3 In Play, Read, Learn

Holiday Gifts to Nurture Your Child’s Development

A fun list of toys to nurture your child's physical, cognitive and social-emotional development!

It is the holiday time of year! I love finding thoughtful gifts for my loved ones. When I am looking for gifts for children in my life I think about how it fits into their interests and how it would nurture their development. Today I am sharing some of my favorite toys all of which will foster creativity and imagination in toddlers and preschoolers.

A fun list of toys to nurture your child's physical, cognitive and social-emotional development!

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Physical Development

Toys that nurture physical development will challenge children in areas of coordination, balance, and large motor movements.


Big Dig Ride-on working Crane: This one is on my wishlist for my 4-year-old. I love that he would be able to use it in his sandbox or in snow!


ALEX Toys Active Play Monkey Balance Board: This is a fun and relatively inexpensive version of a balance board and will stimulate your child’s gross motor development in a fun way! It is also a great one to expend energy indoors on those days when the weather keeps you inside.

Toysmith Big Kids Garden Tool Set: These are simple “toys” but they will provide hours of fun outside! We had so much fun raking leaves this year. I think these would be just as much fun in the snow in the winter and in the garden in the Spring!


Radio Flyer Kid’s Wheelbarrow: To go along with those tools, how about a kid-sized wheelbarrow? This will challenge your child’s balance and coordination.

Cognitive Development

Toys that nurture cognitive development will challenge children in areas of executive function, memory, language, and general thinking processes. Several of these will naturally challenge kid’s fine motor skills as well. Rather than flash cards or similar kinds of toys, toys which provide ways for children to naturally discover mathematical properties or aspects of physics will better stimulate natural and playful learning.


ThinkFun Maker Studio – Winches Building Kit: There are several of these building kits from ThinkFun, propellers, gears and winches. Each one has 10 engineering challenges for children to build. This is geared to the older preschooler and they may need help with these sets.

Boon Pipes Water Pipes Bath Toy: This will make bath time exciting and an exploration of the properties of liquid and force.


Hape – Quadrilla – Music Motion – Marble Railway in Wood: I love this marble run because it seems like is is designed to be created from scratch rather than following a set of instructions and it has the added component of music. These kinds of toys are teaching your children about problem solving, logic, cause and effect, and physics!


Press Here Game: If you liked the book “Press Here” by Herve Tullet, you’ll love this game. The basic idea is to make color sequences. Sequencing builds math skills. The other thing I love about this game is that older and younger children can play together. This game also stimulates creativity.

Social and Emotional Development

Toys that nurture social and emotional development will help children build social skills and emotional understanding. Children learn best about social skills and emotion regulation through play, especially pretend play. These are all toys which will enhance pretend play and social skills.

Hape Playfully Delicious Pancake Breakfast with Strawberries and Syrup: This is a set we got a few years ago and is still used regularly in our house. My son loves using his toy spatula to flip the pancakes.


Peaceable Kingdom / Race to the Treasure! Award Winning Cooperative Game for Kids: Cooperative board games help children learn social skills, like taking turns and cooperation, in a non-competitive environment. In this game, players cooperate to build a path to get to the treasure before the Orge!


Melissa & Doug Super Heroine Role Play Costume Set: My son spends about half of his time in a cape and that’s how it should be! Costumes open a window to your child’s imagination. Melissa and Doug have several great sets, Veterinarian, Knight, Pediatric Nurse, etc.

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Kimochis Huggtopus: The Kimochis characters are cute stuffed animals that come with a story and a set of feelings. Each character has a temperament or personality that your child may relate to. The Huggtopus is “Huggtopus is all smiles and giggles. She is very affectionate and strong and sometimes gets a little carried away by her big friendly personality. Huggs always means well but has to learn about boundaries. Huggtopus comes with three feelings: Happy, Frustrated, Silly.” There is also sensitive Bella Rose, Cautious Bug, bossy Cat, patient Lovey Dove, unpredictable Cloud, and unlucky Clover.

This post is a part of a fun blogging series called the 12 Days of Christmas! Click on the picture below to find more Christmas inspiration with crafts, recipes, and activities.

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  • Julie
    November 23, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    I love these ideas – I would play with those Boon Water Pipes in the bath!!
    Julie recently posted…Handmade Crayon Christmas Tree DecorationMy Profile

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