The Holiday season is upon us! One of the most popular questions I get from caregivers around this time of the year is “what is a good gift I can get for my child.” We no longer have the Toys-R-Us catalog with a wide, but reasonable variety of items available. Now we have the internet… Amazon, Google, Alexa! Picking a gift for your child that is appropriate, educational, fun and not breaking the bank can be difficult! While I do not have all the answers, hopefully I can give some good suggestions while you look for some last minute holiday gifts! I am organizing this blog specifically on items that targets skills we work on in ABA.
Board games! They have so many options out now BUT I am going to talk about what to look for.
- Games without too many pieces (clean up can be overwhelming sometimes)
- Games with clear concise instructions. The best way to get children to buy into a game is making sure they are easy to understand, follow and they can eventually explain to peers.
- Games that do not take too long. Monopoly… I am talking about you! They make super great Jr. Games (monopoly jr, life jr.) that are similar to the long versions, but won’t take the entire day.
Here are some of my favorite games!
- Trouble: Cannot lose the dice, easy to follow, 2-4 players.
- Monopoly Jr.: Same idea as Monopoly, but each property is the same price (making banking easy) and the game does not take as long.
- Uno: Great for color, shape and number matching. You can also include direction by making “Spicy Uno” and giving certain numbers or colors special rules.
- Chutes and ladders: This one is great for working on being a good winner/loser. With the unexpectancy of the chutes and ladders it can be a great opportunity to practice graciously winning and losing.
- Floor is lava: So silly but fun! Great game to get up and move around.
- Guess in 10 (different varieties): Cards with animals, states, places and things for your partners to guess! Perfect for expressive describing and receptive guessing.
Following directions can be a difficult skill to master. Multistep activities and books may not be what your child adds to their amazon wishlist but they can be super fun once they are in their possession. Giving directions is also something to practice when doing these activities.
- Cook books: They make a bunch of kid friendly cookbooks that are helpful for following directions, trying new food and having a fun time with caregivers. A fun eco friendly/frugal way to do this is to gift some cute cooking utensils and find recipes online!
- Science experiment books: Similar to cookbooks, these offer opportunities to follow directions and learn something new! A lot of the science experiment items you already have in your house.
Playing alone without a tablet can be hard. When you as the caregiver just need a minute it is better to have a larger repertoire of activities/items your child can engage with.
- Puzzles: This can be a great 5-10 minute close ended activity.
- Paint by sticker books: These are one of my favorites! They are no mess (paint not included) and you can buy a variety of different types of color by sticker books.
Cause and effect
If I do this… something cool happens. These cause and effect toys activities are great for younger kids who are working on joint attention and requesting goals.
- Ball poppers: You can choose one of the squeeze ones (manual) or a battery operated one (automatic). This is great for bringing about requests and sustaining play for younger kids.
- Marble Run: This can be as extensive or short. This works for waiting and requests as well.
- Musical Instruments: Maracas, drums, little piano. All make sounds when you interact creating a fun cause and effect learning experience.
No, I will NOT be recommending slime. From arts and crafts to building there are a wide variety of activities you can do to encourage some gross and fine motor skill development. If there are more specific motor skills you are targeting in Occupational therapy I recommend you ask your OT for suggestions as well!
- Legos: From building to breaking down it can be great hand exercise.
- Light Brite: After a recent comeback from the 90s, this can be great for pinching motions.
- Ladder ball/cornhole: Can be played alone or with a group. Can also be modified with distance/rules.
- Playdoh: Apologies to everyone who hates playdoh, slime and all the other monsters that ruin couches and carpets. I only include this because it is SO good for motor skills and creativity. (homemade playdough is easier for carpets, but can sometimes include oil which stains.)
- Melissa and Doug Water Wow painting: Once again, no paint but a water paint brush. Each page goes back to being “unpainted” once it dries.
- Snowball fight: They make Pom-pom snowballs that are SO fun and safe to use for family/friend snowball fights. They can be used inside or outside. Great for throwing, catching and peer cooperation.
Expanding the ability to see things just as they are.. and exploring what we can make them! Creative/pretend play is so important for all of our kids. This takes flexible thinking which is a great mind exercise. Dive into your child’s favorite characters or movies. You can even do social skills role play when using pretend play!
- Dress up items: This can be princess, pirate, robot or teacher garb. I love going to a thrift store and making a dress up bin with fun items you find there! This can be fun for acting out scenes in books, using imagination and motor skills (practicing dressing).
- Their favorite plush/figurines: This can be playing with peers, siblings or other caregivers. While watching Youtube and movies is preferred, acting out scenes can also be fun! Watch a scene and practice acting it out!
- Vocational Kits: Doctor, kitchen, cosmetologist or archeologist kits. This can encourage kids to follow vocational dreams and get others involved as well.
This list only skims the surface of the fun holiday gifts out there! If you have more questions about specific gifts for your loved ones, feel free to reach out to your BCBAs, Teachers, SLPs, OTs and/or Pediatricians.