Compiled by Paediatric Occupational Therapist, and Channel Mum Expert Carly Sherborne
Below are my TOP 30 recommended and affordable gift ideas for your children this Christmas. These have been categorised in to age appropriate groups to ensure that they are not only fun for your child, but will also promote your little one’s brain development and motor skills! I have included affiliate links to my tried and tested products for your convenience (click the images).
Top 10 Gifts for Babies 0-12months
Babies do not really need much in terms of “toys”; just by using touch, eye contact and your own voice can be enough in many ways to stimulate your baby and their development. This is the key time to get in lots of snuggles and skin to skin with your baby; they thrive from touch, love, connection and responsive parenting. Specific toys or gift ideas for this age can be tricky! Here are my Top 10 for babies aged 0-12 months:
Tummy Time Cushions
Contrary to popular belief, tummy time during awake hours can be started right from birth! And babies can enjoy it!! Tummy time does not have to be with baby placed directly on the floor, this can also be achieved with baby on their tummy against your chest, your legs, or even your arms. Tummy time is SO important for building babies’ muscles and supporting them to strengthen their bodies to support all of their physical milestones. The key to successful tummy time is little and often, and to build your baby’s tolerance to it. Using cushions are great for babies as it gives them a helping hand to slightly elevate their upper body off of the floor, also encouraging them to place their hands in front of them and to later prop themselves in this position. You can make it fun by placing items of interest such as toys and books, or your smiling face in front of your baby to gain their interest and encourage them to lift their head.
These are great supportive baby “nests” that allow baby to practice sitting in a more natural way to support their spine development and posture. These are ideal for babies who enjoy sitting more upright but are much more developmentally suitable for their body compared to some other more upright sitting devices available on the market. These are great because baby can lay in them and as they begin to develop their ability to sit more upright, then they are supported in a suitable way. Some play nests have attached over hanging toys for babies to reach out for and grasp too!
When babies are beginning to sit this is an ideal seating device as it encourages babies to sit in the appropriate way (rather than in a slumped position such as some other products). It is fantastic for them to practise using their hands at midline (to the centre of their bodies) whilst in a more upright position, so these are great for those times when you are not giving them what I call “real life” sitting practise (i.e completely free of all equipment) which is just as important.
Wrist and Ankle Rattles
When a baby is born, they have no idea that they are a separate being to their mother. It is amazing for them to discover their body and build up the awareness of being their own person. Wrist and ankle rattles are great for encouraging baby to learn where their limbs are which will support their development, as the sound of the bells will draw their attention to their hands and feet as well as giving extra proprioceptive feedback.
Finger puppet books
These are the perfect toy for parents to encourage babies to visually focus at varying distances, and once they are older, for finger isolation by placing on their own fingers. Babies love their parents’ voices, and these are a great aid for making stories up using the little book which will help to engage your baby’s interest and support their language development too.
This is a great one for encouraging baby to locate sound, and visually track due to its high contrast design. Babies continue to develop their eyesight after they are born, so this encourages them to focus their eyes and interest them with sound.
Another great one for locating sound, and as baby becomes slightly older, they can enjoy the cause and effect of turning these over in their hand. This is another great one for encouraging babies to bring their hands to midline (centre of their body which is a skill required for all fine motor activities).
Baby Contrast Pattern Book
I love this great high contrast book to entice babies’ interest and support their visual and visual perceptual development (visual development is more than just how clear the eyes can “see” but how the brain makes sense of what the eyes are seeing). Visual perception is needed for understanding how the world works around us, it super writing, drawing, mathematics, dressing and more!
These are fab for little hands to explore, and a variety of different sounds for them to tune into. Also great for rolling the balls and baby tracking them with eyes and later for encouraging them to crawl after them.
Fantastic early shape sorter, and for encouraging bilateral integration (using two hands together in a co-ordinated way) and for learning cause and effect by squeaking the chick and pulling apart. Also great for early visual perceptual development.
Top 10 Gifts for Infants age 1 – 3 years
At this stage your little one will be exploring much more movement with their bodies, learning how to coordinate movement skillfully whilst learning more about the world around them. They will begin to become much more dexterous with their fingers, and demonstrate more complex problem solving skills. Here are my Top 10 gifts for infants aged 1-3 years.
