A Stepping Stone Foundation Blog

Holiday Suggestion from First Things First

I received the following from Susana Ibarra-Johnson, Parent Awareness and Community Outreach Coordinator for Central Phoenix Regional Partnership of First Things First:

Best Gift for Kids Under 6? Simple Toys, Quality Time with Adults

What are the top choices for holiday gifts that will fire up young kids’ minds? So many parents have spent too much money on a toy only to have their toddler or preschooler prefer to play with the box instead. Basic toys are a better and more affordable option. To a child’s imagination, a box is a rocket ship, a castle, a school, a cave, and a million other things said Sam Leyvas, Chief Executive Officer for First Things First.

Simple toys appeal to the way the brains of young kids learn – by experimenting with things and interacting with people. Gifts like blocks, balls, art supplies, board games, dolls, bubbles and musical toys help your child develop skills that will get them ready for kindergarten.

Other tips for brain-building toys by age include:

  • Infants (under 1 year old) – toys where the child’s touch creates sounds, flashing lights or other action; toys they can safely chew on; toys with mirrors, where they can observe facial expressions.
  • Toddlers (1-3 years old) – toys they can ride on or climb on; balls to roll, catch, etc.; blocks or building-type toys; toys that encourage matching and sorting shapes, colors or objects; and, materials for playing with sand, water and other textures.
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years old)  – anything that encourages imaginative play, such as dress-up clothes or toys that mimic household items or tools; puzzles and simple games; art supplies including plain white paper, markers, crayons, finger paints, molding clay or dough, etc.

Remember that books and your time in reading them is the most important way to encourage language and literacy and impact school performance. – Reading to infants– 15 minutes per day and 30 minutes a day for toddlers and preschoolers –is recommended.

Which gifts to consider carefully? Toys or games that require a lot of time in front of the computer or television.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents keep kids under 2 as “screen free” as possible, including television, movies and video games. For older children, limited screen time is recommended.

“Screens can’t replace people; and it’s those powerful interactions with adults that help young children learn,” Leyvas said. “Look for chances to read, talk, sing and play together – these will mean the most to a young child’s learning and build lasting holiday memories.”   Happy Holidays!


About First Things First – First Things First is a voter-created, statewide organization that funds early education and health programs to help kids be successful once they enter kindergarten. Decisions about how those funds are spent are made by local councils staffed by community volunteers. To learn more, visit azftf.gov.