Memorial Regional Health: Engaging activities and toys help children thrive — This holiday season, consider gifts that limit screen time, promote physical and mental stimulation
Editor’s note: The following is sponsored content from Memorial Regional Health.
It’s the holiday season when gifts and toys are on the minds of many children hoping for a fruitful visit from Santa Claus, but choosing the right gifts for children at various developmental stages in life can be overwhelming.
Memorial Regional Health Lead Occupational Therapist Susan Jones hopes adults remember giving the gift of time this holiday season — time spent together, when adults can engage children “on the floor.”
“For infants, having tummy time is the most important thing you can do,” Jones said. “They do not need to stay in their pumpkin seat/car seat that you can carry all the time — they need to be on the floor and engaged.”
Limit screen time
Many toys are designed to help guide children through development. While certain games and electronics can be helpful for kids, it’s generally best to limit screen time. The American Heart Association published a scientific statement this year cautioning parents against allowing their children too much time with smartphones, tablets, TVs, and other screen-based devices because it promotes sedentary behavior, which is tied to overweight and obesity in young people.
“Children at least under 2 years old should not be engaging with iPhones or iPads (and similar devices),” Jones said. “This will send their brain into an excitable state that will be hard to mimic with other toys. Imaginative play is great for toddlers — any toy that will promote gross motor and fine motor skills, as well as core stability.”
Between age 2 and 5, the Mayo Clinic recommends limiting screen time to one hour or less per day. In children older than age 5, the recommendation is to limit any enjoyment-related or recreational screen time to two hours or less per day. The recommendation is the same for teens, but it doesn’t include educational-related screen time.
Jones has noticed a shift from parents giving children gifts to giving them experiences instead. This is a healthy pattern she hopes more parents will adopt.
“For all children, from infant to teenage years, the most important gift you can give them is your time,” Jones said.
Toys are often tossed to the side not long after they are opened, but activities together create memories, she added. Have you ever had a child open a gift and play with the box more than the toy?
“True engagement will help every child thrive,” she said.
So, this holiday season, as you help your children prepare their lists for Santa, consider gifts that engage and stimulate the brain — as well as things that don’t encourage sedentary habits.