Every Christmas morning, amid the excitement of torn gifts, Irish children across the country lift their brand new toy above their heads and ask the same question, “Do we have batteries for this?” “
With just over a month to go to Christmas, kids are filling their Christmas wish list with countless flashy toys and the latest gadgets for Santa to bring on his visit to the fireplace.
And while it may seem like your kids are having fun, interacting with flashing lights, beep buttons, and repeating music, experts say high-tech toys may not be the best option for children’s development. your little one.
St Nicholas Montessori Society of Ireland program director Siobhan O’Reilly told The Irish Mirror that rather than high-tech toys it is more important to “consider what is and what is not necessary in your child’s play area ”.
“In a world where parents often feel the need to keep up with modern technological advances, I would encourage parents to stop and think first.”
“Less is more is the best approach to choosing toys suitable for the development of young children.
“Look at each child and their needs, not what is the best toy for Christmas. “
The return of the wooden toy
Maria Montessori was the first early childhood educator, the founder of the philosophy of education that bears her name.
She believed that activities should be freely chosen and self-managed, process-oriented, meaningful and guided by mental rules.
And this style of play has proven to be beneficial, says Siobhan, “Montessori children perform better on a range of cognitive, social and behavioral tests.”
Adopting this style of play “encourages mature, creative and socially adept children,” she adds.
Maria Montessori called the play environment for very young children a “Nido” – a nest.
Siobhan asks parents to remember this nurturing “nest” and reminds them that children “get overstimulated very easily.”
“You don’t need a lot of battery-powered, light-up toys, instead consider natural wood toys that have a more matte rather than shiny coloring.”
It can also be helpful, as choosing non-sexist toys encourages playing with other children and allows the toys to be passed on to younger siblings.
“Try to choose toys with a clear, specific purpose.
“They shouldn’t be loud and intrusive. Rather, they should be attractive and inviting to young children,
“The child should be in control of how he chooses to play with it. “
Instead of flashing lights and musical elements, think of the imagination and pretend to play to stimulate your child’s brain development.
From hand-eye coordination and creative play to learning about the world around them, Montessori-style play is essential for children’s development.
She adds, “Any material that allows the child to explore and build is always a great investment.
The best choices this Christmas
“It’s all about balance and children, especially under the age of 5, don’t need to be exposed to many technological activities that claim to be designed for them,” says Siobhan,
“Rather, they should spend the first few years focusing on developing the essential skills that the game will provide.”
Siobhan suggests going for toys that your little one can use to pretend and develop their imagination in a way that offers as much freedom and creativity as possible.
A common toy for very young children is a walker, but Siobhan says that “traditional style walkers can restrict movement,
“Montessori parents would opt for a wooden cart instead.
“This allows the child to explore and use the cart as a walking aid. “
“Children also love to pick up things and the cart is the perfect place to store small items picked up by the child. “
Siobhan recommends Ikea, which has a huge range of Montessori-style toys for kids, from role-playing games to wooden train tracks.
Siobhan also recommends Smyths’ Squirrel Play line which she says contains “developmentally suitable pieces for young children that would make a perfect Christmas present.”
Parents should also keep an eye out for star buys at Lidl and Aldi, says Siobhan, “Each year they offer a wide range of gender neutral wooden toys including kitchens and utensils, puzzles, kits. vets and tool benches to name a few. . “
The idea of Montessori also follows older children.
Siobhan urges parents to consider the value of toys, not by their price, but how long your child will play with them, how often they will come back to play with them, and how that encourages their development.
“Lego can get expensive, however, when you look at the price for how many hours of play kids get, the investment is definitely worth it.
“For the younger ones, a general box of lego to allow creativity and exploration is preferable.
“Wooden building blocks are also very beneficial and loved by children, they are definitely a more affordable option and are related to building and creative play.
“This type of play not only helps a child’s fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination, but also leads to cooperative play with other children or adults. “
For older children, parents should think about gifts that encourage their children’s intelligence and creativity.
“The Christmas period should always be used as an opportunity to reunite families and what better way to do that than with board games? “, she says.
“When it comes to board games, try to pick one that is suitable for all ages. Monopoly is a favorite in many households and also offers a junior version.
“Games that involve the use of problem-solving skills are also extremely beneficial for a child’s development.
“When it comes to older kids and especially those with high abilities, chess is a favorite. If, however, parents want something different, I would suggest checking out the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) section of any good toy store or even an art and hobby store.
“Creative games and experiences allow children to explore and learn in a fun and interactive way,” adds Siobhan.
While the focus of Christmas can often be on the best toys and gadgets, Siobhan encourages parents to remember to provide books for their children.
“Reading is by far one of the most developmentally appropriate activities to encourage language development at all ages,
“It also provides an ideal opportunity to read to and with young children, which will then lead to older children who have a strong interest in reading. “
“As with all other gifts, make sure the books are appropriate for age and Montessori education, try to reduce the level of fantasy in books for those under six. Once a child has a solid understanding of reality, they have the ability to use their imagination and understand the meaning of fantasy, ”she adds.
Although the weather can be wintry at the moment, Siobhan encourages parents to consider their outdoor space for children to play.
“Include the outdoors in your daily life and explore the many items available for the smallest of gardens that will encourage children to use the outdoor play spaces.”
While sandboxes, swings, and outdoor games can be bulky and bulky for homes without large garden spaces, Siobhan says use the space you have.
You don’t “need a huge space… think about what is and what isn’t needed in your child’s play space.”
“Small sandboxes that double as a water play table are a great option for small balconies when used under adult supervision.