Hey Mommies! While we will be providing you with some gift guides for your kiddos as I know parents are always looking for new and functional toys for their children, I’d first like to welcome Lisa Williams, mom and pediatric physical therapist, as she discusses the absolute BEST gift for kids this holiday season….
Emily asked me to write a blog post on age appropriate toys for Christmas from the perspective of a pediatric physical therapist. Little did she know that my “mom” instinct kicked in first. This holiday season, give your child the gift of “TIME.”
I write this as a mom who sent her beautiful daughter 6 hours away to college this year and as a mom of a handsome 17 year old son who is not far from leaving the nest too.
Time goes too fast. I feel like I brought my premie, 4lb 11oz, baby girl and my chunky, 6lb “NICU”, baby boy home only a few short years ago.
The holidays are not about the flashiest toy, the latest movie character, the new electronic device or ANYTHING with a screen on it. I know the world says ” entertain” your child- I say “engage” your child.
So here is my recommendation: Make a commitment to your child to do something active with them each and everyday. What does this look like:
Infants/babies: Get on floor WITH your babies and have TUMMY TIME together! Face your child and talk to them, sing to them, read to them, laugh with them.
Tummy time is such an important part of child development and it has decreased with the advent of “back to sleep”. Tummy time is great for adults too- we spend too much time hunched over in chairs/cars all day. No fancy activity mats needed. All you need are some childproof books, some CD’s with funny kids songs and You!!
New crawlers: Get on the floor and crawl with them!! Teach them how to “explore” the toy basket, the Tupperware cabinet, play hide and seek, make your home a safe place to explore. Simple toys, wooden spoons, pots and pans… All of these are highly entertaining to a baby/toddler.
Engage and encourage their new mobility! Don’t put them in front of the TV/IPAD and discourage mobility. Crawling is the foundation for all gross motor development.
Toddlers/preschoolers: Now the fun begins…. encourage independent walking as much as possible. I know there are some really cool strollers out there but ditch the stroller whenever possible! I’m sadden every time I see a toddler in a stroller while the parent is on the phone. Invest in a simple push toy to save your back when they are little.
Take them to a park or the yard whenever weather permits and let them walk. Now is the time to start the family habit of being active! I bought a smallish play structure when my kids where little that could be broken down and moved into the basement in the winter months.
A little dumpster diving for some old office carpet and some paint on the cement walls created the perfect “indoor” playground in my own unfinished basement with very little money (this was before the days of Pinterest).
If you need more encouragement in this area, just look up the statistics on childhood obesity. Keep your kids moving!! Have fun with them, teach them to climb up the ladders and slide down the slides, do monkey bars (have you tried them lately??), play tag, roll down hills, jump in leaf piles, put on rain boots and march in the puddles!
When my kids were toddlers, I bought a double bike trailer at a garage sale. I would pack breakfast and ride to the park before it got hot and crowded. We would all three climb up into “our castle”, AKA the playhouse on the climbing structure, and have breakfast together. I had forgotten about this until one of my children recently reminded me.
At the time, I got exercise (there were some major hills to be pulling 2 kids in a bike trailer) and the kids got exercise at the park playing. Most importantly, we created a memory!! Fill both your hearts with the joy that comes from playing together!
School age: So let me get on my “Soap Box” now. I know everyone is tired at the end of the school and work day, but we are creating generations of couch potatoes and screen addicts.
I recently asked several of my students that I see at the elementary level, “what did you do yesterday after school?” Not one did anything active- not one!
Okay parents, recess and PE are NOT enough gross motor movement! Off the soap box…
Here are my suggestions for toys: Invest in the toys that your parents (your kid’s grandparents) played with:
- hula hoops
- playground balls
- bikes (with helmets, please)
- jump ropes
- pogo sticks
- pool passes
- a tent
- basketball hoops
- slip and slides
- snow shovels
- kid sized rakes
- t-ball sets and a set of bases
- a wagon
- fishing pole
- sidewalk chalk (remember hopscotch and 4 square)
- a good coat and gloves to be outside when it’s cold
All of these toys and activities work on balance, coordination, strength, and endurance!
Now, here’s the real challenge that I talked about in the 1st paragraph…. Go OUTSIDE and play WITH these toys WITH your child! Tell yourself you will do it for 10 minutes everyday, But don’t be surprised if the smile on your child’s face and the “label” of being the “Fun” mom doesn’t keep you out there longer!
You have the rest of your life to work, do laundry, clean up the kitchen, check Facebook and return emails. You only have your child at home with you for 18 VERY SHORT YEARS. Enjoy, be active and build memories with them!
By: Lisa Williams, DPT
Lisa Williams, DPT is a pediatric physical therapist who holds a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree in physical therapy. She has been practicing for over 23 years in a variety of settings. She currently works for a local school district, providing PT services for children kindergarten through 21 years of age. She is the mother of two teenagers, 2 labrador dogs, and has been married to her high school sweetheart for 23 years.