It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Finding the perfect gifts for your young ones that are both fun and encourage developmental skills may seem impossible, but Lumiere Children’s Therapy is here to help!
Throughout their early years, children develop cognitive, language and motor skills that drive their development for later years. Toys should be challenging but engaging for children at this age. Limit the amount of toys that do all the work for them, such as light-up, musical or spinning toys; instead, focus on toys that require attention and fine & gross motor skills. Here are a few examples:
Cause & effect
Cause and effect toys help children understand the concept that one action can create a reciprocating action. Understanding cause and effect is the baseline for effective communication skills. Children will understand that if they use a facial expression, gesture or vocalization, they will get something in return. Cause and effect toys also encourage the development of fine motor skills by manipulating the toy for something to happen. It also requires strong trunk control to hold oneself up while interacting with the toy.
Fine motor skills are necessary for eating, dressing and writing in later years. The first grasp to develop around six months of age, is the pincher grasp, which requires using the fingertips and thumb to lift smaller objects. As the fine motor skills increase, children will learn how to perfect the pincher grasp, use hands to hold bigger objects, manipulate objects by placing or retrieving from containers and play with smaller toys. For a full description of fine motor development click here.
Animal sounds and names can promote language in small children. Often times, babies’ first few words are either an animal name or sound. Animal sounds are usually the first consonants to develop such as /n/ in “nah”, /m/ in “moo”, /w/ in “woof”, /m/ “meow”, and /t/ in “tweet”.
Imaginary play encompasses social, cognitive and language skills to emulate another person. Imaginary play skills usually develop between 18-24 months by imitating talking on the phone, driving a car or unlocking a door with a key. By four years old, imaginary play will incorporate elaborate story plots with a variety of characters, settings, problems and resolutions.
Music aids in all areas of child development as well as preparing for school, including intellectual, social and emotional, and language skills. Music can serve as a calming or self-regulating tool, aide in communication, and positively affect a child’s mood. Interacting with your child while playing music serves as an intimate bonding experience. Dancing along and using hand gestures (such as the “Itsy Bitsy Spider”) can improve fine and gross motor skills as well! Read our Music Magic post for more ways to incorporate music into your daily routine.
Art is just as important to development and school readiness as music. Dexterity skills are developed while creating art by learning how to grip a writing utensil, manipulate scissors and glue paper together. For younger children, art can also serve as a platform for language development and identification of colors, shapes and actions.
For older children (4+), board games can serve as a way to indirectly teach educational concepts in an engaging manner. Board games can target letter, shap, and color recognition. It also encourages social and cognitive skills such as attention, sportsmanship, turn-taking and listening.
Following directions/listening games:
The most important aspect of gift giving is interacting and playing with your children, nieces/nephews and grandchildren! Children learn best from adult models and they will cherish your time spent together more than any toy. Take time away from the busy holiday schedules to enjoy time with your family.
From the Lumiere Children’s Team.
Children and Music: Benefits of Music in Child Development. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.brighthorizons.com/family-resources/e-family-news/2010-music-and-children-rhythm-meets-child-development
ExpectEditors, W. T. (2014, October 20). Pretend Play. Retrieved from https://www.whattoexpect.com/toddler/pretend-games/
Lynch, G. H. (2012, May 25). The Importance of Art in Child Development. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/music-arts/the-importance-of-art-in-child-development/
Staff, S. Z. (2015, April 28). Teaching baby animal names, sounds, and habits builds important skills. Retrieved from https://www.schoolzone.com/blog/teaching-baby-animal-names-sounds-and-habits-builds-important-skills