Gift-giving season is hard, especially when you’re deciding what to get your children that haven’t started school yet. They might not remember the holiday season at this age and you may have tons of toys scattered around your house already. Many parents default to clothes or other day-to-day items as gifts, but we’ve compiled a list of developmentally focused and age-appropriate gifts for young children. Please remember to always supervise your child when playing with any toys to help prevent choking and other accidents.
Under 6 Months
With children under six months of age, any gifts are more for the parents than anything, so why not purchase something that will help you out? You’re more likely to splurge a bit during the holidays since you’ve budgeted to buy gifts, so it’s the perfect time to purchase some higher-quality items. If you’re going for developmentally-focused gifts, lean toward things that encourage movement, cognitive skills, and focused attention.
The Nogginstik is a light-up rattle that encourages early milestone development. It lights up red, blue, and green to help with visual tracking and focusing attention. The soft rattling sounds promote auditory health and skills and fun textures can encourage tactile interest. This toy encourages a baby’s first STEM skills and helps with observational skills. For those parents who want to keep up with their baby’s development, a guide is provided explaining how your child should interact with the Nogginstik at each milestone. The best part of this gift is that it’s great for the entire first year of your baby’s life.
Activity gyms, like The Play Gym by Lovevery or the Deluxe Kick & Play Gym by Fisher-Price, are great for infant development. If you’re looking to splurge on a gift, The Play Gym was designed by child development experts and focuses on what makes sense for each developmental stage. This mat grows with your baby through a full year of life, including tummy time, sitting up, and when they begin to walk. Everything in this activity gym is made from responsibly sourced and baby-safe materials, and there are no tools required for set up or take down. For a more budget-friendly option, the Deluxe Kick & Play Piano Gym from Fisher-Price is a household staple and also offers interchangeable content as your baby grows. With five light-up piano keys and four musical settings, this activity gym can keep your baby entertained all the way up to 3 years of age.
6 - 12 Months
Slowly but surely, kids may begin to develop likes and dislikes by 6 to 12 months old. Your baby might be mobile at this point, so you’ll want to stick with gifts that encourage those skills. Since your baby is most likely getting into anything and everything, it’s important to provide them with something safe they can play with to keep their attention off of things that may harm them.
The Skip Hop Crawl Ball helps encourage your baby to crawl by moving and grooving around. Once you switch it on, this beet-shaped toy will make beatbox riffs and rattle sounds while rolling around on the floor. The purpose is for young babies to attempt to go after it, allowing them to figure out how to scoot and crawl around. Skip Hop’s Farmstand collection also has vegetable-themed rattles, activity mats, and stroller toys to continue encouraging development as your baby grows.
Sensory balls, such as these natural rubber balls from Miniland are perfect for encouraging sensory stimulation. They’re soft, easy to grip, and suitable for handling and biting by babies. The box comes with six different colored, shaped, and textured balls to help develop motor skills and stimulate the senses. They are washable and easily disinfected so there’s no worry about your baby putting them in their mouth.
12 - 18 Months
Once your child reaches the year mark, they’ve probably developed an extensive list of likes and dislikes, are moving around your house no problem, and may even begin to answer the questions you ask them. Because of this, it could be time to start introducing them to educational things that may help them later in life, such as shapes, colors, and their first words.
This bright and beautiful book can help introduce your child to the world of colors. The pages are made of a thick board material instead of traditional paper, so it’s strong enough to withstand handling by small children. It’s tabbed by color, making it easy for toddlers with good motor skills to grab and flip to their favorite page. Since the book is so bright, even younger toddlers who may not be fully able to remember colors can start the process of recognizing them. In addition, the layout of this book helps toddlers begin to associate certain objects together based on colors, such as green broccoli and multi-colored rainbows.
This Melissa & Doug wooden puzzle includes eight shapes that your toddler should be familiar with. They are brightly colored and feature a jumbo knob for easy gripping and movement. Puzzles like this one not only stimulate the brain but also help with shape recognition and motor skills. Your toddler can practice hand-eye coordination, color recognition, memory, and matching skills all in one. Melissa & Doug also offer other age-appropriate and developmentally-focused puzzles, such as animals, vehicles, and letters.
18 - 36 Months
By about two years old, your child should be able to respond to your questions, say at least two words together in a phrase, and use gestures such as blowing a kiss or nodding. At this stage, it’s important to start teaching children societal norms, where things go, and what’s appropriate at home and out in public.
Sports sets can be a great tool for developing more advanced motor skills and learning rules. For your physical sports lovers, the Little Tikes basketball hoop adjusts from two to four feet, allowing for longer usage and more play. You could also try this foam T-ball set or a colorful outdoor golf set. For those that gravitate more toward creative sports like gymnastics, this 5-panel tumbling mat made for kids ensures they won’t hurt themselves flipping around.
By three years old, your toddler is ready to really start learning and retaining information. Start small, with things that they’re interested in. It’s different for each child, but many enjoy learning about animals, sports, or their family members.
Toddlers often find joy in animals and playing pretend, so combining those things in this activity book is great for both teaching them how to play independently and learning which animals live in what habitats. This particular book is considered a look, sound, and touch book, and has buttons that pronounce each animal’s name and play its sound. Through this interactive book, you learn the animal’s name, appearance, habitat, and sounds to introduce toddlers to the realistic world of animals.
Contact Peds East
Much like our Peds East parents, our pediatricians are focused solely on your child’s development. When purchasing gifts this holiday season, take some of these suggestions for developmentally-focused gifts. If you have any questions about your child hitting their milestones or want to know if a toy is age-appropriate, don’t hesitate to ask your pediatrician. Many of them are parents themselves and may have additional insights regarding developmentally-focused gifts.
To ensure your child continues to hit their milestones, make sure they are scheduled for a well visit each year and up to date on their vaccinations. Have a very happy holiday season!
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