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Saturday, December 2, 2017

Top 10 Gifts for Young Children

The holidays are just around the corner and we made it through the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales in one piece. But for many of us, there is still a list to check and shopping to finish.  As a speech-language pathologist, I am always looking for toys that stimulate language and literacy development in young children. Young children learn through play. Play stimulates speech and language, social-emotional, cognitive, and motor development. Since play primarily revolves around toys and a child's imagination, I wanted to share with you my top 10 gift recommendations for the holidays. 
(This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. Any purchase through the link may provide a small profit to My Speech Tools).

Fisher-Price Little People can provide hours of opportunities to use imagination. Whether they are learning how to care for animals with the Little People Farm Set, visiting the zoo with the Little People Big Zoo Set, playing with princesses and the Little People Disney Princess Castle, or playing pirates with the Little People Lil' Pirates Ship, these toys provide opportunities for rich language development through pretend play.

Arts and Craft Sets inspire a child's unique interests, spark creativity, and keep little hands busy. These kits require adult supervision. Crafting with your children will create lasting memories. I have fond memories of receiving beads and bracelets, terrariums, kits to grow crystals, and paint-by-number sets. When my children were young they always enjoyed the "Shrinky Dinks" and T-Shirt tie dye kits. Arts and craft sets provide opportunities for families to come together to create keepsakes and memories.

Sensory Play Materials such as Magic Sand, Molding Foam, water beads, Play-Doh and Silly Putty Slime can be given as a calm down tool, help a child stay focused, and integrate a child's sensory system. Sensory play materials can be added to sensory bins, kept in a container inside a student's desk, or shared among friends and siblings. Some children are drawn to the smooth, cool and squishy textures; while others are attracted to dry sand between their fingers. I recommend trying out a few and see which texture your child prefers.

STEM Toys Science, Technology, Engineering and Math toys are now available for children of all ages. children are never too young to experience the magic of science and technology. But instead of just giving a hand-held device, why not let children create their own toys when given the right materials. Today, young children have opportunities to build spaceships and skyscrapers, robots, and working machines.The sky's the limit with STEM toys.

The Gift of Music for children will last forever. It is well known that music stimulates brain development. It stimulates the mind and body to work together. It provide meaning to sound and rhythm. In 2016, The University of Southern California's Brain and Creativity University found that "music instruction appears to accelerate brain development in young children." So consider giving the gift of music this year.

Classic Hasbro Games are a must for families. They have withstood time and proven over and over to bring families together. Playing structured games develops fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, problem-solving and reasoning skills, speech and language skills, sustained attention skills, social-emotional skills (fairness, kindness, self-control, etc.) and so much more. Think about purchasing a game as a family gift this year.

Play Camping Sets stimulate a desire to explore the outdoors. Did you ever camp in the back yard when you were a child? Did you ever spend the night sleeping on the ground with your sleeping bag? Camping sets allow children to find the beauty in nature and discover the world around them. Children use their 5 senses to learn about rocks, sticks, bugs, weather, and the night sky. 

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Dress Up Clothes allow children to explore occupations, experience becoming a hero, be rescued by a handsome prince, or sail off on adventures. I recommend the Melissa and Doug Roll Play Costume Sets for variety and durability in play. Dress up also expands language, literacy and math skills. Children can learn terms such as "stethoscope and scrubs" while playing doctor. They can also take a pretend restaurant order for two which requires them to "double" an item.

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Books are wonderful investments in your child's learning. Does your child have a favorite series, author or topic? Some of my favorite authors are Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Judy Blume, Mercer Mayer, and E.B. White. A few of my favorite book characters are Pete the Cat, Junie B. Jones, Amelia Bedelia, Curious George, and Fancy Nancy. Don't forget book series and box sets such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Magic Tree House. Write a note to a child inside a book cover and it becomes a meaningful keepsake.

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Riding Toys  provide children fun outdoor entertainment with family and friends. Once a child has a bike, they have free entertainment for years. Scooters and bicycles can be personalized with baskets, stickers, and reflectors.  Don't forget the helmets!

As we are all inundated with advertisements and commercials for the latest toys, I encourage you to be purposeful in your shopping and choose gifts that are safe, fun, and promote a healthy lifestyle.

Lisa, SLP
Related Blog Posts you may enjoy

If you love playing games with your own children or using games to target goals in your speech and language therapy groups, I have some these great game companions available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Feed the Pig
Spaghetti and Meatball Game Companion and Dough Mats
Tip the Beans
Blurt it Out!

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