For many parents of young children, the holiday shopping season becomes a painstaking session of research and deliberation in deciding what toys to purchase. There really should be a flow chart for holiday shopping for children. We imagine it would go something like this:
- Is it age-appropriate? Yes, next question.
- Is it budget friendly? Yes, next question.
- Are the reviews good (note: reviews are your lifesaver. What looks like fun and a good deal can easily be the first thing to break)? No, back to the beginning. If yes, the final question is the trickiest.
- Will my child be stimulated with it? And by stimulation, we mean boosting creativity and other skills.
To help you along with the process, Christina Fecio, director of education for Doodle Bugs! Children’s Centers, has provided the top educational gifts for children under five this year. “All recommended toys are open-ended experiences, meaning the purpose is the process more than the product. Open-ended experiences encourage creative thinking and boost skills needed for school,” Fecio said.
These encourage critical thinking/problem solving skills and find motor development. Blocks introduce children to concepts of balance and gravity. Melissa and Doug is a terrific resource for blocks…and more!
You really can’t go wrong with art supplies. Parents can make a “creation station” in a simple tote or three-drawer cart with paper, paint, crayons, glue, scissors and playdough. This is an extremely low-cost option and offers a world of possibilities.
a. Consider adding office supplies, such as a stapler, tape or label makers for older children
b. Try this easel to make the artist studio complete!
Reading to young children is the single most effective way to build strong reading skills, even beginning in infancy. By encouraging thoughts like “I wonder” or “What if” can naturally connect a book to many other topics. Here are a few seasonal favorites:
a. Llama llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney
b. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
c. The Thankful Book by Todd Parr
d. The Family Book by Todd Parr
e. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
f. Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner
This activity encourages children to “try on” different roles, experiment with new vocabulary, etc. It includes play kitchens and food, playhouses, dolls and puppets and appropriate for both boys and girls. Consider this Melissa and Doug play kitchen or this shopping cart.
Just because there’s a chance you played with it as a child doesn’t mean that its fun is out of date. Most of the toys like Mr. Potato Head, Magnadoodle, Etch-A-Sketch, Slinky and Hula Hoops have made it to the National Toy Hall of Fame and are all gifts that encourage skill building. Check out the list for more ideas.
Visit www.doodlebugs.com for more information on Doodle Bugs! and their BRAVO! Curriculum.