Written by Aimee Ketchum
As we gear up for the holiday season, those of us with young children in our lives may find ourselves tempted by the commercials and glossy magazine ads for every toy imaginable! Of course, we succumb because all we want is to see the babes smile on Christmas morning, right? But let’s take a step back from the commercialism of the season and put some thought and heart into the gifts we give. We don’t have to just wrap up the latest Star Wars figure or Hatchimal to make them smile. Over the years, I have tried to give my daughters and nieces and nephews and friends children something original that sparks their creativity and imagination.
Here are some of the tried and tested greatest hits:
- Dress up box.
Just after Halloween, hit the clearance racks of kids’ costumes (you can get up to 70% off!) then just fill a box! Maybe decorate a box or buy a cardboard box shaped like a treasure chest or even a large hat box will do. The kids will love being princesses, firemen or action heroes for hours on end, but you will be the real hero!
- Puppet theater.
Cut a hole in a large box to create a little puppet theater. I got a little carried away and made mine out of plywood. You can decorate the front and even hang curtains if you like. Inexpensive hand puppets can be found in craft stores or kids can be given “kits” to make their own sock puppets. All you need is a pack of tube socks, markers and maybe some felt pieces to glue on for clothes. This gift will spark some creativity and lots of fun. My daughters put on countless puppet shows in their theater, learning skills such as storytelling, working together, sharing ideas, and sequencing their ideas.
- Let them design their own stuffed animals.
One year I gave all my nieces and nephews paper and crayons and had them draw a stuffed animal and name it. Their creations were adorable! I then used their drawings as a pattern and created the animals out of felt. I am not a seamstress, but it was surprisingly easy! It was just like making the pillow I made in seventh grade Home Economics class. I used a hot glue gun to attach eyes, antennae, and any other features they put on their drawings. There are companies that will do this for you, (www.budsies.com) but if I can do it, anyone can! I promise Christmas morning will be a huge hit!
- Create a storybook where your child is the main character.
I have made several of these over the years. Sometimes I make them like a scrapbook with pictures of my kids that I put into a story and sometimes I do them professionally on sites such as www.shutterfly.com or www.storyjumper. com. When my kids were really little, I made picture books and had them laminated so my kids could turn the pages and even bite on a corner without it getting ruined.For toddlers, you could make an ispy game in a plastic water bottle with birdseed and “hidden” objects to find, such as buttons, paperclips, and marbles. For babies, you could make visual toys such as laminated cutouts of pictures of themselves or you to hang on car seats or cribs. You could also make rattles out of small water bottles filled with different things such as beans or rice to create different noises.
You can avoid the crazy lines and chaos of the holiday season with a little ingenuity and imagination and the kids will love your creations!
Aimee Ketchum is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and a Certified Newborn Massage Instructor and Owner of Aimee’s Babies, LLC. She worked for many years with school-age children with developmental delays and found that poor coordination, poor reading skills, and poor handwriting were the result of missed or underdeveloped milestones in the child’s first year of life. She made it her mission to help by combining her research in early childhood development with her experience in working with children. The Aimee’s Babies program is currently helping new parents around the world provide the best possible start to a lifetime of new beginnings. Please visit aimeesbabies.com to check out her baby massage DVD and iPhone apps. aimeesbabies.com