Toy catalogs are stuffing mailboxes in homes across the country to entice parents and grandparents to buy lots of gifts – things that light up, make noise, move, shake and otherwise give us all a holiday headache. Our older children usually have a list of items they’d like to receive, but when it comes to the youngest children, gift-givers are often stumped.
Dr. Alzein is here with ideas for infants, toddlers and preschoolers!
Birth to 6 months old
What do we buy for baby when they really don’t want anything more than a clean diaper and feedings on schedule? The most useful toys are the ones that encourage tummy time. This is the most important exercise babies do multiple times a day to build strength and coordination. Look for blankets with different textures, colors and shapes. Consider mirrored “tent” toys that encourage infants to lift up on their arms. Tubes and balls that roll slowly are also great fun for little ones.
6 months to one year old
The classic stacking toys, plastic donuts “ring toss”, shape sorters and blocks are great toys for babies. They’ll practice picking up a toy with intention and moving it to a specific spot, balancing the pieces so they stack together and fitting the shapes into the correct holes. These simple activities strengthen coordination and eyesight.
One to two years old
Your child is on the go or making plans to start moving! Although this changes the game for everyone, it’s a significant milestone to celebrate and encourage. This is the ideal time to get your child a push toy, such as a stroller, a “lawn mower”, a grocery cart or a walker. These toys will encourage movement and coordination. They will likely choose to push their favorite toys everywhere they go – whether that is their dinosaur collection, favorite truck, or their beloved doll.
Two to three years old
Do you remember playing with a farm? This classic toy has been around for decades and is still a favorite. A play farm with toy farm animals and farmers will allow your child to learn about animals and role play with the pieces. As your child begins to observe how people interact with each other and with them, it’s important that they have ways of experimenting with these observations. Does the farmer take care of the animal or does the farmer hit the animal? Sit on the floor and play with your child, role playing basic interactions and conversations that reinforce good behavior. This type of toy is a positive way to encourage imagination and practice social skills.
Three to four years old
At this age, your child is continuing to strengthen fine and gross motor skills in addition to their problem-solving skills. One of the best ways to strengthen all three of these skills is with traditional puzzles. Puzzles are a effective way to teach your child to look at the picture as a whole, to try different ways of placing the puzzle into place if it doesn’t work the first time or to try a whole new piece in the spot. Begin with puzzles that have about 10 pieces and build from there to continue challenging your child. Puzzles are an important opportunity to work on problem solving and patience, and to feel proud of themselves every time they finish the puzzle.
From birth to teen to adult
No matter what age you are looking to gift, you can always fall back on books. Books reinforce language, reinforce ideas, and is a way to form connections with children. Reading to children from birth increases their vocabulary, expands their ability to empathize with others and gives them tools to communicate about the world. Age-appropriate books are always a solid gift-giving go-to.
Remember that the gift should reflect where the child is developmentally. Givers do not need to spend hundreds of dollars on the latest and greatest technology or trendiest boutique toys – kids, especially in this age bracket, don’t care about that and won’t benefit from it either. They care about and benefit most from the time loved ones spend with them – playing with these toys and helping them understand the world around them. That is always the most important gift.
Questions about the safety and developmental stage of a toy your child is asking for? Just send us a message through your patient portal at alzeinpeds.com and we’ll be happy to offer our advice!