During the holiday season, and honestly throughout the entire year, it can be very easy to spoil our children. It’s completely natural to want to give them all the latest and greatest toys and gadgets. However, keeping up with the Joneses is not always in their best interest. Before spending outrageous amounts of money to purchase everything on their wish list this holiday season, take a moment to consider these 4 tips when thinking about what they really need.
Buy Them Realistic Items – We all know that young children are often more entertained by the box something came in than they are about the new toy itself. Young children aren’t always able to verbalize their feelings, but they often want items that they see mom and dad using. In this case, they want the real thing, but in their size, not a plastic out-of-proportion replica. Check out www.forsmallhands.com. They have great items made of real materials, such as wood (and yes, even glass!) but sized for children to work with independently or right alongside you. They would much rather help you make real food in the actual kitchen, than play with fake food in a kitchen that doesn’t actually work. A co-worker recently told me how her one-year-old grandson spent an hour pushing the canister vacuum around. If only she had turned it on! Read this article about providing your child real life experiences.
Get Them Thinking! – Look for toys, games and materials that encourage exploration, use of imagination and experimentation. There’s no need for all the flashing lights and noises – these toys are often over-stimulating and only hold their attention for a short while before they lose interest. An item that is solely for entertainment or only one specific use will lose its appeal rather quickly. Activities that are hands-on, interactive and have multiple uses (think blocks, Legos or K’Nex without the step by step directions for building something specific) will maintain your child’s attention span much longer and will even help them develop a strong sense of self-confidence, problem solving skills and excitement that will keep them coming back again and again. Not to mention they are indirectly being introduced to concepts such as physics and engineering.
Stick with the Classics and Keep it Simple – You can’t go wrong with gifts that never go out of style. In addition to the items mentioned above for building, gifts such as stuffed animals, dolls and Little People encourage development of the imagination as your child has these friends interact with each other. Who doesn’t remember having a tea party with your favorite dolls and animals? Or lining them all up to listen to a story or play school? Cars, trucks, planes and trains do the same. Puzzles facilitate the development of concentration and can often be found depicting the latest superhero, princess or movie for those who do want to incorporate the latest trend. Here’s an article explaining how children benefit from fewer toys.
A Book is Always a Wise Investment – We are always hearing how important it is for children to read or to be read to. Not only does reading promote vocabulary and language development, reading together also encourages interaction with adults, something many young children crave. In addition, quality books often teach valuable lessons to our children as well, and can often be a gift they never outgrow. Avid readers often have a favorite they will read over and over. Passing on or reading your favorite book to your child can be something they treasure for years to come. Check out the following links to see not only how to choose the right book for your child but also a list of suggested titles. Fiction or Reality, My Favorite Montessori Children’s Books. Books for Montessori Children.
So, when shopping this holiday season, keep it simple. I realize that is much easier said than done, I love buying things for other people. But do you best to avoid the temptations and think about getting your child 4 things – something they want, something they need, something they wear, something they read.
Carol Martorano, M.Ed., has been working in Montessori for over 20 years as both a teacher and administrator. She is the parent of two teenagers who attended Montessori through the elementary years and is currently the Head of School at the Montessori School of Long Grove, in northwest suburban Chicago. She has her Montessori credentials in Elementary I and II, as well as Administration. She earned her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and sits on the board of the Association of Illinois Montessori Schools.