Each year we get asked what presents Beanstalk parents should tell their family members to buy their children (both on the spectrum and otherwise). Each year my answer is the same – but this year we thought we’d make life a lot easier and recommend specific toys that are more likely to increase language and problem solving. This blog is NOT sponsored, we are bringing you unbiased recommendations for your grandchild / niece / nephew / son / daughter’s Christmas this year.
The secret is choosing toys that don’t have an on /off switch, no buttons, no flashing lights, no music (parents rejoice everywhere!). The best presents you can buy for any young child is a toy that you need to play with them.
Books. Books where there are flaps to anticipate and label (cue our perfected expectant look we use in therapy a lot). Touch and feel books are also great and add fun suspense to the story. Books that rhyme and are repetitive.
18 months-3 year olds: Dear Zoo, Goodnight Moon, Hairy McLary, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, First word books, eye spy books. We love ABC by Alison Jay– see how many words you can find on each page starting with that letter!
3-6 year olds: Stuck, Pig the Pug, Harry the dirty dog, The Snail and the Whale, Madeline, Any ‘look inside a (human body / airport / etc)’ type book is great – choose whatever your little one is into.
18 months-3 years:
Blocks – that you sit down and play with your child. Build towers, figure out the engineering of making taller / more sturdier towers. Build the anticipation before it falls, see if you can squeeze one more on!
Stacking boxes that are numbered 10-1. Balance them together, say the numbers, hide a number and see if they notice what’s missing. Get down to the number 1 block and make it blast off in the air.
Memory. There are lots of versions of this – see if your child’s favourite movie / book have put out a version (there are Cars, Peppa Pig, princesses, Thomas, Dora, even Hairy McLary versions).
Dominoes. Teach them to match, take turns, then once mastered, turn them over and teach them to subitise using the patterns – an important early math skill.
Train sets. Boys of all ages love this, usually more so than girls in our experience. Ikea and Kmart sell cheap train track sets that fit standard wooden trains. Add on the bridges, tunnels etc.
3-6 year olds:
Lego and building blocks: lego is great for fine motor skills and creativity. Children around this age begin to have a bit more of an imagination and start to show their creativity. Little people or animals to go with this is also a winner.
Dress ups: Again children love to dress up as their favourite characters or the things they look up to. Their ‘Superheros’, favourite movie or book character or even what they want to ben when they grow up.
Playdoh: Playdoh is great as it is a cost effective gift that you can make at home if you don’t want to spend a lot of money. Playdoh is another gift that kids can show their creative side with. There are a lot of different tools you can buy for playdoh to make interesting shapes and objects. The best part about playdoh is that some kitchen appliances can also be used if you don’t want buy those extra bits and pieces. Cookie cutters, rolling pins and plastic knifes and forks are great for this.
Arts and crafts. Drawing and painting allows children to be creative and to put their thoughts onto paper. Its a simple gift but one that always seems to amuse kids. (Maybe just put the paints away when you’re not around to avoid mess!)
The games we have suggested are directed towards children that are 3 years old and older. This is when children start to interact socially with others and develop muscular control and coordination.
Jigsaws. Jigsaws are great for kids around the 3-6 age category. This is a great present because the range and limit for the difficulty with jigsaws can differ. Find one with their interest – space, dinosaurs, Thomas etc, and it will keep them entertained or something you can sit down and do together. Talk about the pieces that match, what might come next, why that piece doesn’t go there etc.
Floor puzzles are also a great idea for children this age and a little younger. They are great for spacial awareness and allow children to move around to complete the picture instead of sitting in the one spot.
Large and small balls for kicking, throwing and catching. using different muscles, hand eye coordination, social interactions and are great for encouraging outdoor activities for children. This is also a great present that you and the rest of the family can get involved with. Those sticky mits that balls stick to are good for young children who can’t yet catch but want to be a part of the game.
10 pin bowling. How cool is it to have bowling at your house? You can buy 10 pin bowling to play at home that is another great activity to include the family or to play on your own.
So there you have it. A list of gifts that don’t include flashing lights, sounds or require hundreds of batteries to keep them alive and working. We love the golden oldies that have been around for years and still bring joy to kids and parents.
We hope this made Christmas shopping a little easier.
Merry Christmas from the Beanstalk Family.