10 Must-Have Gifts for Healthy Kids
Updated: Nov 18, 2020
Updated for 2020!
If you're like me, the holidays always tend to sneak up on you. I tend to over-analyze my purchase decisions, and sometimes my hesitation leads to complete inaction 🤦 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 2020 has thrown us all multiple curveballs, being able to have access to these programs on-demand and from the couch is invaluable (hello, sweatpants and NO germ exposure!) 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!
The develoPT Baby: courses.develoPTpeds.com
Infant Highlight: Prop-A-Pillar and Prop Pillows
Prop pillows are at the top of my list this year because 1) they are a fun addition for our littlest babes, and 2) they emphasize the importance of tummy time and make it more enjoyable! These two are some of my favorites because the Prop-A-Pillar can be used in a variety of ways to strengthen head and back muscles https://amzn.to/3kHP87j, and the Baby Einstein Prop Pillow provides attached safe, chewable toys so that your baby is entertained and tolerates tummy time longer and with less tears! https://amzn.to/3nx1d0N
The rest of the guide is geared more towards a little older kiddos, but make sure you read the age recommendations and safety precautions...and of course, adult supervision!
1) Exercise ball/peanut ball
These exercise balls are a perfect size for many kids, and there are so many activities you can do with them! https://amzn.to/2qkzxEv
These peanut balls come in multiple sizes so you can really customize it to each child. Again, so many ideas on how to use these...some of my faves are having the child get on his/her stomach and lift arms and legs to 'fly like Superman/Wonder Woman', sitting straddling the ball and playing catch or balloon tap, and of course, bouncing on them! https://amzn.to/2sNBZo3
2) Soft climbing toys
My husband and I purchased a bunch of climbing blocks for our sons for last Christmas https://amzn.to/2DOb1io. They are currently out of stock, so I added substitutes that look to be somewhat similar https://amzn.to/3kKGWmE, . 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.
3) Motor planning/gross motor skill games
I could go on and on with games that promote *gross motor planning and development! There are so many like these above, or you can make almost any game into a 'gross motor' game by requiring the child to perform a certain activity to earn game pieces, puzzle pieces, or a turn. These squeaky spots are ideal for children who have a difficult time with attention and incorporating listening skills with fun activities https://amzn.to/3fjYepS.
*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.
Scooters like these https://amzn.to/3nCPE8o are fun to use in races, knock down bowling pins/blocks, or be pulled with a hula hoop or rope (just keep safety in mind!) There are also 2-seater options for little ones who need more assistance with moving, or more stability when laying down on his/her stomach.
Kids of all ages LOVE trampolines and jumping. Even if your child does not yet have the jumping motor skill, you can use these to work on bouncing, balance, and strengthening. We have an enclosed one in our house (I know, we're crazy), and our boys love to go in there, jump, wrestle, and just hang out. https://amzn.to/3fencXB
Slides are great gross motor items because they not only are fun, but they require kids to climb up the stairs, which is a whole-body strengthening activity that incorporates bilateral coordination (using both sides of the body). They will do this over and over again, leading to improved balance and strength!
Crawling through tunnels promotes strong shoulder development, bilateral coordination, core strength, and motor planning. There are pop-up tunnels and tunnels that are considered more 'sensory' and calming in nature. These sensory tunnels require more work to get through, as the tunnel is not held open on its own.
Ride-ons come in many different types; there are wiggle ones, pedal ones, push ones, pull ones, and more. Here are some of my top picks in each category. All of these ride-ons work on strength, balance, coordination, motor planning, and sequencing. Also, what kid doesn't like to zoom around on a wheeled apparatus??!
9) Balance bikes
Balance bikes are pretty self-explanatory...they work on balance, along with coordination, motor planning, sequencing, safety awareness, and body awareness. We got our son a balance bike last Christmas, and he loves to 'zoom' on it around the house!
10) Balance stones/beams/discs
Balance stones and beams are a wonderful and imaginative way to work on balance, motor planning, visual attention, sequencing, attention to task, coordination, and strengthening. Balance discs can also be used with seating to help extra-fidgety kids maintain focus; the disc absorbs the wiggles and shifting that can otherwise become distracting.
This is a 'Think and Cycle' by Fisher-Price that looks so cool! It integrates both movement and gross motor activities along with the electronics and technology that everyone (especially KIDS) love!
These are just a few of the items that you can buy to maximize development in children, but 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!
P.S. If you need more ideas, hit up these awesome guides and lists of other faves!