The holiday shopping season is upon us, and wish lists from kids of all ages likely include tablets, mp3 players, headphones, and other technology gifts. But it’s important to find a balance and ensure that today’s connected kids have some quality off-line time too. The holidays are a great time to get back to some of the basics in childhood play that foster communication and social interaction. Here are some ideas for a low(er)-tech holiday gift list from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA):
- Traditional toys, according to numerous studies, remain superior to electronic toys for children’s language development. For example, when toys talk, parents talk less—and subsequently, kids vocalize less. Blocks, dolls, musical instruments, cars/trains, shape-sorters and other low-tech toys get kids—and parents!—talking, singing, playing and interacting. These all help build foundational communication skills.
- Books always make excellent presents, and sharing the joy of reading is a lifelong gift. For infants and toddlers, books with textures inviting touch are ideal, as are colorful board and picture books. For kids just learning how to read, give books appropriate to their skill level to facilitate emerging literacy. For older children, find engaging chapter books and book series. Family members can take turns reading chapters aloud. This may be the start of a family book club.
- Board, card and conversation-based question games can be enjoyed together as a family and get everyone talking and laughing. There are games for all age ranges. And what better time of year than winter to begin family game nights for building conversation, connections—and fun!
- Costumes and other dress-up accessories allow kids to use their imaginations and foster creativity. Children’s language skills expand as they make up dialogues, tell stories and take turns.
- Building toys, blocks and crafts yield fun indoor activities to occupy kids on cold days. They also help hone fine motor skills for all ages. For young children, motor skills are closely linked to language development.
- Outdoor toys such as balls, sleds, jump ropes and yard games encourage running, jumping, sports and other active play. Physical activity and movement prime children for learning.
- Puzzles—ranging from basic options for young children to complex types the whole family can attempt as a team—spur conversation while building analytical, problem-solving and other skills.
- Cooking supplies work as fun gifts for children of almost any age. Involving young kids in making and trying new foods offers a wealth of opportunity for conversation and language-building, including likes/dislikes, tastes, textures, and more. For older kids, cooking together sets the scene for family bonding. Following recipes also helps improve reading and comprehension skills, planning, organization, sequencing, and following directions.
- Crayons, colored pencils, coloring books and other writing supplies are not only child-approved, but also help children build literacy skills.
- Tickets to child-friendly shows, sporting events or other performances allow parents and kids to enjoy special activities together. These outings promote family interaction, conversation and bonding. In addition, memberships to local zoos, museums or aquariums make great gifts for entire families to enjoy.
Of course, technology gifts likely will still be on many shopping lists and that is a reality of growing up in today’s world. But it’s a great time to strive for balance. And remember, when gifting technology to kids, use it as an opportunity to lay out some ground rules, make a family media plan, and strive to use technology interactively with kids when possible. Check out these digital diet tips.
Note: This is a slightly modified version of ASHA’s blog post, 10 Non-Tech Holiday Gift Ideas to Promote Kids’ Language, Learning.