Being a preemie parent I’ve seen and learned a lot of things and have had the unique opportunity to understand things differently than most of my termie parent friends. A lot of what I saw and learned in the early days with my preemie kids was difficult and of course I’d have those moments where I’d wonder, why is this happening to us? Without a doubt, these first six years as parents have been pretty challenging for me and my husband. What I have taken away from all these experiences was the chance to really understand how our kids develop and what to watch out for and how to address things along the way.
It is certain that many of my family’s early experiences have been very different from my friends with their term babies, but there is definitely one thing that I hear from all parents, regardless of how their children made their way into the world…We have TOO MANY toys! Toys, toys, toys! Everywhere!
With Christmas looming, we are being asked the big question: What do the kids want or need for Christmas? When I respond with, “Nothing”, I get the raised eyebrow look and a, “What do you mean they don’t need anything??”
So over the past couple Christmases, I’ve been able to narrow down the wish list. The kids really don’t need to open toy after toy. What they really need are a few suitable toys or books based on their developmental stage. This is where my experience with taking our premature twins to occupational therapy and speech therapy for 4 years comes in.
When we first arrived at our local child development centre, it felt like we were walking into a toy wonderland. Two gigantic, well stocked toy rooms were there for the therapists to choose from. In the therapist would go for a few minutes and out she’d come with a wheel cart of awesome toys chosen based on their little clients’ needs. I think I had the same amount of fun during those sessions as my kids did. I’d always be curious to see what toys would be included in each session and why each toy was chosen. I loved thinking about toys in this manner. The therapy sessions enforced a real understanding of the value of each toy. After many sessions, as soon as possible I’d run out to the local second hand children’s stores, thrift stores and sometimes even an actual toy store that might make me pay full price if I was motivated enough to get a particular toy. An alternate to buying the actual toys is finding out if your child development centre has a lending library.
After 4 years of different kinds of therapies, I’d like to share some of my favourite toys, which you may share with your family and friends when they ask what your child needs for a gift. An important tip is to ensure friends and family understand where your child is with respect to development. If they are 4, but at a 3 year old stage in most areas, suggest they look for toys suitable for 3 and under. The following are just 3 of many fun toys we’ve enjoyed using.
Priddy Books – Beautiful and bright picture/word books for babies to preschoolers to learn basic language. These books include everything from simple words like apple, duck, but also all the items found in a child’s bedroom, a kitchen, and other household items. You can take these books right into grade one or two to help with learning to spell, using them as “sight” word books with lots of repetition. In other words, these books can have great longevity in your home.
Super Sorting Pie – This fun game is also bright and interesting to look at and to touch. It comes with fruit pieces in different colours and types, such as cherries and peaches, and the child learns to sort by the specific fruit or the colours of the fruit. It helps with language development, as well as fine motor skill development. It is such a simple concept, but my children really loved it.
Hungry Monkey Motor Skills Game – This is also a sorting game by Learning Resources, which my kids absolutely loved! It also comes in a 3 pack option, which includes this monkey, a rabbit and a dog. It’s a simple toy, but it held my kids’ attention. They can learn fine motor skills, sorting and counting. Kids might also learn patience if they should happen to have a twin in the room!
So when it comes to answering the question about what your child needs for Christmas, consider browsing the toys above and the manufacturers’ websites for more ideas, where they often give very detailed descriptions of what area of development each toy will help focus on. Toy giving can be fun and sensible!