The holidays are going to look a lot different than in years past, so why not think differently when putting together your children’s gift lists this year?
The global pandemic has impacted all of us in every way — physically, emotionally and socially. With kids’ daily routines uprooted, social activities limited or cancelled, and an uncertain school year, it’s bound to cause stress for everyone alike.
So one strategy Akron Children’s child life specialist Laura Leiendecker suggests is to choose gifts from each developmental category — physical, cognitive, emotional and social — to care for the whole child. It’s a great way to start the new year off by keeping kids active and infusing their day with educational value, while bringing the whole family together for some much-needed fun, quality time together.
“We can’t alleviate all the stresses of a global pandemic with our gifts, so we shouldn’t put that pressure on ourselves,” Laura said. “We can, however, use gifts to help address all of our children’s developmental needs during this very difficult, stressful time.”
The pandemic may be uncertain, but one thing’s for sure: Santa Claus is definitely coming to town!
So to help inspire parents to round out their holiday lists this year, Laura and her colleagues have put together a gift guide centered around children’s developmental needs. The holidays may look a little different this year, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be just as merry.
“I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t buy the hot items on your kids’ lists, just be sure to sprinkle in some essential ones, too, to complete the list,” said Laura. “You know your kids best, so tailor these ideas to their interests, and always keep safety top-of-mind by purchasing age-appropriate toys.”
In these uncertain times, physical activity is perhaps more important than ever to help kids remain physically and mentally healthy to face each day’s challenges.
There are so many choices for kids of all ages, including hula hoops, jump ropes, bikes, active board games, such as Twister, a basketball hoop for above the door and so much more.
Don’t forget about outdoor toys, too. Yes, even in winter! Snow toys, such as snowmen or snow fort kits, sleds or winter sports equipment (think skis, basketball hoop, hockey sticks, archery) are great picks to keep kids active.
With so many kids in virtual or hybrid school situations, learning toys and gifts are a great option to keep their minds stimulated this season.
Books, of course, are always a great gift, and they open up the opportunity for you and your child to read together.
“Classic toys, such as Legos, Lincoln Logs and wooden building blocks are always a hit for the kids here at the hospital,” said Laura. “Parents alike love them, too, because they are learning vehicles and provide hours of fun!”
If kids show interest in a new hobby, such as playing an instrument, cooking, art, sewing, woodworking or gardening, among others, a gift set to encourage that is always good.
Laura suggests an indoor gardening kit, which can be a fun and educational family project for the winter. Telescopes and science kits also are great for the whole family.
“Keep the process over the product in mind when buying learning toys,” said Laura. “The experience and learning is key. Will your kids have fun doing it? If yes, that’s a win.”
With so much uncertainty and anxiety surrounding the pandemic, adjusting to a new schedule and routine is stressful for everyone, especially kids that have difficulty with change.
Help fill the emotional needs of your children with gifts such as, journals, stress balls, fidget spinners and cubes, cuddly plush toys and blankets.
Modeling compounds, such as Play-doh and similar products are always popular options to keep those tiny hands busy and distracted.
With social calendars being wiped clean due to social distancing and other pandemic safety protocols, gifts that encourage socialization are crucial.
Dress-up clothes and props for imaginative play are great for preschoolers and younger school-age kids. In addition, dolls, kitchen sets, doctor kits and the like are great for pretend and interactive play.
And, don’t forget about experience gifts. Just because we’re in a pandemic, doesn’t mean we have to rule them out. Gifts of time and socialization with your children work for any age and help to fill that social void.
Family game night, coupons to skip chores for a day, Zoom time for grandparents, baking or making a craft together all make for great memories that can last a lifetime.
“Here in the hospital, the most popular games played are the classics,” said Laura. “UNO cards, Connect Four, Candy Land and Battleship are played constantly.”
Kids also spend quite a bit of time playing on the air hockey and Ping-Pong tables, too. She suggests these ideas for a big family gift, if budgets allow.
When (cyber) shopping this year, look for gifts that are more of an experience for your kids verses toys that they will play on their own. Toys that invoke team effort include cookie cutters for baking, board games and puzzles, building toys, science and crafting kits.
“Get creative when gift buying this year,” said Laura. “Kids always want video games or virtual reality toys, but be sure to throw in toys for fun family time to balance out the list. The experience over the toy is what will stand out the most for years to come.”