FUN and BRAIN BUILDING Christmas Gift Ideas for Children 0 to 5 years

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!


Sit-Me-Up Chairs

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.


Squeaky rattles

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.


Rain maker

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!


Sensory Balls

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.


Play Eggs

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.


Shape Sorter

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.


Push-Along Walker

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.


Activity table

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.


Hammer Set

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.

Tweezer Games

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.


Mouldable Sand

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.


Play foam

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.


Therapy putty

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.


Bucket Stilts

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.


Play Tunnel

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 ♡

Carly xx

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Mum Tribe Love Vibe – How The Collective Began

There has been such an overwhelmingly positive response to the new support group set to run it’s first ever session tomorrow, that I felt like I needed to share how it all began and how we hope to make a difference in the lives of parents, and their babies in our home town of Colchester, Essex.

In April 2018, I attended the most wonderful Nurture Retreat by Blossom and Berry, who trained me in baby massage and baby yoga, and who continues to mentor me in business and life! One of the activities we took part in, was to create a vision board – visual representations of all the things we wish to achieve or bring into our lives. This was a game changer for me.

One of my aspirations was to bring together a “girl gang” – like minded, loving, caring, high vibe mums with a common mission. To support other parents and babies in feeling connected and valued, seen and heard, as well as being like-minded friends to be part of my own village.

During #mamakindness week – Blossom and Berry’s campaign to support new mums – I held a #LoveCreatesLove group in my home, a philosophy that underpins all that is Blossom and Berry’s training in supporting parents and their babies across the globe.

There was coffee, cake, and chat – I loved it, the mums loved it, and we all wanted more, and regularly. My idea of creating a Mum Tribe with a Love Vibe was born. A regular support group for Mums, and Dads to be their true selves, to share their journey without fear of judgement, to grow a village we can all benefit from. This included support (my envisioned “girl gang”) for myself personally as a Mum, and professionally as a Paediatric Occupational Therapist, Baby Massage and Baby Yoga Instructor –  after years of working amongst amazing NHS colleagues, and truly valuing the importance of a supportive network, I felt the need to create my own team!

In just a few short months, and as if by magic (thank you Universe), I have managed to gather some remarkable women with an array of qualifications, experiences and talents to help me with my Mum Tribe Love Vibe (MTLV) vision – I am incredibly lucky to know them and to call them my friends. Together we are the Mum Tribe ♡ Love Vibe  a collective of Colchester mums in business, who have gathered together to share the LOVE.

We aim to support local mums, dads and babies to feel supported and connected by offering open get togethers to talk all things baby and all things mum-life in this amazing but mad, busy world of motherhood, fatherhood, parenthood. We will be offering monthly support groups with our MTLV team of health and wellbeing professionals, tasters of services we offer locally, as well as guest speakers to offer informal and friendly advice, support, and chat. This group is for those of you who feel like you need an extra big hug, a chat, and for somewhere to go to share what’s really going on for you – without judgment, just with love and kindness.

Although there will be baby and kids toys available for your children to play with – we aren’t a baby and toddler group –  we are a team of Mum Tribing Love Vibing women out to support YOU, the parents, the all too often forgotten souls, who are out there raising the next generation. By supporting you with love and kindness, this will support all of our children, and will go on to build a more loving future for us all.

#mumtribelovevibe #loveisthefuture



"Connection. Energy that exist between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued" - Brene Brown 

From Womb to World: the transition for you and your baby and why it’s NORMAL for your little one to want to be held all the time

Most of us know that pregnancy consists of 3 trimesters, each often seen as big milestones to reach in the pregnancy journey, but have you ever heard of the 4thtrimester? If not, you’re not alone, as all too often not many of us have.

The 4th trimester is the term coined to the settling in period for baby as they move from their world in the womb, to the world on the outside. It generally refers to the first 3 months of a newborn’s life. This time is crucial for supporting baby emotional and physically, and supporting the bonding time with parents or care givers.

