By Senia Lee, MS/OTR/L
Electronic games and gadgets are likely high on your child’s Christmas list this year. While electronics can provide hours of entertainment, don’t overlook the advantages of more traditional toys and activities. Non-electronic play activities are important for developing children’s play skill, social interactions, and for learning. More traditional toys tend to encourage creativity and imagination. They also engage multiple senses (i.e. vision, movement, physical touch). These types of play activities are can also help improve your child’s attention for home and school.
Consider including some of these “oldies but goodies” under your Christmas tree this year:
Building blocks and materials – Legos™, wooden blocks, clay, beads, etc.
Many children are very creative in coming up with their own structures, designs, or patterns. If this is difficult for your child, build basic models and have your child try to copy them. Seeing a 3-D model is much easier than copying from a diagram.
Classic games such as Yahtzee™
Looking for a new twist? Place game tokens away from the game (i.e. across the room)and have your child animal walk to retrieve them, or hide the game pieces
Movement games like Twister™ or Bop-It™
These games are great for motor planning and body awareness, like identifying right versus left
Play food or kitchen items (Melissa and Doug® have a great line of symbolic play items)
- Play “I Spy” by describing the item or describing it’s characteristics
- Pretend to make foods, both realistic or crazy combinations (Strawberries on your hot dog?!)
- Practice following directions by giving your child “recipes,” such as putting together a pretend sandwich
- Create a grocery list for your child – use verbal cues or pictures if your child isn’t reading yet
- Position the puzzle pieces away from the board. Have your child retrieve the pieces in a creative way – animal walks, jumping, crawling, rolling, etc.
- Describe specific pieces for your child to retrieve (i.e. “Find the one that flies in the sky.”)
Dry erase board and marker
- Take turns drawing/tracing mazes – let your child choose where they’re “going” (i.e. a favorite store or person’s house) and include these in the maze drawing
- Play “Hangman” or other fill-in-the-blank games to practice handwriting, spelling, and reading
- Take turns drawing/copying shapes, designs, or patterns
These are just a few ideas to get you started. If you have specific question about developmentally appropriate activities for your child, ask your child’s therapist.