Author: Lisa Howie
It’s that time of year when we make lists and employ the services of UPS at a rapid pace. Advertisers entice us to purchase the latest and greatest items promising to entertain and educate our children, as the “must haves” line our shopping carts (both physical and online). We compare prices and check delivery dates. Those items with the largest marketing budgets are pushed in front of us and it’s easy to get caught up in choosing what is popular this season.
There’s another way to look at making those decisions. Rather than choosing an item based on its place on the “10 Top Toys of 2016”, think of the long-term relationship potential of a gift. Some questions you might ask include; “How many different ways can my child use this item?”, “Can this toy “grow” with my child?”, “Will this purchase stimulate creativity, movement, or curiosity?”
Here are some alternatives to battery operated things that hatch and robots promoted as a fun new “friend” for your child.
#1 Books – Quality children’s literature is one of the best investments you can make for your child. Reading to/with your child each day is the number one indicator of future academic success based on numerous studies and it’s a pleasurable activity for both the reader and the listener. Visit your local bookseller for help in choosing a book (or a whole stack) that is appropriate for your child or check out some prominent book review blogs to learn more about current and past offerings. http://www.hbook.com, http://www.kirkusreviews.com
#2 Playsilks – Dramatic Play is an important component in learning storytelling skills and problem solving. Children who have the opportunity to take on new roles and perspectives develop their social skills, language skills, and physical skills during this type of play. Using a simple prop like a playsilk encourages children to improvise and imagine new and varied uses for a single object.
#3 Blocks – These timeless toys are open-ended and provide a wide range of learning experiences from simple horizontal construction to engineering delights. Blocks provide opportunities for individual play as well as social cooperation, engaging brain and body. Here are some interesting sets beyond the basic unit blocks. http://www.kevaplanks.com, http://www.tegu.com
#4 Art Materials – A small collection of art supplies in a handy container offers hours of enjoyment as children explore and create. As children grow and develop, these same materials can be used over and over as their fine motor dexterity and eye-hand coordination increases. More complex and detailed art emerges as experimentation is aided by technique. Begin with a large pad of paper. Add crayons, markers, or oil pastels for drawing. Choose pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, and pompoms for sculptures. Tape. All kinds of tape. Masking, painting, washi!
#5 Real Tools – Measuring tapes, a child-sized mallet/hammer, or safety knives for cutting food are real tools that promote independence and self-confidence in young children. These items allow your child to join you in real work and strengthens their fine and gross motor skills in the process.
Of all the gifts you will give your child this year, time to play is priceless. Invite them to play indoors and out. Play with them.
“The playing adult steps sideward into another reality; the playing child advances forward to new stages of mastery.” -Erik H. Erikson