We have all faced the question: Do I buy the latest item on the top of my child's list? Often the must-have toy is quickly discarded. To shift away from this season's craze and give gifts that outlast the fads, here are a few insights which might help you evaluate what to put in the cart.
- Children benefit from lots and lots of practice with fine motor play. To help little fingers grow stronger so they can print, build, paint, and pour, consider toys and tools which let children cook, sew, and construct. Cook books, pie-making tools, board games, puzzles, watercolors, sewing kits, hammers, nails, clay, musical instruments, dolls with clothes, and blocks of all sizes – these toys help children develop stronger, more coordinated fingers.
- Growing minds flourish with open-ended materials and time. Children need time and opportunities to build up their thinking stamina. Materials that can be combined, connected, changed, and reconfigured, are rich with possibilities for building longer attention spans and critical thinking skills.
- When a child has a passion or interest, they will naturally push themselves. They will make a project more challenging or a task more difficult. Passions are nourished by books on the subject, related materials, and real life experiences (museum memberships, vouchers for family field trips, a park pass).
- Reflection increases connections to other ideas and information. Along with a stack of books on whatever topic your child loves, include journals and lots of different markers, pencils, pens.
- No holiday is ever complete without a pile of books – fiction, poetry, biographies, science-based books, books filled with photographs, how-to books. If they don’t already have a library card, include a voucher for a trip to the library to get their first card.
- The gift that cannot be purchased or wrapped up is the gift of unencumbered time. Late mornings, quiet afternoons, and lazy days help children immerse themselves in the world within their heads.
Be open to your child's wish-list items that aren't faddish and momentary. My younger child, who loves animals of kinds, once declared that Santa could bring her a frog. When I questioned whether Santa could get a frog through the cold on the sleigh, I was informed, "He can and he will." And he did.