For our procrastinating society (about 60% of Americans admitted to waiting until the Eve to wrap up their holiday shopping), here is a bit of toddler gift information that may be helpful 36 hours or so before Christmas!
Holiday gifts for all ages seem to grow more technology-based every year. With so many digital toys and eBooks for children, how can we as parents best preserve and grow our kid’s creativity without making every day reliant on a screen or the Internet?
Several conflicting studies over the years address children’s screentime. Some researchers suggest parents limit a child’s time on digital devices, citing lower reading comprehension and poor development. While other studies argue that eBooks promote children’s interaction and help build language and word recognition. The New York Times recently addressed these issues in a science piece “Is E-Reading to Your Toddler Story Time, or Simply Screen Time?” and made me wonder about how digital parenting affects holiday gift purchases.
Digital devices are accessible any time, and particularly helpful when traveling with a toddler on a plane! If you feel like your little one has been spending too much time playing games on your iPad, missing out on a traditional book experience, or playing with their Leapfrog games too much – today we feature a few non-digital gifts that my own toddler Asher has enjoyed:
Classic holiday books. No need to download these! Yes, The Elf on the Shelf invaded many homes in recent years, but what would Christmas be without The Night Before Christmas? Follow up a reading of The Polar Express with a viewing of the movie, and the same for Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Eric Carle’s Dream Snow is a book with the familiar block-y illustrations your kids may recognize from Carle’s classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar. There is also L’il Rabbit’s Kwanzaa and Happy Hanukkah, Corduroy. No matter your religious affiliation, reading books from each culture is not only a great reading experience, but educational for your little one.
Good Old-Fashioned Legos. Or the new ones. Legos have been around for generations and have ignited huge followings including multi-million dollar tradeshows with some of tomorrow’s brightest leaders, amusement parks including Legoland, movies and a proud cult following. Over the years, Legos have adapted to include even the youngest builder with their Mega Blocks line, perfect for little hands and the reinvented DUPLO line that includes themed sets that children under five are easily drawn to. Legos offer an outlet of fun and creativity for all ages and are the perfect representation of the ‘oldie but goodie.’
Magnetic block toys. Tegu and similar manufacturers have developed simple magnetic wooden blocks and toys that allow kids to explore designs and create structures on their own. This is a step-up from a traditional building blocks or Lincoln Logs sets as the magnets give a different tactile sensation when building.
Understand age-appropriate toys. One piece of advice for anyone picking out a gift for kids: Don’t rely too heavily on the suggested age label. Yes, of course, if there are small hazardous pieces involved with the toy – heed all warnings! But for safer items, challenge your kid by picking out a toy for an older age group—and supervise! The Tegu set referenced above was for a different age group, but my 2-year-old son took initiative with the image-based directions and created one of the designs by himself almost perfectly. This empowers kids and helps stretch their imaginations. With gift-giving, this is a nice way to celebrate the holidays and build a strong foundation for the New Year!