Christmas is just around the corner! Are the years truly getting faster or is that just something that happens with age?

Christmas is a time when every parent or carer (myself included) jumps into gift giving mode; worrying about getting the right present for their children – something the kids will love but also something that they need. For those with multiple children, it can be a struggle to find a balance between gifting everyone equally and managing to keep up with the given ‘latest trends’ of the year (which are often extortionately expensive!). After all of this is considered, where possible, a final thought is spared for providing a gift that is going to support their children’s development and learning but not cost the earth.

Well, fear not! I am here with my background in Speech Pathology and child development, to tell you truthfully that the best gift you can offer your child this year is not the big Paw Patrol tower or a new X-Box but rather, it is connection.  In fact, Christmas or not, it is by connecting with our children that our children develop, gain confidence, and gain true joy from the gifts they receive.

To encourage your child to build that connection and to allow you to play with them, try to choose something that is open ended and that encourages pretend play and problem solving – a gift that can be reused in multiple ways. Avoid simple button activated toys where possible, as these hold a very short lifespan; the child will love it for a week, then it will promptly find its home in the bottom of the toy box. Technology is all around us and certainly holds its place, but for a child’s development, the best gifts are those that involve playing with someone and/or being imaginative.

There are so many blogs online that will go through gift lists of ‘must-haves’ this year but to make it easy, here are some things to keep in mind for different age groups that will encourage connection between you and your child:

0-1 years:

In these early years babies are learning so much every day! They don’t need much. In fact, they will love the wrapping paper more than the presents and this is great – it’s noisy, colourful and often gets people laughing and talking to the baby.

  • Books that have lots of contrast are perfect presents
  • Anything that involves cause & effect – the baby will see something happen after touching / pushing it.

2-4 years:

These years are great for pretending!

  • Blocks, Books, Duplo, Dolls, Craft, Trucks, Farm animals, play kitchen pieces, puzzles
  • Anything that encourages the child to pretend
  • Something that can be used in multiple ways, and they will pick up and use for years to come

5-8 years:

These years are big problem-solving years. Something that allows them to create and think outside the box.

  • Magnetic tiles, board / card games, a tent of the back yard, DIY craft, kids kitchen utensils

8+ years:

Technology is part of everyday life for students in their school years. If buying technology remember to try to join in with your child when they are using it. Maybe get them to teach you!

  • Tent or other outdoor equipment, their own vegie garden, something to start collecting, complex puzzles, kitchen supplies eg popcorn machine


With all these thoughts in mind, no matter the age of the child or who is buying the gift – even if you are the Aunty, Uncle, Grandparent, or cousin – giving a toy that encourages a child to play with you is far more beneficial to their development than any expensive gift that has all the bells and whistles. Through offering a moment of your undivided attention this year, I guarantee your child will love any present they unwrap on Christmas day and ultimately will remember the time you played with them more than the gift you gave.

Written by: Harriet Chambers

Senior Speech Pathologist, Vital Health Roma

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