Baby grip crayons
Encouraging children to use crayons is great from a young age! These are much easier for little hands to grip and are non-toxic. A first starter for introducing mark making on a page and supporting early writing skills.
Pegged Wooden Puzzles
Great puzzle for encouraging both an early pincer grip as well as visual perceptual skills – both needed for later writing skills, numeracy skills, dressing and problem solving.
Wonderful toy for early matching skills, hand-eye coordination and developing those important visual perceptual skills. I love that this toy makes a sound too when it slides down, making this an interesting toy to young children.
A much safer and more developmentally appropriate toy to encourage babies to walk with support. I recommend a push along walker as opposed to a sit on walker in order to protect your baby’s hip and spine development and foot placement. These two options are great for including other play opportunities such as building blocks or interactive buttons for cause and effect and fine motor skills.
Great for standing practise and encouraging little ones to explore a variety of interactive activities all in one! It’s great that the top section of this toy is also detachable, so a sitting baby can also explore from the floor.
Pop -Up Toy
A simple but often most loved toy for little ones. Encourages them to use their hands with different grasps and technique. Also great for the element of surprise as well as visual perceptual development.
Pop-Up Wooden Puppet Toy
Similar benefits to the previous pop-up toy, however this one is also a good one for encouraging your littles one’s pincer grip and early hand-eye coordination – all needed for skills such as dressing, using cutlery, using a pencil and more. Great for colour matching too.
Great for early writing skills using different medium such as chalks and board pens. The position of the arm whilst using this to draw helps to improve shoulder strength and stability – important for lots of functional skills using the arms and hands, as well as provides important proprioceptive feedback (ability to judge where your body is in relation to your environment, judge force, pressure and “feel” where you are without having to look at that body part).
Wooden Staking Rings
Supports your child’s understanding of size and shape, eye-hand coordination, visual perception and sorting skills.
This is a great toy for eye-hand coordination, colour sorting, learning about pressure exerted through their arms (proprioception), and using their hands in a variety of ways.
TOP 10 Gifts for Preschoolers age 3-5 years
Children of this age are becoming much more independent with many day to day tasks such as dressing and using cutlery. They are generally able to hold their attention for longer periods and are becoming much more skilled with fine and gross motor coordination skills. However these are still developing and need lots of practise and consolidation as they get ready to enter school age. Here are my Top 10 gift ideas for children aged 3-5 years.
This is a great game for finger strengthening and encourages children to use the same fingers as they would to hold a pencil. Great for manual dexterity and eye-hand coordination.
Excellent sensory activity that encourages your child to explore new textures, as well as their fine motor skills and creativity.
I love tangrams! These encourage your child to work on so many of their visual perceptual skills, as well as problem solving and abstract thinking.
Peg board games
Wonderful activity to encourage fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, early mathematical skills and pattern making.
Another lovely sensory based non-toxic toy, safe to explore and design with. Encourages children to use their imaginations, as well as their fine motor skills.
If your child needs to work on their hand and finger strength, then this is the one for them! Great putty each with graded resistance which encourages children to not only develop strength in their hands and shoulders, but also great a fidget toy as it provides lots of proprioceptive feedback (which can elicit a calming effect).
It’s important for children to learn to use both hands together in a coordinated fashion which enables them to have a “do-er” hand and a “supporter hand”. Threading activities are great for encouraging this as well as eye-hand coordination. Children also love the sense of achievement when they can create a pattern.
Excellent indoor or outdoor activity to promote aim, direction, judgement of force, as well as balance and coordination.
A fun way to get your little one practising their balance and coordination skills, as well as getting them to think about body and spatial awareness.
One of my all time favourite toys – fantastic for use by itself or as part of a child friendly “obstacle course” with soft pillows and cushions to crawl over. Encourages crawling for overall body strengthening, reciprocal movements of the arms and legs which has both sides of the brain communicating with each other to aid coordination and much much more!
So there we have it – my OT recommended TOP 30 toys for children aged 0-5 years which from my experience children love, whilst having the amazing bonus of supporting a HUGE variety of developmental skills. On a safety note, always follow individual manufacturer instructions and guidelines for use of all of the above. Always supervise your baby and child when playing with any toy or equipment device. If you have any questions regarding your child’s development or ideas for play you can find me on the Channel Mum Support Group where I would love to hear from you.
Have an Amazing Christmas ♡