Kids will no doubt be able to tell you exactly what they want for Christmas, and the list will probably include lots of toys they have seen commercials for. I asked Lucia Coplan, an occupational therapist, what she thinks kids should have to encourage their growth and development.
She pointed out that for children, play has two purposes: the first is to have fun, but the second is for them to practice important skills. To see what kind of toys encourage that learning, we went shopping together at the . Here are some toys that Lucia likes.
1. Cash Register — Dramatic Play activities are important for kids. Toys like this can be used in different ways for different activities with different groups of kids. A cash register can be used in any kind of store game. It encourages math skills, from simple counting and learning numbers for younger kids, or using multiplication and making change for older kids. Dramatic play also fosters imagination and creativity, and develops social skills like negotiation and cooperation.
2. Clay and Playdough — Art supplies encourage fine motor skills as well as creativity. Holding a pencil takes practice and coordination, and molding clay builds hand strength, as well as teaching about three dimensional objects. Kids should always have access to art supplies, and the holidays are a great time to replenish stocks.
3. Apples to Apples Kids, Rush Hour — Games teach a variety of important social skills. Are you ready for the list? Kids who play games are practicing patience, turn-taking, manners, sportsmanship, following directions, memory development and (very important) managing frustration. Depending on the game, they also practice other skills. Apples to Apples Kids sharpens language skills, and Rush Hour develops spatial and problem solving skills.
4. Blocks — If a child could only have one toy, it should be a set of blocks. With a little imagination, the blocks can become any other toy. Aside from their use in dramatic play, blocks teach science and spatial skills. Kids use fine and gross motor skills when building towers, and they never get too old for them. Lucia’s older kids used their blocks to devise a live-action version of Angry Birds, toppling intricate structures with Angry Birds erasers.
5. Books — From the littlest ones practicing fine motor skills by turning the pages, to older kids (and adults!) learning absolutely anything from the content, books are a great gift for anyone. Reading to kids is the best way to teach reading skills — from learning letters to understanding plot. Fostering a love of independent reading is a gift that will last a lifetime.
6. Bike — There’s a reason a bike is a classic gift. It’s big and shiny and dramatic. But a bike also develops coordination, and provides an important sense of accomplishment and independence. Head over to , and get expert guidance on choosing a quality bike for anyone on your list.
Lucia suggests going ahead and getting your kids that “wow” gift that they have seen on TV and are clamoring for, but she recommends trying to find a balance in your kids’ toy collection between indoor/outdoor and fine motor/gross motor toys. These suggestions should help balance out your collection, and because all of these toys can be used in so many different ways, your kids won't outgrow them. They'll just change the way they use them, and that will save you money.