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10 Must-Have Gifts for Healthy Kids

2021 Edition

Hi there! So it has been forever since I have written anything or paid attention to my website…#momlife. There have been lots of new changes in our household, and I have just been trying to keep up! I figured that now is the perfect time to throw this out there, and I promise I will try to be better at keeping up with my blogs (hoping they help some of you!)

This year the holidays have literally snuck up behind me, and now I feel like I'm in a crazy rush to get everything done in time. If you're like me, you second-guess your purchases and go through a mental workout for each one that isn't unlike a Jeopardy round. I don't want you to feel that stress also, so here is a list of some great developmental and gross motor toys/gifts that parents AND children will love! Below are some of the top items that I use both as a pediatric physical therapist and as a mom :)

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Sometimes it can be tough trying to come up with a gift for newborns/young infants, but the best gifts are investments in their future! Setting these little ones up for success needs to start immediately, and what better way to do that than making sure the parents (and grandparents) are at the top of their game. These online programs were created with parents, caregivers, and childcare providers in mind. Since life is still unpredictable -hello COVID, your welcome has more than expired- being able to have access to these programs on-demand and from the couch is invaluable. In addition, you have the ability to ask me anything! We all know that having a baby involves constant worry and questions, so you're able to schedule a time to meet one-on-one with me to put all your concerns at ease!

You can also email me directly at and we can schedule a time to discuss any questions or a general developmental screening.


WARNING: I have not tried all these products personally yet, so PLEASE do your research into each product. Make sure you read the age recommendations and safety precautions...and most importantly, ADULT SUPERVISION!

-Infant play gyms

These infant play gyms are great for overall development in your children. They encourage reaching, kicking, core strength, and neck/back strength.

-Floor/tummy time mirrors and high contrast toys

Tummy time on the floor is SO vital to a baby's development. Babies love to look at themselves in the mirror, and also are mesmerized by the contrast of black and white items. A mirror/contrast toy can be used in a variety of ways to entertain your little one and to help tolerate tummy time longer!

-Baby swings

I am currently obsessed with cute boho chic items that aren't covered in the latest TV character. We are expecting another babe, so this is on my wish list for the nursery! Most kids (and adults) of all ages love swings, and this is an elegant way to provide your little one with sensory input while working on sitting balance and core strength. FYI, make sure your little one is able to sit up independently before placing in any 'container'. They need to be able to demonstrate head and trunk control.

-Stacking cups

Stacking cups and rings are a great and inexpensive way to encourage gross and fine motor skills in infants and toddlers. I love this set because it has a more 'elegant' vibe.

-Activity centers

Activity centers are an awesome all-in-one station for hitting almost every aspect of development. Gross motor, fine motor, and cognitive skills are targeted at an activity center like this. Older infants and toddlers can also use a steady base center to work on tall kneeling and pulling to stand.

-Push carts/strollers

Push carts/strollers/walkers encourage standing and taking steps. It is a great way to help your little one transition from static standing to walking. They can work on their balance while using the cart to prevent toppling over. As kids get older, they can add heavy objects in and push it around to use up some of that excessive energy!

-Dramatic play

Items such as this 'cleaning station' are such good additions to any play space. For some reason, kids enjoy cleaning and doing household chores (if it's their idea...) They love to use brooms and dusters that are their own and copy what they see Mom and Dad doing. Dramatic play not only encourages imagination and creativity, but it also promotes gross motor activity.

*Side note: 'gross motor' does NOT mean an engine spewing oil like my husband thought; 'gross motor' is simply the large muscle groups in your body; 'motor planning' is your brain telling those muscles what to do in the correct sequence.


Climbing apparatuses are another all-in-one toy that promotes multiple aspects of development. There are a wide variety of climbers available...for instance, you could go with a wooden climbing triangle like the one pictured, or with soft foam blocks like the bottom one. My husband and I purchased a bunch of climbing blocks for our sons a few Christmases ago, and they were one of the best investments as a 'toy' purchase! This is the set we purchased, but they are currently out of stock, so I added substitutes that look to be somewhat similar. Our boys love playing with these blocks, and it has been a safe way for them to use up some of their crazy, seemingly endless energy! This is especially important since we all have been isolated in our homes more than usual. A variety of shapes and sizes allows kids to build their own climbing 'gym', forts, steps, tunnels, etc. That means that this gift will be a winner not only in toddlerhood, but for many years afterward.

-Foam blocks/couches

So when I say gross motor and physical activity, a couch is not the first thing you think of, right? I know! But when it is a foam block couch that can be arranged and used in hundreds of different ways, you can understand how cool that is! Along the same lines of the soft foam climbers, this couch and the magnetic blocks above both have endless possibilities. Building a whole fort and making sure it doesn't topple over can be hard work, and provide many hours of entertainment with open-ended play.

-Sensory/crash pillows

Kids of all ages LOVE hurtling themselves into things. If you have crazy active boys like me, a crash pillow is a great way to ensure they can safely get that sensory input while staying out of the ER. These sensory pillows are great for kiddos who need that feeling of being cocooned and also for working on balance and strengthening. Have you ever tried walking on pillows or uneven, unsteady surfaces? If so, then you know what a challenge it can be!


This guide is just to start some ideas brewing. I could keep going for days and days, but we're all busy and need to just check some items off that list! In addition to these items you can buy to maximize development in children, there are also oodles of opportunities for free developmental play (another post for another day)! The important thing is to get kids to engage, explore, and embrace their environment, and in turn, their full potential! Let me know what you think of these ideas, and post your favorite gross motor/movement gifts!

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and happy holidays! 🎄


P.S. If you need more ideas, hit up these awesome guides and lists of other faves!

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