Hillary Roseland is the Senior Director of Education & Research at Jumpstart. This blog was originally written in 2015.
As the holiday shopping craze begins, I am filled with equal parts excitement and anxiety. As a child, I remember the start of the season began with the arrival of the Sears Christmas Wish Book. This monstrous 500-page catalog was filled with glossy pictures of every toy imaginable. I spent countless hours poring over the pages, and choosing just the right items to put on my list for Santa. These days, finding just the right presents for my two children is far harder than picking the latest toys from a giant catalog. Again and again at Jumpstart we are learning just how much interaction with adults and attention to language development contributes to children’s future success. This year, I’m looking for gifts for the children in my life that will inspire fun, imagination, and conversation.
6 Gifts for Preschoolers to Build Language and Learning
1. Board games
Build your child’s collection of games and start a tradition of family game nights. Look for junior editions of your favorite classic games to support children’s problem-solving, math, logic, and beginning reading skills. Playing games with your preschooler is time spent together; building a relationship, sharing laughs, and using new words.
2. Dramatic play toys
Think about toys that children can pretend with and use in many different ways. Toys like kitchen sets, doctor kits, doll houses, and dress-up costumes give children a chance to role play and use new words in different play situations. Pretend play for young children provides countless hours of entertainment and unlimited opportunities for language and social development.
3. Art supplies
Children love to explore new materials and discover the joy of creating something with their hands. Gifts for a budding artist might include special markers, stamps, paints, and modeling clay. In addition to providing sensory stimulation and a chance to exercise fine motor skills, working on art projects opens the door to conversation with children, like “tell me about what you are making…”
4. Magazine subscriptions
Children love getting mail, and this is a gift that will continue to be a surprise every month that it lands in your child’s mailbox. Magazines designed for children expose them to interesting photographs, content, and stories. Children build their content knowledge and learn sophisticated vocabulary as you have fun exploring the articles together.
When in doubt, books for children are always a reliable gift choice. Including books in your holiday gifts to children sends the message that reading and books are special in your family. Remember that children can understand books at a level higher than what they may be able to read themselves. Consider giving your older preschooler their very first chapter book, and dive into the book together at bedtime.
When the lines at the mall and the glow of online shopping dull your senses, remember that gifts don’t always have to be things to play with. Sometimes the best gift is time spent together with your child going on an adventure or exploring somewhere new together. Experiences outside the everyday routine help build children’s knowledge and vocabulary base. Wrap up a ticket or a coupon for a special date on the calendar and give your child something to look forward to in the new year.
Happy Holidays from Jumpstart!