Gifts to Nurture the Whole Child

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The word "whole" seems to be quite the buzzword these days. We all know that we should stick to a "whole foods" diet, and should take care of our "whole self." We can't seem to forget it, it would seem. Lately as I've done a gift search for my kids, I've felt the need more than ever to find things that will nurture them in their development and growth. We all want that, I think, but just picking toys made of natural materials as opposed to plastic and flashing lights, doesn't always cut it. Yes, those more natural products are typically more beautiful, and that in itself is to be desired, but I think we often want more than aesthetic appeal. We want the things that we gift our children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren to be fun, of course. We want these gifts to bring them joy; but we also want these toys to have longevity, and prod them on in their growth as unique human beings with a divine purpose. Here are some ideas that might get the wheels turning for you as you wrap up your shopping.

SENSORY TOYS (DEVELOPMENT)

Sensory processing disorders affect 5 to 16 percent of school-aged children. Although there is some overlap with autism and sensory disorders, more children are affected by SPD than autism. If you are searching for a gift for a child you has the tendency to be hypersensitve or hyposensitve, these ideas might be for you. Even if you're purchasing something for a child that doesn't have a more intense sensory need, these gifts are still great. All children benefit from the soothing effect of sensory toys. The following suggestions are meant primarily for parents buying for their own children. If you are looking for something for someone else's child with sensory needs, I recommend you check with the parent first. Chances are they will have a lot of ideas for you, or can confirm one of your ideas!

Calmie teether - For the babies! I happen to know Cosmas is getting this from his godparents, and I couldn't be more thrilled.

Sensory sack - This looks so fun, and I know that both of my boys would love love love it.

Cozyphones headphones - Our 4 1/2 year old has been telling us that his headphones are uncomfortable for him. We purchased this soft, headband style, set for him and our 6 year old since we make 17+ hour road trips a few times a year. We're complimenting this gift with a cassette player and some old disney cassettes and books we bought from a friend. I think this trip is going to be a good one.

Gonge Riverstones - If you have a bit more money to spend, are looking for a "family" gift, or have a small living space with little outdoor space, then these might be a great option for you. They've been on my radar for a while because of our small apartment and lack of green space outside. These encourage whole body movement without the need for a large space. I also think they have huge potential for pretend play.

 

KITCHEN TOOLS (LIFE SKILLS)

I am not one of those laid back Montessori moms who has an easy time letting her children chop vegetables. Last week my kids wanted to help me prepare vegetables for soup and I nearly had a heart attack. I let them do it, because I knew that this is a skill they should be practicing, but I was feeling pretty helicopterish. Part of the reason for this is that I felt that the tools that I use were inappropriate for children just beginning to learn the skills of chopping and peeling. Here are some ideas for the Montessori-inspired parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. The brand Curious Chef has oodles of options. Below are some that i think would be particularly good for the  eager little chef in your life. Small Hands also has a myriad of great options.

Nylon Knife set - I think we can all agree these are a must for kids in the kitchen.

Fruit and Vegetable Peeler - Next to cutting, my kids are always really into peeling vegetables. This one looks a little less lethal than the one I use.

Nylon Pizza Cutter - This has a guard. Need I say more?

Wooden Nutcracker - In Texas we may not have colorful leaves spilling to the ground in the Fall, but we do have loads of pecans. They're everywhere, and Bruno cannot stop collecting them at every turn and also begging our friends for them every time we leave their house.

Pre-assembled sets:

3-piece Vegetable Prep Tool Set - If you love the idea of giving the gift of kitchen-competency but need to do it at a low price point, this set would be fantastic.

6-piece Fruit and Veggie Prep Kit - This is exactly what I would be getting for my kids had I thought of it earlier. All the basic essentials to get started.

30-piece Chef Caddy Collection - This is more of an investment, but could be a great item for a grandparent's kitchen or for those who want to give their children more full-time access to the kitchen.

MUSIC/AUDIOBOOKS (ENTERTAINMENT/INSPIRATION)

Children light up when they hear a story or song that catches fire in their imaginations. Music doesn't play as big of a role in our home as I wish it did (I can never remember to turn it on!), but it does set a joyful tone in the home and has the power to do a number on the witching hour(s). We love audiobooks for the car, and are a lifesaver during long roadtrips. The boys always receive something like these suggestions to enjoy on our long drive to Ohio over Christmas.

