Family Health

14 Last Minute Gift Ideas - (And 3 Ways to Involve Your Family)

Around the corner

In a few short days, it will be Christmas morning. The wrapping paper will fly. Gifts will be exchanged.

It is easy to go overboard in the toy department for kids.  When asked for advice, I tell my patients that there are ways to make sure the toys you are buying for your child, grandchild, niece or nephew are age-appropriate as well as safe.

The under-2-year-old

Read labels. Toys are often labeled with age appropriateness. Toys meant for older children may have parts that detach and cause a choking hazard for a younger child.

Make sure toys are larger than a child’s mouth to help prevent choking or aspiration. A good test is to use a toilet paper tube.  If you are considering a toy for a child and it slides easily through a toilet paper tube, it could be a choking hazard and you should put it back on the shelf.

1) Children under six months of age enjoy reaching for objects and bringing them to their mouth. Plastic keys are a great idea.

2) Under 12 months, children start to enjoy cause-and-effect toys. Sorting cubes or toys where you push a button and a figure pops up or makes a sound can be the perfect gift. 

3) For ages 9-12 months, an activity table or water or sand table can be a good gift because children begin to pull themselves up.

4) Books are always a great gift. Board books or the Indestructible book series are great choices as children under two often like to use their mouths to explore new things.

The 2- to 4-year-olds

5) Toys to encourage imagination are always a great choice: dress-up clothing, pretend doctor set, kitchen measuring cups or bowls, cars to race.

6) Art supplies such as crayons, Play-Doh and finger paints with a roll of paper can help spur creativity.

7) Toys to encourage gross motor skills including a kickball or soccer ball can help to encourage activity.

8) Books are always a great gift in any age category. Reading to a child helps to foster communication, social skills as well as help to prepare them for school in the future. Reading for fun in school-age children has shown to help them succeed in school in the language arts as well as math and science.

The elementary school-age child

9) Puzzles can be a good choice to help with deductive skills. Board games can help to encourage family time at home.

10) Sports equipment is always a good choice to help with gross motor skills and to encourage activity or outdoor time.

11) Electronic toys should be UL-approved which helps to ensure their safety.

The older school-age child

12) Baking kits or arts and crafts such as duct tape or rainbow loom can help to encourage imagination.

13) K’Nex or chemistry kits can help to encourage the budding scientist as well.

14) Magic tricks or a magician’s set can be fun as well to perform tricks to amaze and astound at your family gatherings.

Kids do not need millions of gifts.

It is easy for kids to get overwhelmed with the wants and needs of Christmas, especially with the toy fliers in the Sunday paper and the commercials on television.

Bonus: Involve the family

What are good ways to avoid the “gimmies” in the holiday season?

1) Involve your child in purchasing or making gifts for family members.

2) Adopt a family that needs help. Buying gifts for others can help a child to learn about giving to the less fortunate.

3) Bake cookies or candies to deliver to neighbors or family members.

These jobs can help teach our kids about giving and the importance of giving during this season. Allow your child see the recipient’s reaction with a gift your child helped purchase, or create and talk about how they feel after having given a gift.

All these ideas can help your child grow and learn the meaning of the season while celebrating a happy and safe holiday season.

About the Author

Pediatrician Dr. Elizabeth Walenz loves seeing kids grow as well as helping them lead long and healthy lives. She is especially interested in nutrition, growth and development.

Dr. Walenz sees patients at Methodist Physicians Clinic.

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