With the holidays just around the corner, a lot of parents are in a toy-buying frenzy. This year, with inflation rates soaring, make your money go a little further by investing in toys that double as educational activities.
While most kids these days have a preference for digital toys and video games, these types of activities can actually be very over-stimulating for kids. They’re also not required for skill growth. It’s a good idea to balance their time on screens with other non-digital activities.
We’ve assembled a list of some of our favourite ideas to help support the visual development of your children. Playing allows for the development of critical vision skills and can help your children reach their milestones. Before you do your holiday shopping, consider adding one of these stimulating toys to your list:
Blocks and building toys
These are classics that have been loved for generations. Their durability means they can often withstand being enjoyed by many kids, so consider picking some up second hand to make your dollar go further.
Colourful, plastic building blocks are timeless and can be used in different ways as your child grows. Other great choices are wooden stacking or architectural blocks or tinker-type activities. All of these will promote hand-eye coordination and fine motor control, as well as stimulate imaginative play.
Fine motor activities
Things like finger paint, kinetic sand, and other sensory experiences (like putty or slime) are perfect items to tuck into a gift. They support development and can also provide a relaxing sensory activity.
Older children may enjoy colouring and activity books that promote visual perception and visual thinking. Chalkboards and art activities like jewelry-making, origami, or painting are also great ideas. Model planes and cars are excellent to practice fine motor skills.
Don’t forget to include opportunities for outdoor play and space awareness. Spending too long on screens can contribute to headaches and eye strain, even in children. Balance their time on digital activities with games that require physical movement, ideally outdoors.
Toys for vision-impaired children
While all kids will benefit from toys and activities that promote their development, it’s important to consider what toys you’re offering to a child who is vision-impaired.
Multi-sensory play is an ideal choice, enabling them to enjoy a tactile experience with things like kinetic sand and finger paint. Consider supporting their other senses as well. Sound activities (drum kits, chimes, and musical toys) and scented markers or putty offer different sensory experiences for children with limited vision. Edible paint and make-your-own ice cream machines are options that stimulate taste.
To keep visually-impaired children active, a fun alternative is a trampoline with a handlebar, or a balance toy that allows them to experiment with movement.
If you have an infant on your holiday list, gifting toys with various textures and colours will help support their development. Play mats allow them to interact with the world around them.
Babies also enjoy black and white images. These stimulate development of their optic nerves and teach their eye muscles and brain to coordinate and function properly. Black and white picture books and images register strongest on a baby’s retina, and may send stronger signals to their brain.
You don’t need to spend a lot to support the rapid growth and visual development of babies, though. Simply spending time playing games like peek-a-boo or incorporating a mirror into their environment are excellent options.
Don’t forget that the best way to protect your baby or child’s eyesight is to make sure that they’re evaluated regularly at our clinic. We offer a full range of pediatric services and recommend booking your child’s first visit at 6 months of age.
This holiday season, give the gift of sight with toys that support your children’s visual development, and make sure you book your next appointment to have their eyes checked as well!