It seems that despite the hundreds and thousands of “baby manuals” and the multitude of parenting advice from health professionals, somewhere along the way we have lost the age-old knowledge that babies are not born ready to self-soothe. That’s right, baby’s need US to help them with this part of their development. Self-soothing requires OUR support in order to allow them to later become independent in this, and the way forward is with LOVE.

Imagine this, you are woken from the most comfortable, cosy place you’ve ever known, where you never felt too hot, too cold, you never felt hungry, had never smelt smells,  noises were muffled, it was dark, you never had to wear clothes, you had never been touched by anything other than the soft walls of your tranquil home – to suddenly being exposed to all the elements in this bright, noisy, smelly, rushing around environment where you have to wear a nappy, digest your own food for the first time, and be expected to sleep in a huge cot with not one familiar aspect of your previous home life.  Talk about overwhelming and scary? Yet often this is what we expect from our little ones, that they shouldn’t be rocked to sleep, that they shouldn’t be held all the time, or that we may spoil them if we respond too readily.

None of this is true, in fact scientific research has proven that a baby’s brain develops on all scales – emotionally, socially and physically – when they are responded to with love and nurture. So many parents feel relieved and empowered when they know that listening to their own instincts is exactly what they and their baby needs. And that it is completely normal for babies to want to be held, and how in the beginning it can almost feel like you will never get out of the house again (you will I assure you). It’s really important at this stage to try and get us much help us possible from family or friends in order to have a rest yourself. Not many people turn the chance down of having snuggles with a baby whilst mummy or daddy (or both) have a nap, or chance for a bath. Lean on your network, connect and don’t be too proud to accept help. It will make you feel more refreshed and able to be available to your baby.

So then, how can we help our babies with this major transition? Firstly, let’s remember that:

Babies LOVE movement

Babies LOVE Skin to skin

Babies LOVE Touch

Babies LOVE Eye contact and smiles

Babies LOVE your voice

Closeness to a parent, particularly the mother, but also the father gives the baby SO much more than you may realise. Womb world comforts, such as hearing Mummy’s heart beat, having a gentle sense of movement, hearing the sound of her breath and voice, the softness of her skin, help baby to feel safe and secure and therefore relax, regulate their breathing and their temperature which in turn helps to soothe and settle them. This is all created for your baby just by holding them, particularly skin to skin, as well as being responsive to their cries.

Being held helps to give the baby womb-like pressure on the body – sending calming messages to the brain with ‘proprioceptive feedback’ and giving baby a sense of where they are in space, as well as increasing their body awareness. Imagine, it must be very unnerving to suddenly feel “space” after 9 months tucked up in the womb. Parents can create a womb like environment for their baby by dimming lights, using white nose, minimizing distractions/other stimulus in the room. The use of baby wearing via slings is an amazing way or recreating the feeling of a ‘womb world’. Also tuning in to your baby’s cues will have an enormous effect on their ability to later self- soothe. By feeling loved, secure and well attuned to a parent, they trust that the world is a safe place to be and over time learn to independently self-regulate.

As well as aiding transition into the world, this type of responsive parenting – showing a genuine interest in baby with eye contact, touch, speaking to baby, responding to baby’s cues- your baby experiences positive connection with people. These positive exchanges of interaction actually enable the brain to develop to feel empathy, to create and maintain lasting friendships and relationships, and promotes the ability of your baby to one day parent their own children in a more loving, connected and responsive way, thus passing on the love throughout generations for hopefully years to come. Womb to world nurture and care can bring love not only now, but love into the future too.

To learn more about how you can help transition your baby from womb to world, learning nurturing, loving and practical techniques, check out my Womb to World ♡ Newborn Nurture Massage sessions available as one to ones in your own home or as workshop style with a group of friends/antenatal group. I would love to share with you the power of nurturing touch.

Carly ♡


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