Options for kids’ presents don’t necessarily need to be toys
by The Press and Standard | November 14, 2019 12:18 pm
The holiday shopping season is here. Shoppers with children on their gift lists have hundreds of toys, games and activities to choose from, while the children who receive those gifts will soon have more choices than ever for playtime. These choices make the holidays an exciting time to be a child.
As a parent or caregiver, it’s important to choose gifts that benefit the whole child, which means providing options that stimulate creativity, imagination, and even independent play, said Kathy Cannavaro, owner of The Little Gym of Summerville. According to a study published earlier this year in the journal Infant Behavior and Development, an environment with fewer toys is better for kids because it allows them to engage in healthier play which ultimately leads to deeper cognitive development. Chances are, the holidays will add even more toys to children’s already overflowing toy shelves, but Cannavaro offers some suggestions to help families manage this dilemma:
- Follow guidance from the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) and shop for toys and games that require adults and children to play, pretend and interact together, as that is when the real magic happens.
- Enhance the quality of play by curating your children’s toys, offering them only a few selected toys at a time. Refresh their toy shelf regularly from your stash of stored toys, swapping new choices for items whose novelty has waned.
- Suggest that family and friends consider gifting an experience in lieu of toys this holiday season.
If gifts that fuel the imagination and promote interaction and parental involvement are the best choice for children, as the AAP has concluded, then experience gifts may be perfect for many of the children on your list, said Cannavaro. The gift of an experience provides these opportunities, along with other important developmental benefits. When you take a child to a museum, or spend the day at the zoo, or sign them up for classes or another child-focused activity, you are exposing them to a new experience, new people and a new way of thinking about themselves and others. You are also creating memories, and that is a gift that can last a lifetime.
Experience gifts can be one-time adventures or ongoing events, extravagant or home-grown, elaborate or simple, adds Cannavaro. Here are some suggestions:
- Tickets to an event. Whether it’s a concert, play, sporting event, or monster truck rally, looking forward to an upcoming event can be almost as exciting as going to it.
- Membership at a local museum or zoo, or season passes to an amusement park. An annual pass to nearby attractions encourages family outings and helps create priceless family memories.
- Classes at a child-focused center, an art studio, or cooking class. Having an opportunity to improve existing skills and learn new ones allows a child to build self-confidence.
- A coupon for an outing — a hike, a picnic, a playground — let the child choose. This one-on-one time is a gift for both the child and the gift-giver.
For parents and caregivers, it’s important to find a gift for children that not only benefits them in the present, but also as they develop and grow, said Cannavaro. Experiences like classes, memberships at local attractions or monthly subscriptions to kid-friendly magazines, books, crafts, or science activities are a great choice.