by Ellen Doman
Here we are again approaching the holiday season. Many parents express confusion as to what to tell family members to get for the children or even what they, themselves, might get them. We have often spent quite a bit of time telling parents what not to allow the child to have in the way of toys. That type of advice often sounds like: No repeat DVDs, No spinning or stimming toys, No dangly toys, No toys that repeat the same phrase over and over again. It’s a whole list of “what not to buy.”
So what do you buy? Let me first say that your child’s processing level will indicate a level of play. So children at a lower or beginning level of processing do well with cause and effect toys. Children at a slightly higher level may do well with toys that imitate real-life activities such as a kitchen, a lawn mower, and a vacuum cleaner. At some point we want the children to stop pretend playing and start game playing. A variety of games are available to keep the child more engaged. So you may choose to have everything from Wii sports to Jenga, from Connect Four to table tennis, from Monopoly card games to Twister. For our even higher processing folks, we look for strategy games such as Chess or one of my old favorites, Myst, which is a computer game. Think diverse games, diverse toys, new books, new apps.
A great present is books on audio. You may find this activity on programs of children of all ages. For the younger children they could be “The World of Christopher Robin,” and for older children and even adults it could be “Chronicles of Narnia” or other great, great books and stories. These are really a wonderful resource for building auditory attention and are often fun for the entire family.
Allowing family members to help out by purchasing program materials would be a great help to parents with children on program, as would be family members paying for some special sitter time during which an enthusiastic teen or college student comes in for an hour a week and helps with program or just plays with your child. That is certainly a great gift for the parent and the child.
How about some healthy snack treats? A stack of snacks that don’t ruin the diet would be great instead of traditional candy and cookie treats. Feeding children in a healthy manner over holidays is always quite the challenge! Gifts of the right snacks would certainly allow the children to feel that their snacks were great treats as well.
If you want high intensity gifts, try glow in the dark stars and solar systems, ant farms, bikes and trikes, a physically interactive video game for the family, tennis lessons, a new instrument, and of course one of the highest intensity gifts of all time, a pony. Quite a few of the kids on my caseload feel strongly that a pony is a great idea. Other animals that have been mentioned are dogs, kittens, lizards, and snakes. These are high intensity gifts, however impractical some of them may be.