The Ultimate Gifting Guide
Amanda has over 20 years experience working with children and families. Widely considered as THE go to expert on play, toys and child development, Amanda combines her theoretical knowledge with a refreshingly pragmatic approach to family life, that resonates both with parents and professionals.
Her book ‘Play’ was published in May 2105 and has already been translated into two different languages.
Amanda is regularly in the media, and continues to take an active role in research. She is often involved in government policy around children’s issues, rand is a member of two All Party Parliamentary Groups.
Amanda ran the research consultancy FUNdamentals for 10 years before combining that with the Good Toy Guide, and the Good App Guide to create Fundamentally Children, the UK’s leading source of expert, independent advice on child development and play, supporting children’s industries with research, insight and endorsement.
The Play Diet can help with gift choices as it suggests different toys that can be purchased to meet different developmental needs.
Active free play, imaginative play
- Team games, board games, construction, reading and creative play
- Educational toys and games, quiet and solitary play
- Passive screen time, TV/solitary video games
The main thing to remember when shopping for toys is that every child is different - it’s not a ‘one list fits all’ scenario! Keep the play diet in mind and hopefully it will inspire you to get a good mix of toys under the tree this holiday.
I know that newborns might not seem like they can ‘play’, but they are absorbing everything around them. Look for toys with high-contrast patterns, sounds, mirrors, lights, crinkly pages that will give them lots to explore and think about.
Older babies love toys that allow them to create an effect, for example, those which make a noise or light up when touched.
- Sensory crib toys
- Activity centers
- Musical toys
- Finger paints
- Building blocks
Make-believe play - which I consider one of the ‘superfoods’ of a balanced ‘play diet’ - is huge at this age. Toys that feature a favorite TV character can act as a springboard for your child’s imagination, but will lose favor once the show is outgrown, so I would suggest a mix of licensed and unlicensed pretend play props.
Age-appropriate puzzles and art materials will give your child a challenge and a sense of achievement when finished, while also developing those important dexterity skills needed to write.
Screen time at this age needs to be in moderation to create healthy life-long habits; if you are considering getting a tablet, look for one that comes with child-safety features and ideally a tough case too!
- Pretend play props, e.g. toy phones, cars, or dolls
- Board books
- Simple puzzles
- Art materials, e.g. crayons, stickers
This is the age that ‘pester power’ really kicks in. It’s important to manage expectations early on - as much as your child wants the ‘must-have’ toy or playground craze, they need to learn to live without it if it’s not a viable option for you.
Friendships are really important to children at this age so toys with a social element like trading cards or collectibles, card and board games and outdoor sports are worth considering. These help strengthen friendships and improve your child’s sense of belonging.
- Small world toys
- Collectibles, sticker albums and trading cards
- Card and board games
- Craft sets
- Sports games
Your child may be growing out of toys that he or she now deems ‘uncool’. Retro toys, or revamped versions of childhood toys, can be a good way of them revisiting younger, easier years without seeming childish.
Board and card games are fun to play even into adulthood and now they can get their heads around the instructions with ease, your child can enjoy the gameplay and strategy even more. Family game night is a great way to keep the lines of communication open as they hit their teenage years!
- Retro toys, e.g. soft toys, collectibles
- Card and board games
- Craft sets
- Tech toys
- Books and magazines
Holidays is a magical time for families and the excitement of finding good toys under the tree can last well past New Year, but parents should not feel under pressure to over-spend and there are lots of free and low-cost ways to make treasured memories during the holiday season. Wishing everyone a very Happy Holidays.