Oh, how my children gravitate toward a screen. In my daughter’s letter to Santa, along with a request for a shirt with a peace sign on it, was a request for her own computer. It’s not happening. Santa’s budget doesn’t extend that far, and Santa’s helpers are siding with Dr.Natasha Burget on this and going for tech-free toys this season for the under 12 crowd. We asked Child Life Specialist Keri Gerhart for some suggestions of developmentally appropriate toys for kids to help us in our last-minute shopping. So for those of you who wait for last-minute inspiration when it comes to gift shopping for your children here are our and Keri’s suggestions:
You could fill your baby’s stocking with wrapping paper and boxes and they’d be as happy as a clam, but just in case that won’t do, Keri suggests the following: soft stuffed animals, soft blocks and balls, toys that can rattle such as key sets, toys that have doors/parts that open and shut, blankets, beanie/socks/onesies, mobiles, teething rings or pacifiers.
You can also start a tradition of giving books. Reading to baby is just as important as reading to your preschool or school age child. Not only for the tactile skills getting use to handling books and mimicking us as we read, but also for language skills and of course the comfort of snuggling with a parent. Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a classic and comes in a board book.
Toddlers are out there exploring the world. Help them to explore how things work with push-pull toys, toys that make noise, shape sorters, and play doh. Baby dolls for both girls and boys encourage nurturing and sense of self. We’re keeping with the resilient board books for our toddlers. Eric Carle’s Dream Snow is perfect for this age.
They’re finally playing with other children in an interactive way, let’s encourage it! Tea party supplies, building blocks and Legos, dress up costumes, play doh and other non-toxic art supplies, musical instruments,dolls, child size kitchen pots and pans, play silks. We’re moving on to the stage where they’re not constantly chewing or bashing stuff around, regular picture books are a great gift, Toot and Puddle in Let it Snow by Holly Hobbie is delightful.
Board games, dress up, toys that get them outside and moving, open-ended craft materials, spatial puzzles, and of course, books. The Shortest Day of the Year by Wendy Pferrer is an entertaining non-fiction read for those with a love of science and nature, and of course there are a hundred versions of The Nutcracker.
Sports balls, gift cards to restaurants/clothes shops/ITunes, board games (Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, etc), card games (Skip Bo, Phase 10, UNO), craft projects that involve a higher level of difficulty.
The best gift for any age
At the end of the day what children really want and need is you. Not distracted by our phones or computers, children want us to play with them to have our undivided attention. How about giving a gift of an experience, something you can do together with your child. Whether it is learning to roller skate together, matching goofy bike helmets that you can wear as you bike to the Farmer’s Market, a family pass to a museum (Tucson Children’s Museum, The Mini Time Museum, Tucson Botanical Gardens or Arizona Sonora Desert Museum are all fabulous), or a picnic basket to take out to Gate’s Pass and watch the sunset, these gifts are valuable not because of the material items, but because it is time spent together.
Oh, and check out this great guide from American Academy of Pediatrics on buying safe toys.