5 science-based gifts doctors give their kids
BY DR. MANASA MANTRAVADI, BOARD CERTIFIED PEDIATRICIAN
From gifts that inspire imagination to those that promote gross motor and language skills, our expert shares her favorite holiday presents for little ones.
When I think about giving gifts, I always try to select appropriate toys for young children that are fun but also nurture growth and development.
Research shows that play is essential to optimal child development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children. It also offers a great opportunity for parents and other caregivers to engage with children using toys as an instrument of play and interaction.
The best toys are those that support parents and children playing, pretending, and interacting together. So, as a pediatrician and mom of three, I like to say, skip the batteries and the tech and opt for simple toys that promote interaction with people and spark imagination.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends* choosing gifts that:
- Foster interactions between caregivers and children
- Are not overstimulating
- Encourage mental and physical activity
- Inspire your child’s imagination
- Build lifelong healthy habits
Let’s get back to basics! Five traditional toy categories recommended by doctors:
1. symbolic & pretend
Pretending through toy characters (such as dolls, animals, and action figures) and toy objects (such as food, utensils, cars, planes, and buildings) help children learn to use words and stories to imitate, describe, and cope with real life events and feelings. Imagination is the key here. Pretend play is a large part of a child's social and emotional development.
2. fine-motor, adaptive & manipulative
Children can learn problem solving skills with the "traditional favorites" (such as blocks, shapes, puzzles, and trains). These types of toys support fine motor skills and can improve language and brain development. Some of these toys also build early math skills.
A great gift doesn’t have to break the bank. Things as simple as cardboard boxes or pads of paper give little ones a ton of joy. Coloring books, crayons, markers, clay, and stickers are all kid-pleasers that build creativity and help improve fine motor skills.
4. language & concepts
Most traditional toys are now available in electronic versions that are often built to mimic human interaction. For example, you might be inclined to go with a toy bear that reads a story aloud or a board game available as an app with virtual players
But actual human interactions are essential for a child's growth and development. Electronic toys should never take the place of real, face-to-face play. Traditional card games and board games (not the video game or app versions) and even toy letters and books create opportunities for you and your child to interact and have fun together. These are life moments you should not pass up..
5. gross motor & physical
So, the next time you are purchasing a play toy for your child, remember these science-based gift recommendations. You’ll be giving your kids opportunities to grow and develop while having fun.
And there’s nothing better than learning and fun when it comes to gift giving. Interactive toys that include physical activity (such as playing with balls, push-and-pull toys, ride-on toys, and tricycles) help physical development and can improve self-regulation and peer-interaction because of the negotiations around rules that typically take place when kids play together.
about Dr. Mantravadi
Dr. Manasa Mantravadi is a board-certified pediatrician, mom of three, and creator of the world's first colorful stainless steel dishes for kids. Her company, Ahimsa, is where medicine meets motherhood as Dr. Mantravadi provides products and guidance for parents to perfect what's in and on their kids' plates. Check out AhimsaHome.com and follow her on Instagram at @ahimsahomeusa.
*Source: THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS | CLINICAL REPORT | JANUARY 01 2019: Selecting Appropriate Toys for Young Children in the Digital Era