Last year after Christmas our children’s visiting friend said, “Cool! You got REAL TOYS for Christmas, all I got were video games.”
Another year has gone by and many of our kids have spent too much time in front of their screens. Health professionals tell us that too much sitting is especially bad for kids since they need to move a lot to learn and stay healthy. We also know that kids really do love real toys and when given the choice still prefer being with family over being with their screens.
This year Families Managing Media is going to encourage you to “AIM” high with your gift giving and shop for items that will encourage Attachment to family, promote Imagination and encourage Movement.
Families Managing Media’s top non-tech Christmas gift ideas for kids!
GIFTS OF FAMILY ATTACHMENT:
One of the most valuable gifts you can give your child is the gift of uninterrupted, non-tech family time. Childhood is gone in the blink of an eye, but it is such an important time when life-long memories are made that will bond you closer together for years to come. Here are some of our favorite gift ideas to be sure we make the most of this precious time together as a family.
- Think about all the fun things you can do as a family outdoors, and give some equipment to get started. This could be camping/fishing gear, bikes & helmets, corn hole game, trampoline, kite, etc.
A fire pit is one of the best family outdoor teen-friendly activities we have; very inexpensive from a home store and there is something about that fire that draws out hours of conversation with your kids.
- Indoor family fun and competition are important because children form attachments, learn life lessons and often communicate ideas they may not otherwise. Board games can be a great source of indoor family fun and some of our favorites include: Ticket to Ride, Catan board game series (i.e. Settlers of Catan), Telestrations, Apples to Apples, Uno, Sequence, Trouble, Chess/Checkers, and Bananagrams. Target stores have a Retro Series of popular board games such as Clue, Sorry and Twister. If you have the space, a ping-pong or air hockey table is another great family indoor activity.
In our house we have gotten into crossword puzzles this year providing tons of entertainment. We also get a few new 1000 piece puzzles every year to add to our tradition of keeping a puzzle going at all times in the den; another great family activity for all ages.
- Family outings can be the theme for creative gifts at Christmas. Give a coupon book for family trips out for ice-cream, bowling, dinner, etc; tickets to a play, concert or sporting event along with a ticket album to keep and display tickets after the events; and a luggage set or travel bag can come with an announcement about a family vacation in the new year.
A new football is always a big hit for that traditional game of family football in the front yard on Christmas day!
- A new family pet (with training classes!). If you need a pet that requires a low level of maintenance or cost, start with a goldfish!
One year a little lost kitten found our house on Christmas day (really!). It was the best Christmas ever!
GIFTS OF CREATIVITY AND IMAGINATION:
Your child should have at least three other hobbies that he or she enjoys as much as technology in order to have a balanced, brain-healthy childhood. A hobby is an activity that is set at your own relaxed pace with your own rules and exploration. Hobbies are important because they are educational, teach goal setting and problem solving, develop talents and skills, and get those creative juices flowing! Some of our favorite gifts that help spark creativity and imagination include:
- Music: This is perfect for children of all ages and studies have shown that music education at an early age stimulates brain pathways for verbal and visual skills. Gifts can include a musical instrument, lessons, iPod (Nano does not allow apps), music gift cards, portable speakers, and headphones.
One favorite this year is a Karaoke machine; singing is also an important family bonding activity!
- Art: All children are explorers and art provides that necessary world where they can color outside the lines, discover new ideas and allow their imagination to flourish, leaving their unique mark on the world. Some gift ideas to get you started include art supplies (i.e. an “art bucket” with a large assortment), art lessons, sketch books and pencils, coloring books, canvas, paints, brushes, paper of all types, modeling clay, Play-doh, stickers, pipe cleaners, crayons, tape, markers, glitter, glue, sidewalk chalk, origami, weaving loom, Shrinky Dinks, Spirograph, stamp set, sewing machine, yarn and knitting needles, calligraphy set, card making and scrapbooking supplies. Stores such as Barnes & Noble, Michaels and A.C. Moore sell kits to create your own jewelry, sewing projects, string art, etc
Do you think your child is too old for art? Think again and get him some wood whittling supplies or carpentry tools to learn how to build things out of wood.
- Reading and Writing: The love of reading is a priceless gift you can give your children. They will never be lonely with a good book and will learn to use their imagination as they immerse themselves in faraway places. They will also learn to feel empathy as they connect with the characters in the book. If you think your children don’t like reading, they may just need some help getting started. It helps to first find a book, series or topic that he or she is interested in. Gift ideas can include: a complete book series; magazine subscription (Sports Illustrated for Kids, Highlights, Ranger Rick, etc.); diary/journal, lap desk, book light, bookmarks, books on CD, headphones, iPod (with no internet access) for audio books, etc.
If your child would rather get coal in his stocking than a good book try starting with a good book on tape series and listen together as a family at home or on a car trip.
- Exploring, Creating and Collecting: Think of things your child can create, collect or do using his own imagination and ideas. These hobbies can provide a lifetime of enjoyment, friends and recreation for your child but the key is to start young with learning to love a hobby that will last. Gift ideas can include a science experiment kit, magic set, Legos, snap circuits, train set, model airplanes, rocketry, outdoor sandbox, cooking supplies, Easy Bake Oven, ice cream maker, and dress-up clothing. Start or continue a collection: baseball cards and binder, coins, rocks and gems.
One great gift is a nice DSL digital camera (not a point and shoot) so your child can really learn photography as a hobby.
GIFTS OF MOVEMENT, PLAY & SPORTS:
Children’s brains need movement to develop properly, but due to technology overuse many children are not getting the daily physical play and movement they need. Here is a sampling of our favorite gifts that help with fitness and coordination, and will also provide movement and fun for hours on end!
- At FM2 we say that every boy should get some sort of ball for Christmas every year!! Depending on his interests, this could be a football (traditional, Nerf, or one specifically for use in water), bag of baseballs, wiffle balls, soccer ball, basketball, tennis balls, playground / four square ball, tetherball set, etc.
One favorite gift is a box of ping pong balls and paddle because they can play with these in the house and not break anything!
- Sporting equipment: Tennis racquet and lessons; golf clubs and lessons; baseball bag with bat, glove, cap and batting cage tokens; pitching machine; basketball hoops for driveway and bedroom; archery equipment; dartboard; bike; pogo stick; Indo Board balance board, scooter, RipStik, disk golf case with disks, Hacky Sack, Frisbee, jump rope, hula hoop, skates (inline or ice), street hockey nets and equipment, dance attire and lessons, pool/beach/water sport equipment, ski equipment and clothing, snow sled or saucer, helmets and knee pads, etc.
One of our favorites includes a set of inexpensive gym rings to install in a doorway or garage; they will provide hours of really fun muscle strengthening exercise as your child hangs upside down and gets plenty of upper body movement.
- The whole family can get involved with backyard games such as classics like bocce ball, badminton, volleyball, and croquet. Or for a little more excitement, install a zip line!
One big favorite this year is a slackline that is installed between two trees and acts like a balance beam, great for coordination! Be sure and look this one up.
Stay clear of screen gifts this season and hunt for some real toys that your child will enjoy. You all will have a happier holiday and who knows, you may even get your child interested in some new hobbies that will last the whole year through!