.
We hope you find these ideas helpful. There are so many options out there for gifts! As we said at the beginning, experiences and spending time together are just as good (if not possibly better) than material “stuff”. We wish you the best of the holiday season and home that you will find something for all of the children on your Christmas list.