During the upcoming holidays, moms and dads will be juggling the demands of work and parenting as usual, complicated by an overcharged social schedule and the additional tasks of creating a joyful experience that will find a treasured place in their child’s memory.
Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives, on the other hand, may be more available to relax and experience the season through the eyes of children. For many relatives, part of the fun is selecting a new toy or book and watching the child’s (hopefully) happy reaction to the gift.
One strategy for finding off-the-beaten-path toys is to bypass the large discount stores and stop by your locally owned neighborhood toy store. Most of these stores compete with “the big guys” by focusing on superior service and expert assistance in matching up the child you describe with a toy that will fit his age, abilities, interests, and home environment.
“We love welcoming grandparents and other relatives in our store,” says Markie Carlson owner of The Children’s Gift Shop in Northfield, IL. “We carry toys that are good for kids, and they generally appreciate the quality of the products we have carefully selected to put on our shelves. Grandparents don’t usually face the pressure that parents get from their kids to buy the latest, hottest toy.
Our staff is trained to think about toys from a child development perspective and relatives often appreciate our creativity in picking something that may do a better job of capturing the child’s imagination.”
For grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives faced with a myriad of choices for picking toys, here are few suggestions :
1.Focus on the features of the play a toy encourages, rather than on the features of the toy. Think about what the child can do, rather than what the toy can do.
2. Let the child’s abilities and interests guide your toy choices, not advertising or the popularity of the toy. Look for toys that let the child ‘make up the story’, toys that leave room for the child to use his imagination in how he plays with the toy. Try to find open-ended products that offer lots of possibilities for different ways to play.
3.Offer an array of toys and activities that encourage your child to use and explore all developmental domains: physical; cognitive; sensory; speech and language; social and emotional.
Remember that kids learn and have fun with all kinds of play materials as long as they are safe, many everyday objects can become the toy of the moment. Toys don’t have to be expensive.
Another category of favorites for many relatives is a toy or activity that they can play or do with the child. “If you’re planning to spend time with your grandchild, niece, or nephew during the holidays,” says Susan Oliver of Playing for Keeps, “find a gift that is designed to help you share play time together.
Play is a wonderful way to build relationships, and just think how much the parents will appreciate a break during such a busy time. Depending on the child?s age, games, puzzles, books, and craft kits can be good choices.”
Another strategy for relatives is to find toys and activities that offer a glimpse into childhoods past.
If you hold a treasured memory of your grandmother making a toy with you or playing a particular game with you, why not pass that part of your personal history along to your grandchild or niece or nephew? Your local toy store may be able to help you locate classic games or activity kits that approximate a project you completed yourself as a child. Be sure to tell the story and bring your own relatives to life as you share this experience.
When it comes to the holidays, the season always seems to be a bit more magical with kids around. Enjoy these precious days with the children in your life and let them take the lead with some good old fashioned child-centered play.
As Markie of The Children’s Gift Shop points out,
“Go ahead and play your heart out with those grandchildren and nieces and nephews. It’s what they do naturally, you know. They show us how to really enjoy this time of year.”