With the holidays approaching, you may be thinking about gifts to get your children. So many of the toys these days seem to be big on bells and whistles (and your checkbook) but fall short on creativity. I suggest that you try to find things that are multipurpose and unstructured that can be manipulated, changed and stimulate the imagination. As teachers, we are starting to notice that children need more modeling for open-ended activities that are so important for their development.
Puzzles are always a good choice. We have a group of children in our older class who work on puzzles every day, either individually or with a group of friends.
A set of blocks is another good option. Research shows that block play stimulates building skills in intellectual, social, physical and language development.
You might want to consider putting together a tool kit including a small hammer, nails, scrap wood or large pieces of Styrofoam covered with burlap, C-clamps and goggles. We had the children hammer golf tees into pumpkins and they loved it!
Some other ideas:
A sewing kit with various beads, colored yarn, wire and chenille stems.
A box of clay or play dough (recipe is in your handbook) containing various cookie cutters, garlic presses and rolling pins.
A recipe box filled with simple recipe cards (you can draw symbols instead of words for the younger children).
A crystal growing kit – Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing has easy directions on the bottle. Make a science activity book with simple experiments like mixing baking soda and vinegar “explosions”.
An “Imagination Station” art box filled with things like corks, bottle caps, feathers, pompoms and stickers.
An easel, tempera paint, brushes, paint cups and squeeze bottles. Our older class loves to mix colors and experiment with different painting techniques.
Make or purchase card or board games that practice skills such as sorting, memorizing, classifying, adding and subtracting.
Last but not least, books for important quiet time for children to have by themselves or to share with family.
We have used these ideas in our classroom. They are fun, inexpensive and child-directed. Give some of them a try. I wish you a relaxing, peaceful season to come filled with simple pleasures.