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Pediatric Boulevard’s Ultimate Gift List for Kids!

Toys that benefit a child’s physical and communication development

With the Christmas season upon us, our therapists often get the question: “WHAT should I buy my kid for Christmas to aid with their physical and communication development?” Given this is a common question with most parents, we asked our physical, occupational, and speech therapists to collaborate and develop a list of toys that they would recommend. Our licensed therapists came up with a great list of toys, categorized by age group, to stimulate and facilitate ANY child’s development.

When buying a toy to facilitate development, look for toys that are:

  • interactive
  • help a child explore
  • expose them to cause and effect
  • expose them to problem solving
  • encourage social skills
  • facilitate FUN

Electronic Devices:

Our therapists have chosen to eliminate electronic devices from our list of developmental toys. Unfortunately, as much as we love our electronic gadgets for entertaining our kids, these are NOT the best toys for our children to facilitate their development. In fact, studies have shown that over exposure to these electronic devices can negatively affect a child’s overall “wellbeing”.

For those choosing to purchase any type of electronic device for their child this Christmas, we have included the following Technology Use Guidelines for children and youth. This chart was developed by Cris Rowan, pediatric occupational therapist and author of Virtual Child; Dr. Andrew Doan, neuroscientist and author of Hooked on Games; and Dr. Hilarie Cash, Director of reSTART Internet Addiction Recovery Program and author of Video Games and Your Kids, with contribution from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Pediatric Society in an effort to ensure sustainable futures for all children.

So, taking electronic devices off our list…

What toys DO we recommend??

***Disclaimer: Pediatric Boulevard does not make any endorsement on one specific product and does not receive any financial gain for any product noted in our Christmas List recommendations***

Birth-1 year old:

Light up or musical toys- These toys help a child develop visual/auditory tracking and turning their head to look.

Independent standing toys-These toys are great for children during tummy time to encourage the child to hold their head up to look, reach, and play.

Rattles that are easy to grasp- Rattles encourage fine motor skills for wrapping fingers and arm movements to shake.

Cause & effect toys- These toys help a child develop understanding that a movement causes a reaction.

Toys with different textures (soft toys, hard toys, bumpy toys)- These toys are very helpful to develop acceptance to the way different objects feel.

Books with touch and feel elements- These books help to increase acceptance to the way different objects feel and fine motor for page turning.

Learning stations-These are great toys to use when in tummy time for looking up and reaching, sitting up or sitting on knees.

1-2 Year olds:

Books: Picture books are great at this age to build vocabulary, naming actions and objects and asking a child to point to the objects and actions that you name.

Barn with animals, school or house with people: These toys really help a child learn and develop pretend play of familiar experiences. (i.e. eating dinner, going to sleep, riding in a car,etc)

Doll/stuffed animals: These toys can help with teaching body parts and build functional motor skills by holding a cup or spoon to pretending to feed a doll/stuffed animal.

Cars/Trucks: Cars and Trucks are great for motor planning of pushing/moving with hands as well as working on concepts such as “fast” and “slow” or “stop/go”.

Ball: Balls are great for developmental motor skills of rolling, kicking, throwing and catching.

Standing push toys: Developmentally these toys are great for building strength and endurance of gross and fine motor skills.

Large Doweled Puzzles: These puzzle help to increase developmental matching skills, problem solving, and fine motor skills while building core strength for sitting and reaching.

2-3 Years Old:

Books: Simple picture books are great to build concept. At this age, parents should focus on naming actions “what is he doing?” for vocabulary growth. Also, parents ask the child to point to smaller parts of the objects in the pictures (ie. the nose of the dog, hands of the girl, door of the house) which is a developmentally appropriate skill at this age.

Blocks/Legos: Any building blocks are great for fine motor skill development and you can use them to teach sizes, shapes and colors!

Smaller Doweled puzzles and simple puzzles: These puzzles help with overall problem solving, matching and fine motor skills.

Little slides: Small slides are great for gross motor development for climbing!

Tricycle or Little tikes cars: These toys aid in gross motor development!

3 to 4 Years old:

Books: More complex picture or short story books are beneficial at this age. Have the child point to things by a description (i.e. the boy with a hat, the girl sitting, the tall boy, the big shark) or answer some simple questions about the pictures in the book. (What is the girl eating? Where is the girl? Is the girl wearing a hat?)

Puzzles: Large floor puzzles are great for problem solving, visual spatial awareness and motor skills

Play work bench, tools, kitchen utensils: Work stations are great for vocabulary building and fine motor skills for daily activities. They can aid in social skills as well!

Slime, noise putty, and koosh balls: These fun toys provide sensory stimulation and interactive play with objects that feel “funny”. Did I mention these are great stocking stuffers?

Water tables or Sand boxes: These toys are wonderful for sensory play to build tolerance to the feel of water and sand. It also promotes fine motor skills for digging and finding objects!

Dress up dolls: While using these toys to build pretend play, a child can build fine motor skills for buttons and zippers or putting on clothes!

Play Dough: Play dough is a GREAT, cheap, toy that can build fine motor skills…. You can even hide some buttons in the playdough and have the child “find them” for extra fine motor work!

Simple interactive turn-taking games: These simple games build turn-taking and skills for play and social skills as well as following directions and fine motor skills!

4-5 year olds:

Books: Time for story time! This is the age where children are starting to be able to answer questions about a simple story…pick one of your childhood favorites!

Hullabaloo and other simple games: These games build listening skills, turn taking and following directions! Not to mention visual spatial awareness and fine motor skills to move the pieces around the board.

Puzzles: Problem solving and fine motor skills combine for this fun! Try for 24 or more piece puzzles!

Bead sets: These simple tosy are great for fine motor skills, naming colors, and pattern awareness.

Scooters and bikes: Yes, these timeless toys defintely help promote that gross motor development! Start with the training wheels and work up to the 2 wheel bikes.

5+ Year olds:

Paper and Art sets: These sets are wonderful for building fine motor development and unleashing creativity!

Jump ropes and hula hoops: These classic toys are great for advanced gross motor development!

Classic board games: These classic games stimulate problem solving, reasoning and social skills!

Outdoor classic games such as croquet or badminton : Outdoor games provide interactive forums to developing social skills and gross motor development!

Interactive games that include body movement or drawing like Pictionary or Guesstures: These gmaes also build social skills, inferencing, motor skills, and body awareness.

We hope we have given all our parents some great ideas for their Christmas shopping! Just remember, toys are fun and enjoyable for children, but toys are even MORE FUN and stimulating when playing WITH their parents, family or friends!

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