‘Tis the season to begin our holiday shopping! With this season comes the challenge of finding engaging and interactive toys for the kids in our lives. While electronic toys can be a tempting gift idea this holiday season, don’t be quick to rule out the power of traditional toys and gift ideas. These types of gifts, often used in pediatric occupational, speech, or physical therapy settings, have the potential to have a positive lasting impression on a child’s developmental skills.
Comprised of a dedicated team of occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and physical therapists, UnityPoint Health - Finley Hospital’s pediatric rehabilitation team remains committed to working one-on-one with families and their children to maximize each child’s potential for functional independence and communication through evaluations, development of individualized treatment programs, promotion of health and wellness, assessment of needs for adaptive equipment, and expansion of communication skills. It’s with this in mind that Finley’s pediatric rehabilitation team identified a list of traditional gift ideas that will not only bring joy this holiday season, but will encourage and promote the development of many early learning skills including imaginative play, joint attention, communication and social language use.
Toys that promote pretend play:
Toys such as kitchen sets, cash registers, doctor kits, telephone toys, dolls or stuffed animals all present an opportunity for you and your child to enter the world of make-believe this holiday season. Foundational developmental skills, such as joint attention, social interaction, and communication, are all achieved through the encouragement of imaginative play with others.
Books with repetitive texts:
Books are simple gifts that not only spread the joy of reading, but have a tremendous impact on a child’s speech and language skill development. Picture books that are comprised of repetitive storylines, such as Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess, or Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, are great gift ideas that focus on vocabulary expansion, following a story line, and understanding conversational flow. In addition, book reading provides opportunities for children to practice their speech sounds and learn their letters. Through repetition, children are able to understand the use of fun phrases, while also improving their reading and communication skills.
Games that promote turn-taking:
Traditional board games, such as Memory, Connect Four, Jenga, or Guess Who promote the importance of turn-taking and social interaction within childhood play. Gifts like these require a child to play and interact with another person, while creating an environment that rides on the success of social interaction and teamwork.
Toys that encourage cognitive development:
Toys such as bubbles, pull-back toy cars, race tracks, or blocks may be seen as simple gift ideas compared to electronic options we have today. However, toys like these require a child to practice their attention and motor skills, and promote understanding of cause-and-effect relationships. Breathing into a bubble wand, or pulling and releasing a pull-back toy car, for example, show a child that their actions are what cause the fun desired reaction. It’s toys like these that strengthen a child’s understanding of their abilities to produce an outcome.
Toys that promote gross motor development:
A basic soft ball (think beach ball) can be a great gift for kids of all ages. These toys promote a child’s coordination, balance and strength by catching, tossing, rolling or pushing a ball. You can also get creative, using the ball as a prop to create an imaginative game. Trampolines and slides help to develop a child’s coordination and strength without the kids realizing how hard their bodies are working.
It’s no doubt that technology has had countless positive effects on nearly every aspect of our lives, which is why electronic toys shouldn’t be ruled out completely this holiday season. However, now more than ever, it’s apparent just how much technology impacts the way we interact with one another and how our children learn and grow.
“While we can all appreciate the fun found in electronic gift ideas and the ease of finding such toys, I’d like to challenge everyone to bring out their inner child and share a memory with the kids closest to them through low-technology toys,” shares Gina Martin, speech pathologist with UnityPoint Health Finley Hospital’s pediatric rehabilitation team. “My hope is that we can all see the importance of promoting development of language, motor, play, speech, and cognitive skills in kids today. I think many people will be surprised to see the imagination and creativity that kids can possess given the opportunity. “
Click here to learn more about UnityPoint Health - Finley Hospital’s pediatric rehabilitation team.
Gina’s Top Gift Picks:
1-year olds: jack-in-the-box toys, Melissa and Doug rainbow ring stacker, The First Years Stack Up Cups- all of which promote joint attention with a play partner and begin to teach the cause and effect relationship
2-year olds: Melissa and Doug Shape Sorter, YBike- Pewi, Poke-a-Dot books- these toys promote the emergence of problem solving skills and motor development
3-4 year olds: Fisher Price Medical Kit, Melissa and Doug Cutting Food Set, Hand Puppets- imaginative play and social skill development can be achieved through the use of these toys.
5-7 year olds: AlphaTales Book Set, Etch-A-Sketch, Highlights Magazine subscription- toys that promote the emergence of reading, writing, and letter recognition will be a hit with this age!
Gina’s Favorite Books:
From Head to Toe by Eric Carle- Children can learn labels for animals and pair verbs with the action while they stomp their feet, kick their legs and wiggle their toes along with their animal friends.
Brown Bear Brown Bear by Eric Carle- The repetitive text in this book exposes children to open-ended ‘wh-‘ questions throughout.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault - parents and children can work on letter recognition both for capital and lower case letters, as well as rhyming words.
Where’s Spot by Eric Hill- this book helps to facilitate joint attention and teaches prepositions as children look for Spot behind, in, or under different objects.
The Elephant and Piggie Series by Mo Willems- these books help teach children lessons on being a friend, sharing, and other valuable social skills.