Renee & Jeremy - Lively and beautiful folk music for kids.

Tumble Bee - One of our favorite kids folk music CDs, by Laura Veirs.

Rain for Roots - Sweet songs about the Christian life. When Seb was a baby, I think, a friend sent Big Stories for Little Ones to us, and at the beginning of Advent this year, Cody surprised us with Waiting Songs.

Tickets to a musical - This could be a great gift for an older child. I took Seb to see Mary Poppins last year and it is one of my favorite memories with him.

James Herriot's Treasury for Children - This is fantastic on audiobook. We especially enjoy listening to it in the car on roadtrips when we're all a little frazzled. Basically, any audiobook narrated by Jim Dale is going to be worth your time and your money. Perhaps try Peter Pan, or if you have Audible, this The Mr. Men Holiday Collection might be right up your alley.

Magic Treehouse Series - These are really fun on audiobook, especially if your child is new to this format.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever - I confess I haven't listened to the audiobook version of this, but we read the book at Christmas time and last year the boys loved it. I can only imagine that it would be very fun to listen to as a family.

WARMTH (HEALTH)

Children are not able to accurately sense their feeling of warmth or cold until the age of seven. If caregivers and parents do not actively pay attention to a child's need for and level of warmth, their little bodies will expend energy towards keeping them warm instead of towards the development of their organs and the support of their immune systems. If you want to read more about the importance of warmth, I found this article interesting.

Socks - (or hats, mittens, and scarves) Knitters, this category is for you. If you're like me and need a little help in this area, our favorite socks are from Smartwool (they have great layering pieces, too), Pair of Thieves (cute matching adult/kid socks), and PACT for baby socks.

Pull-overs - This one from Patagonia would be amazing. We have a gazillion jackets, but I prefer having some pullovers as they can more easily double as an extra layer or a jacket.

Himalayan salt night light - This gift possibly will not give you the immediate wow factor, but our kids really love our salt rock lamps. This one would give the perfect warming light to a child's room at night.

Hot water bottle - We don't have these, but I can't help but think that our kids would look forward to cozying up their toes to one of these on winter nights. These would also be great to tuck into your stroller during a winter walk.

THE COLLECTOR (ARTIST/EXPLORER)

This category is weirdly specific. I chose it because we all know children who love to collect things. Bits of "treasures" in parking lots, i.e. lost hair elastics, twist ties, coins, bottle caps, and wrappers, to name a few, are just the thing to spark this child's imagination. I swear my kids' favorite toys are ones we've found left behind at parks. Bruno loves collecting bits of twig, rocks, and anything and everything unusual. While we were trick-or-treating this Halloween, he tried to carry an enormous lump of bark with him from someone's yard. So this list is for that kid, and maybe all kids, really, because there's a little explorer in every child.

A bag/purse/satchel - This was on my list to make for the boys this Christmas, but my sewing machine jammed at the first stitch. Back to the drawing board! We do have one old and very cute pink purse with a strap that my mom made for me or my sister when we were little, and Bruno loves toting it around when we go places. So basically, something in which to collect items and safely tote their trinkets around (without weighing down mom's bag, ahem).

Safari TOOB - Any little collection of figurines will be cherished by your little collector. These come in just about every animals or group of animals or topics, so you can easily find a TOOB that will pique the interest of the child you have in mind. I recommend buying a TOOB with a coupon from Michaels or Hobby Lobby.

Wikki Stix - a guaranteed hit.

Collapsible Camping Lantern - My boys are obsessed with flashlights. A few weeks ago we went to Lake Waco at sunset and our friends' girls had these. We're surprising the boys with them early as we're headed out to the lake again tonight!

Paper and colored pencils - Don't underestimate the power of simple art materials. A colorful journal and quality drawing materials that won't easily break and make vivid marks of color are sure to be well-loved. I really like these pencils for older kids, and these for younger ones. These watercolor pencils from IKEA are totally amazing, too. They're less expensive at IKEA if you have one near you.