The holidays are rapidly approaching and you may be on the hunt for a few more gifts, either for your kids or other little ones in your life. While your kids may be getting some of this year’s hottest toys like the coveted Hatchimal, you should definitely mix in some gifts that help boost your child’s language and learning.
Simple, natural toys, which are often made of wood and other natural materials, are especially great as they allow for organic, open-ended learning and help build kids’ creativity and problem-solving skills. These toys are particularly good for kids who are used to a Montessori environment and being more independent and learning for themselves.
Here are several gifts that will help promote your child’s language and learning.
In general, try to aim for “traditional” toys. By traditional, we mean non-electronic toys and toys that were probably around when you were a child. Multiple studies have found that these are superior to electronic toys. When toys “talk,” parents talk less, and, as a result, children talk less. Try to avoid too many toys with lights, buttons, sounds, and automatic movements.
Good options for infants and toddlers include rattles and mobiles made of natural materials, wooden blocks and stacking toys, and shape sorters. For ages three and up, dolls, cars and trains, and Radio Flyer Classic Walker Wagons are great. These toys get kids moving and problem-solving, as well as talking, singing, laughing, and interacting—promoting language development.
Books are always an excellent idea. For infants and toddlers, aim for colorful picture books and books with textures which invite touch. For kids who are learning how to read, books should be at their skill level to help cultivate literacy. And for older kids, find exciting book series and chapter books. Families can also take turns reading chapters out loud.
Some suggestions include Dr. Seuss (of course), authors Margaret Wise Brown and Ruth Heller, Robert McCloskey’s books such as Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal, and Virginia Lee Burton’s books such as Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and Katy and the Big Snow.
For kids 18 months through 6 years old, consider getting a small stereo with some CDs. Music played with real musical instruments and beautiful singing is especially good. You can also put a green sticker on the play button and a red sticker on the stop button so (if he is old enough) he can start and stop the music himself. Some ideas include music by Raffi, Elizabeth Mitchell, and Aaron Nigel Smith; the album “20 Great Kids Songs”; and classical composers.
Costumes and dress-up accessories
Dressing up is a great way to foster creativity and get kids to use their imaginations. And kids are further developing their language skills through dialogues, telling stories, singing, and more.
Building blocks, building toys, and crafts
These are great ways to keep your kids both mentally and physically engaged. It’s been shown that young kids’ motor skills are closely linked with their language development. These are also toys that kids can play with on their own, building independence and natural learning.
Depending on your child’s age and the difficulty of the puzzle, kids can assemble puzzles on their own or as a family activity. When families work on a puzzle together, this fosters conversation and helps build analytical and problem-solving skills.
Practical life toys
Giving your kids the tools that will help them take care of themselves and their environment is both fun and empowering. Consider toys that enable them to “help out” around the house, such as a small dustpan and brush, a small broom, or a mop and bucket.
Cooking supplies are usually a hit, too; kids love having tools such as their own cutting board, small cooking tools, a safe chopper or knife, and an apron. Being involved in cooking inspires conversation and in turn builds language. What’s more, following recipes can help improve reading and comprehension skills as well as planning, organization, and following directions.
Crayons, pencils, and coloring books
Not only does coloring promote self-expression and enhance fine motor skills, but it also helps kids build their vocabulary as they describe what they’re drawing.