Build happy memories that will last all year long by giving these safe and healthy toys for the holidays. This holiday season we’re constantly bombarded with commercials for the latest electronic and video games, but why not choose a different path and give an old-fashioned gift instead. There will be no need for batteries, manuals or intricate set-ups; these are gifts that can begin delighting your child as soon as the wrapping is torn away. And there’s another plus: these are safe toys that have been child-tested for generations.
BLOCKS AND CONSTRUCTION SETS
Whether you’re choosing simple building blocks or sophisticated Lego sets to construct skyscrapers, cities or even space stations, blocks come in a variety of choices to suit any child on your list. Blocks help develop motor and spatial skills, hand-eye coordination and creativity. Older kids can create elaborate settings in which to live out imaginary scenarios. For instance, once a city is built, who will live there and what else will they need? The possibilities are endless.
Playing with dolls seems to fulfill an innate human need. Indeed, dolls have been part of mankind since prehistoric times. There is no end to the types of dolls that can be chosen as gifts, and no age group that would not welcome them. Whether plain or beautifully costumed for the young collector, dolls are a way little girls can create their own fantasy worlds and fire their imaginations. The “American Girl” doll series is a recent example of how irreplaceable dolls are in a little girl’s world.
President Obama’s recent visit to a bookstore with his daughters to do some Christmas shopping makes a telling point; there’s no denying that, even with the advent of Kindles and Nooks, there’s nothing like the feel of a book in your hand. The children’s book industry is booming and there is everything from timeless classics to brand-new books available for any child on your list. If you are looking for ideas, check out the lists of children’s book award winners; you’ll find books for every age.
BOARD GAMES AND CARD GAMES
While everyone is choosing electronic games this holiday season, why not strike a different path and opt for a board game? Gathering around the table as a family to play board games never goes out of fashion and there is a huge variety from which to choose. There are strategy games, party games, family games and children’s games, with dozens of contenders in every category. Just as books, board games are given awards too, so there are plenty from which to choose.
ARTS AND CRAFTS
Children love doing arts and crafts so much they don’t realize how good they are for their development. Most obvious, of course, is that doing arts and crafts fuels a child’s imagination. But working with art also provides them with the satisfaction of taking raw materials and turning them into their own unique creations. Children learn to use tools, practice manual dexterity and they also may discover talents they didn’t know they had.
A British mapmaker created the first jigsaw puzzle in 1760 by mounting a map on a piece of wood and then sawing around the countries. He did it to create a teaching tool, and puzzles have been used for fun and education ever since. They provide the opportunity to use many skills, including hand-eye coordination, math skills (like cataloguing and organizing), fine motor coordination and, above all, persistence. Several children can work together on a large puzzle, which teaches social skills and teamwork.
Puppets are an ancient art form, dating back at least to 3,000 B.C. and have been used in performances, children’s shows, carnivals, festivals and all sorts of celebrations. As a holiday gift, though, puppets have an enchantment all their own. You can find them in toy stores or online and, although they come in various styles, including marionettes, finger puppets and shadow puppets, the ones that will probably cause the most delight for younger children are hand puppets, because of their ease of use and their resemblance to the Muppets, of course.
By Charlotte Libov