At Sierra Therapy Group, we use play on a daily basis to engage our young clients. We know that there are better toys than others that can help children develop physically, mentally, and socially. We would like to share our ideas on which toys and games would make great holiday gifts for the children in your lives. **See the bottom of the blog for lists of toys by age**
The ideal toys are multipurpose and versatile. Also, keep in mind that good toys will encourage communication, imagination, and coordination. Finally, look for toys that are safe and inexpensive.
Multipurpose and versatile toys can be used in more than one way and in more than one setting. For example, colorful nesting cups can be stacked into a tower or submerged in the bathtub. A nesting cup might be a bowl in your child’s play kitchen. They can even be taken to the beach for making sandcastles. Playing with nesting cups helps develop motor planning skills. This toy is also great for learning the concepts of size, color, and spatial relationships (e.g., in, on, under, behind). You can model simple language during these tasks as well (e.g., if in the bathtub you can say “pour out” or “water in”; if stacking you can say “put on” or “fall down”).
Another example of a multipurpose toy is a dress-up box. Trying on different costumes develops pretend play. This is a great way to have your child practice buttons, ties, snaps, and zippers. Describing the characteristics of the clothing or the character that the child is playing develops language skills. Some children like to put on fantasy costumes like their favorite superhero or animal. Other children like to pretend they are a real person like their teacher, doctor, mom, or dad. Old purses, hats, and glasses with the lenses popped out make great additions to a dress-up box!
For young children pretend play sets are great. A farm set is a wonderful toy to develop language and imagination. A farm set can teach basic concepts like the names of animals, what sounds the animals make, and where the animals live. A few other sets that we love at STG are the veterinarian set and Mr. Potato Head because they provide opportunities for both language and motor skills development.
Simple, inexpensive toys are often the best. Children can use their imagination to play with objects found around the house. Flashlights are a good example of an ordinary object providing hours of fun. Turning the flashlight on and off or making shadow puppets develops fine motor skills. This game also provides an opportunity to practice language like “on” and “off.”
If you feel that the child in your life has too many toys, a great holiday gift is an Experience. Experience gifts may be a pass to a local museum or water park (even if it can’t be used until summer!). You can make vouchers for the movies, a trip to the ice cream shop, or arcade. Lessons for swimming, dance, or karate also make great gifts that last long after the holidays.
Recommended toys for children birth to 12 months:
- Soft books, play gyms, rattles
Recommended toys for children 12 to 24 months:
- Squirting bath toys, wagon, pull toys, blocks, nesting cups
Recommended toys for children 2 to 3 years:
- Dolls, cars, basic shape sorters, musical instruments (drums, piano), imaginary play sets (Little People)
Recommended toys for children 3 to 5 years:
- Hippity Hop ball, Crocodile Dentist game, shape puzzles, art supplies (paintbrushes, scissors, crayons, glitter, glue), Trio Blocks
Recommended toys for children 5 to 6 years:
- Playdough, ZOOBs, jigsaw puzzles, rubber stamp set, Zingo games, Pop Up Pirate game
Recommended toys for children 7 to 8 years:
- Tracing paper and learn to draw cartoon books, jewelry making kits, scooter, eye spy books, activity books with mazes and hidden pictures
Recommended toys for children 9 to 10 years:
- Checkers, dominoes, Uno, dart ball game, Rush Hour game, rainbow loom, Legos
Recommended toys for children 11 years and up:
- Origami kits, Qwirkle game, science kits, horseshoes, bean bag toss, croquet, Jenga