Choose Holiday Gifts that Encourage Quality Play

How to Promote Quality Play

When choosing gifts for children the holiday season it’s best to choose simple toys that promote quality play. According to the American Association for the Child’s Right to Play quality play promotes creativity, language development, physical development, thinking skills, and social skills. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood recommends avoiding electronic toys, games, and DVDs that turn children into passive players whose main acitivity becomes pushing a button.

Best Gift Choices to Promote Quality Play

For 0 – 12 Months Choose:
Rattles and soft toys
Simple books
Stacking cups and blocks
Musical instruments, peekaboo toys, and mirrors

For Toddlers 12 – 36 Months Choose:
Push and pull toys
Musical instruments that encourage repetition, rhythm, movement, and clapping
Nesting blocks and shape sorters
Books on one topic that interests the child
Art supplies

Five Tips for Encouraging Quality Play

1. Reduce or eliminate screen time: Children may be bored or anxious at first, unsure of how to entertain themselves. Be prepared with simple playthings, good storybooks, and suggestions for make-believe play to inspire their inner creativity.

2. Choose simple toys: The child’s imagination is the engine of healthy play. Simple toys and natural materials, like wood, boxes, balls, sand and shovels, beeswax, clay, stuffed animals, and generic dolls invite children to create their own scenes — and then knock them down and start over. Battery-driven gadgets distract them from real play.

3. Encourage outdoor adventures: Sticks, mud, water, rocks, wind — even bugs and weeds — make a paradise for play. Reserve time every day, when possible, for outdoor play where children can run, climb, find secret hiding places, and dream up dramas.

4. Let your work inspire play: When adults are deeply engaged in work — like cooking, folding laundry, cleaning, or washing dishes — their example inspires children to deeply immerse themselves in their play. Avoid interrupting or taking over play, but be available as needed. Let children know their play is important.

5. Become an advocate for pro-play policies: Share the evidence about the importance of imaginative play in preschool and kindergarten, and of recess for older children with other parents, teachers, and school officials. Lobby for safe, well-maintained parks in your community. Start an annual local Play Day, (for how-to tips, visit:

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