Yes, I know your kids all want electronic gadgets this year. That’s a given. Beyond the computer games, X-Boxes, Kindles, etc., what’s going to help your child become more successful in school and in life.
Often parents forget the real reason children need toys—learning to be creative, sorting out relationships through play, and just plain having fun. Children need to have time to play without outside interference and sometimes without electronic gadgets that don’t necessarily allow for certain types of learning experiences.
If you are buying toys for your own children, nieces, nephews, children of friends, or for an Angel Tree child, consider some of the following:
HAND OR FINGER PUPPETS OR MARIONETTES—Yes, good old-fashioned puppets of various types are actually great for the creative development of kids. Interactions with imaginary play can help your child determine how to solve problems, create healthy relationships, and just plain have fun. Be sure you are getting puppets that are age appropriate for your child, of course. Many hand puppets or finger puppets are labeled for children over age three. That’s for safety. Also, a small child who does not have good small or even large muscle control should not be given a marionette (string puppet). Marionettes have strings that tangle easily and can frustrate a small child, but older children love playing with them. Many large marionettes are available now and can provide hours of entertainment.
BUILDING SETS—Guess what! Lincoln Logs are once again available. So are Erector sets. Legos have been a favorite of kids for decades as have just plain old wooden blocks. Why are these toys a good choice? Again, they allow a child to be creative in three dimensions. Learning to build a house and, consequently, knocking it down can engage your child’s imagination over a long period of time. Yes, you have to teach them the responsibility of picking everything up and storing it away for next time too. Responsibility for one’s own thing is a life skill that all children need to learn. Think about it!
DOLLS AND STUFFED ANIMALS THAT DON’T DO ANYTHING!–Both boys and girls need to play with baby and children dolls. The doll doesn’t need to talk back or go to the bathroom or crawl. Imagination is the object of toys. Yes, it’s fun to have toys that have animation and there’s nothing wrong with having some of those too, but the ones that require the child to think about what should be occurring are the ones that truly stimulate creative thinking.
TRAINS, PLANES AND AUTOMOBILES—That’s right. Cars and trucks and things that go can give the imaginative child a world of pleasure. Putting together models of these toys when the child is old enough can give motor skills and understanding of how things work.
MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS—Drums, recorders, pianos, kazoos…the list can go on and on. Experimenting with sounds and melodies can literally create new pathways in your child’s brain. These link one side of the brain to the other and stimulate learning in other areas—like reading, math, science and social studies. (Of course, while they are experimenting, they might be encouraged to play in a soundproof room if you have one!)
SPORTS EQUIPMENT—We’re talking balls, bats, gloves, etc. (not real guns please!) Obesity is one of the most prevalent problems that affect the health of children in Tennessee. Getting your child moving also stimulates his brain and teaches her good sportsmanship.
BOXES, POTS AND PANS, AND KITCHEN SPOONS—Here it is—the favorite toy of all kids when the presents have been opened. Nothing is more creative than making something from ordinary objects.