THURSDAY, Dec. 18, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Mental and physical development should be important considerations when you're looking for children's Christmas gifts, advises an expert at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.
"Parents often feel like they have to rush and get the toy of the moment," Paula Kramer, chairman and professor of occupational therapy, said in a university news release. "These toys may be unique and novel, but they're not always the best choice for the child, or the toy with the longest life. If a toy is static and doesn't promote creativity, imagination and change, it will probably end up in the corner."
When selecting a present, adults should consider a child's specific needs and interests, as well as a toy's potential to encourage healthy mental and physical development. Kramer also suggested looking for toys that are either at a child's ability level or just above it to provide a challenge and promote the child's progress.
High-tech gadgets such as video games dominate store shelves, but traditional items such as bicycles and sporting equipment help children get active and develop spatial relationships.
"Traditional toys, such as Lego, are also great, because they help build skills such as fine motor manipulation and creativity," Kramer said. "While they come with instructions on how to build certain things, kids can choose to build anything they want."
She also recommended that parents give the gift of their time.
"Gifts aren't all about money, and children love spending time with their parents and other children," Kramer said. "Whether it's a day at the ice-skating rink, a trip to the zoo or an IOU to take them and a friend to a movie of their choice, giving a part of yourself is economical, builds positive memories and strengthens the parent-child relationship."
Safe Kids USA reminds parents that safety is also important when buying toys for children.