I saw the most amazing thing recently. A little girl I’m guessing to be about 2-years-old, reached for her daddy’s iPhone, turned it on, input the password then sat back to watch something that required no effort on her part. It was seriously cute for about 20 seconds, until I realized that wasn’t the first time she’d done that.
I watched that little child go from being actively engaged with her parents and her surroundings to being a totally passive observer. Which brings me to the subject of toys.
The best toys–and the ones we should be vigorously introducing to children from a very young age–are toys that promote creativity and stimulate mental development, while at the same time are fun to play with.
If you have young children on your gift list this Christmas, determine that you will give them at least one toy that will require them to create their own entertainment rather than sitting back and being entertained.
The following toys for children ages 3 to 7 will bring out the creativity in the kids, and also stimulate their mental development.
1. Magna-Tiles. The tiles are just amazing. And they’re not cheap, but they will last for many years and bring out building and creative skills in your kids you didn’t know they had. Children will play alone or in groups with Magna-Tiles and for hours, constructing towers and geometric shapes. Magna-Tiles moves a child to think in 3-D. This 32-piece set is about $52.
2. Puppets. Kids love puppets. And we know that therapists love them because for some reason, a child with a puppet becomes more expressive and willing to role play—something that is so critical to proper development. This 8-piece set of multi-ethnic, plush, happy kids hand puppets is about $30. This set of 12 animal puppets is $20.
3. Cootie Bug Game. You probably played Cootie when you were a kid. And while the bugs may look a little different these days, it remains a simple, fun, classic game that little ones love to play. Since the children only compete against themselves, group play doesn’t get heated and overly competitive. Still quite inexpensive at about $5.
4. Gears! Gears! Gears! This amazing building set gives young children opportunities to experiment with simple mechanics and science. And it’s so much fun! Watch how their little minds are engrossed for hours as they figure out how to make the gears fit together and actually do things. And the more they play the more they will discover new ways to do things. This really is a perfect gift. The 95-piece set is about $21.
5. Magneatos. These jumbo magnetic building pieces are ideal for small hands. Completely safe to play with, children as young as 3 years old will have so much fun and entertain themselves for hours. Their imaginations will go wild! This sturdy 30-piece set is about $42.
6. Blocks. This 3D Feel & Find set of 2 big chunky blocks and wood shapes can be played with alone or in groups. The blocks are well made and some are painted bright colors. Another toy that promotes creativity and imagination. The set comes with a cloth bag for storage and is about $35.
7. Straws & Connectors. Whoever came up with this is pure genius. Using sturdy drinking straws and these unique connectors, a child can create all kinds of amazing structures. This huge 705-piece set is about $50 and if reviews are a good indicator, worth ever dime!
8. Sorting Food Tray. This puzzle is just too cute. Made of wood, it’s sturdy and will help develop fine motor skills. Check out the other food tray puzzles that would go with this particular one. Perhaps your child needs a matching set. About $19.