If you’re like me, you haven’t gotten your gift shopping done yet. In fact, if you’re a REAL procrastinator like me, you haven’t even gotten started with it yet. If you’re looking for some great ideas about what sort of gift to get your little one, I’ve got you covered! Here are 3 gift ideas that will support your child’s development, and provide hours of play and entertainment in the years to come, not just for a few days!
1. Play Kitchen
If you don’t already have an area set up for your child to engage in imaginative or dramatic play, a kitchen is an excellent start! Young children begin pretending at a surprisingly young age (my 16 month old is already spending plenty of time putting on her daddy’s shoes and pretending to head off to work), and they are the most comfortable pretending with things that they see all the time. That’s why playing House is so common in young children! A play kitchen allows your children to imitate and explore with things that they see you do every day, like putting food in the oven, putting dishes in the sink, and serving up pretend meals!
While there are MANY pretend sets that you can get for your child, I believe that a kitchen area or other housewares type area is the best place to start. Once your child has mastered pretending with everyday tasks and life skills that they see all the time, they’ll begin branching out to playing Store, or School, or wherever their imaginations take them.
I suggest looking for a sturdy kitchen that will last a long time. Melissa and Doug have an AWESOME kitchen set, and everything you’ll need to go with it on their website. I highly recommend their products because they are of excellent quality, and hit on MANY points that support physical, cognitive, and language development. However, if you’re looking for a more thrifty alternative, look on your local craigslist.com page for a used set. I found one in excellent condition for less than $50. With a good cleaning and some paint, it’s ready to be wrapped up and waiting for our little girl under the tree!
2. Unit Blocks
Unit blocks are the wooden blocks that you remember from school, or your own childhood. They come in several shapes, including squares, rectangles, triangles, and more. They are all built around the square as the basic unit, which means that two squares can be used to make a rectangle, or two triangles can be used to make a square. This helps children to understand spacial relations, and to inspire their creativity when they find they don’t have the right shape to build their structures.
Building is a great way for your child to make representations of the things that they have seen while out and about, and to explore concepts such as shapes, geometry, and physics. They LOVE taking the time to build tall towers, or to painstakingly create castles or fences for their other toys to play in. This is a toy that will keep your baby busy not just for hours, but for YEARS! Because they are made to be extremely sturdy, these blocks will withstand almost anything your child can throw at them, except perhaps a teething puppy. Melissa and Doug also have a great selection of Unit Blocks on their site!
This may seem like an odd Christmas present, what with all of the cold, snow, and general lack of sand play that goes on during the winter. However, I stand by this as a gift idea for a couple of reasons. One, a sandbox will be a great addition to your outside play area when the sun comes out again, and can give your little one a reason to spend plenty of time soaking up rays and enjoying the fresh air. Two, sand play gives children many ways to experiment and explore with building and burying. And thirdly, there’s no law that says a sandbox has to be used outside!
Your child will benefit greatly from being able to dig, sift, and play in the sand. Sand provides excellent sensory input for your child, and a perfect arena for experimentation. They can add water to make the sand heavy and easier to build with. They can bury toys to be uncovered with brushes and shovels. They can cover their own hands and feet and feel the different temperatures.
If you get a box that can be used both inside and outside, such as one of the turtle shaped boxes or a kiddie pool filled with sand, you can keep it indoors and covered up to use on cold or rainy days. You’ll likely want to keep your box in an area that’s easy to clean, rather than on carpeting. However, there’s no rule that says you need a BIG box, either! a large tupperware bin filled with sand will do the trick just as well.
If you’re looking for a larger box that can be used outside as well, I again point you toward your local craigslist. You’ll likely be able to find a used one for less than $30 in great condition! Try to get white, fine grain sand to go inside. This type of sand holds together the best when it’s wet, to help your child sculpt things more easily.
It may seem like I’m getting paid for recommending Melissa and Doug toys, but I’m not. I’m just a huge fan of the quality of product they create, and how much my daughter has loved every single toy that we’ve gotten from them. They have SO many different types of toys, so if you’re not interested in these ideas, but you still need a great gift for your child, go check them out! www.melissaanddoug.com
For More Ideas
I wrote the book Little Bodies, Big Ideas to give parents like you ideas for how to support your child’s creativity and development at home. If you are looking for some tips on how you can use these gifts to specifically help your child to grow and explore, check it out! It will teach you how to set up Centers for each one of these toys, and a couple more, too!
Find it here:
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