The HSS Pediatric Rehabilitation Gift Guide 2013

As pediatric therapists, we are often asked for toy recommendations for children. To help ease some holiday stress, our pediatric physical, occupational, and speech therapists got together to provide this holiday shopping guide as a starting point for age appropriate toys to stimulate gross and fine motor skills, speech and cognition.  As always, make safety a priority. Consider choking hazards (avoid games or toys with small pieces that can come loose and be put in the mouth) and always provide proper safety equipment for sports gear (e.g. helmets, knee pads, wrist guards, etc.).

Birth to 6 months:

At this age, toys should stimulate the senses and promote tummy time and interaction between the child and caregiver. Consider:

  • Toys with black, white, and red contrasting designs
  • Mirrors
  • Soothing sounds and lights (e.g. aquarium, rain stick, musical ring stacker)
  • Activity mats/busy gyms with stimulating parts for tummy time and with hanging toys to promote reaching and swatting when child is on his back
  • Soft fabric books or toys with varied textures or tags
  • Small ball with holes to allow child to grip with both hands
  • Rattles: hand held or attached to socks or mittens

6 to 12 months:

6 to 12 months is a very active time for babies. They are learning to sit, manipulate objects with their hands, crawl, and pull to stand. Their vision is mature and the new vantage point of sitting provides improved social interaction. Consider toys that support this such as:

  • Stationary play table with music and buttons and levers to operate (many of these tables can be adjusted by adding or subtracting legs – use it with no legs for tummy time, two legs for seated play, and four legs for standing activities)
  • Stacking blocks or rings
  • Pop beads
  • Shape sorters
  • Cause and effect toys (e.g. pop-up toys)
  • Containers to put in and take out objects
  • Standing push toys (e.g. shopping carts, lawn mowers, etc.)
  • Board books

1 to 2 years:

At this age, children begin to navigate their environment on two feet. They become increasingly independent with feeding, play, and exploration and are making their wants and needs known using gestures and speech. Consider toys to promote mobility, grasp accommodation, spatial conception, and child/caregiver interaction:

  • Walking toys for pushing and pulling (e.g. wagons, strollers, etc.)
  • Ride-on toys
  • Toys on a pull string (e.g. dog on wheels on a leash)
  • Balls
  • Fat crayons
  • 3 to 5 piece puzzles with knobs
  • Stacking toys with sorting of different shapes and colors
  • Symbolic/Pretend play (e.g. kitchen tools, play farms or houses with toy animals and people)
  • Large beads for stringing (provide thick string)
  • Picture and finger play books

3 to 5 years

This is a time for developing strength, balance, and emerging coordination. Speech skills explode and the child is eager to learn all he can. Consider the following toys for this age group to improve coordination, encourage pretend play, cognition and early literacy:

  • Balls of all sizes (rubber, soccer, basketball, whiffle ball, tennis)
  • Tricycle
  • 3-wheeled scooter
  • Yoga pose instructional cards
  • Building blocks
  • Coloring books
  • Finger paints and molding dough
  • Beginner board games with simple directions
  • Memory card games
  • Pretend play (e.g. kitchens, workbenches, doctor kits, costumes, etc.)
  • Interlocking puzzles
  • Story books, rhyming books, activity books with simple mazes or connect the dots

6 to 8 years:

At this age, coordination is improving and the child can successfully manipulate small parts and follow more complicated directions. Consider toys to promote physical activity, enhance attention, and improve social interaction:

  • Bicycle
  • Jump rope
  • Roller skates
  • Sports equipment (e.g. bat, ball, glove, hockey stick, lacrosse stick, football, etc.)
  • Hula hoop
  • Card games
  • Board games
  • Writing/drawing games
  • Chapter books
  • Interactive video games that encourage activity (e.g. dancing, sports, hand-eye coordination skills)

Maureen Suhr is a doctor of physical therapy and board certified pediatric specialist, and is the assistant section manager at CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center at the Lerner Children’s Pavilion, Hospital for Special Surgery. She has volunteered with the Foundation for Orthopedics and Complex Spine and traveled to Ghana in November 2008 to assist in the rehabilitation of children and adults following joint replacement and spine surgery.

Topics: Pediatrics
The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.