The final weeks leading up to Christmas sees us saturated with advertising of a host of toys and products to attract parents and families who are in the final stages of trying to decide what to get loved ones for Christmas. The decision is always difficult as many toys can be little more than a gimmick and therefore destined to spend more time in the toy box than being played with. Most parents also grapple with the philosophical dilemma of trying to purchase a product of value and positive influence rather than one that may tend to promote negative or anti-social behaviour.
An alternative angle to look at when purchasing a gift, is to consider a child’s level of physical development and consider a product that may encourage a child to acquire strength and motor skills, and engage in behaviour that will promote healthy physical activity. We can also specifically target a child with particular physical needs. Of course, this thought process can also be applied to addressing cognitive areas equally. However, as this is a column written by physiotherapists, we will focus of the physical needs for this exercise.
Throughout the lifespan there are specific physical landmarks that are identified as guides to assess and progress children along the pathway of physical development. From gaining head control, rolling, crawling, standing and walking, there are toys that can assist infants to advance through these milestones to assist with this development. As children get older and they become more proficient at walking through to running, they develop full body strength with climbing and progress their balance. There are also many other areas of activity that can be encouraged to develop healthy body tissue that has positive effects on the body for throughout adult life. As we know there are also many children born less fortunate than others with specific physical needs. There are also more minor physical impairments that can occur as a result of hereditary or environmental influences in otherwise perfectly healthy children. There are far too many toys available to comment on and each child is different in regard to both need and the things which are more likely to engage them. Consultation with a relevant health professional such as a paediatrician, physiotherapist, occupational therapist or even speech therapist may assist in identifying specific areas of need and the types of toys that will encourage the most appropriate activities to address and assist your child’s specific needs.