You don’t have to spend a lot of money to find a gift for the child in your life that will make a big impact. Gifts that encourage creativity and pretend play are not only fun, they help children learn to immerse themselves in an activity that they enjoy and see the fruits of their hard work. Here are some gift ideas that encourage creativity and are easy on the wallet.
1. Stamp Kits. Look for stamp kits that allow the child to customize his or her work with colored pencils or markers. One fun stamping activity is to have the child make a story book using the stamps and their own hand-drawn illustrations.
2. Magnetic picture maker. These toys can be a lot of fun during long car and plane journeys during the holiday season. Some kits come with design cards that allow your child to practice making realistic looking pictures so that they get a better idea of how to structure their own designs later on.
3. Small musical instruments. You can find “band in a box” kits that give your child a choice of easy to play instruments for one low price. Maracas, tambourines, castanets and harmonicas aren’t just fun to play; they also help children develop fine motor skill and their motor planning abilities.
4. Modeling clay. Poking, pounding, rolling and shaping dough is a great way to spend a rainy afternoon. You can buy clay and other modeling compounds that can be air-dried or baked in the oven so that your child can save his or her creations. Or, you can buy or make soft doughs that can be stored and used over and over again.
5. Bead kits. Many preschool teachers swear by beading kits to help small children develop fine motor skills and to teach pattern recognition. Children enjoy making their own creations. Be sure to choose a bead kit that is appropriate for the age of your child, both for safety and to avoid needless frustration.
6. Paint by number kits. Some parents frown on these as not being creative enough, however many children enjoy having a template to help them make an attractive, realistic piece of art. Painting in the lines and following instructions are very useful skills that will allow children to move on to more complicated projects down the road.
7. Small crafts kits. There are a wide variety of “make your own” kits available these days. Children can construct anything from puppets to treasure boxes to jewelry and more making these kits.
8. Stencil sets. Tracing a stencil or template helps children improve their drawing skills while at the same time creating attractive illustrations. You can buy stencil kits or create your own with thick plastic sheeting and a razor-blade.
9. Chalkboards or dry erase boards. Just like magentic drawing sets, these are handy to have for times when paper and crayons are impractical. They can also serve as a very useful prop for playing school or office.
10. Good old paper and art supplies. Create your own gift box by pairing a pad of drawing paper with crayons, kid-friendly paints, markers, stickers or other age-appropriate art supplies. This is an always popular, always appreciated gift that will get good use for months to come.
Jacob and Carol Maslow have built a reputation for themselves on two guiding principles, learned through a combination of training, education and life experience as the parents of five pre-teen children: Kids need to play in order to develop into happy, healthy adults, and the best toys don't need any double A's. Specializing in developmentally delayed children, Carol works as a therapist, helping preschoolers better adapt and integrate with their classmates, while Jacob works for Today's Concept, where parents will find the classic Melissa and Doug toys.