Instead of shopping for the hottest pricey toy this holiday season, parents are encouraged to buy their children toys that promote healthy childhood development.
“Parents often feel like they have to rush and get ‘the toy of the moment,’” said Dr. Paula Kramer, chair and professor of occupational therapy at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. “These toys may be unique and novel, but they’re not always the best choice for the child, or the toy with the longest life. If a toy is static and doesn’t promote creativity, imagination, and change, it will probably end up in the corner.”
Dr. Kramer recommends that parents consider their child’s specific needs and interests. While also being fun to play with, many toys can encourage healthy mental and physical childhood development, and offer unique value to the child. She also suggests looking for toys that are either at a child’s ability, or just above it, to support growth with the toy and provide a challenge.
According to Dr. Kramer, the current trend in toys aims to get children to move around at a younger age and to incorporate learning. One such movement-oriented toy is the Fisher-Price Smart Cycle® that enables children to pedal through learning discoveries, games, and races, and encourages physical activity while reinforcing reading and motor skills.
With all the high-tech gadgets crowding the shelves, it’s easy for parents to overlook timeless items such as bicycles and sporting equipment, but they can be just as effective in helping children develop spatial relationships and get moving.
“Traditional toys, such as Legos®, are also great because they help build skills such as fine motor manipulation and creativity,” said Dr. Kramer. “While they come with instructions on how to build certain things, kids can choose to build anything they want.”
In what is shaping up to be a leaner holiday season for families, Dr. Kramer also recommends giving your child a priceless gift: yourself.
“Gifts aren’t all about money and children love spending time with their parents and other children,” said Dr. Kramer. “Whether it’s a day at the ice-skating rink, a trip to the zoo, or an IOU to take them and a friend to a movie of their choice, giving a part of yourself is economical, builds positive memories, and strengthens the parent-child relationship.”