Sensory Stocking Stuffers for Christmas
Do you know the legend behind the Christmas stocking and why we stuff our stockings filled with goodies each year? It isn’t just by chance that on Christmas morning kids wake up to find candy, treats, and toys in their stockings above the fireplace. The legend started way back in Greece when St. Nicholas, a kind Greek bishop, took pity on a poor man whose daughters could not marry because they had no gold for their dowries. On Christmas night, the good bishop dropped a purse full of gold down the man’s chimney and it landed, by chance, in one of the stockings the daughter had hung up to dry over the fireplace. When the daughter found the gold in the stocking the next morning, she was then able to get married because she had enough money for her dowry. When the second daughter was ready to marry, the good bishop did the same thing so she could marry as well. Because of this legend, children began hanging their stockings on the fireplace in hopes of finding them filled with treats and gifts Christmas morning.
I’ve always loved the tradition of Christmas stockings and to see my children’s faces light up when they saw their stockings full with toys and gifts on Christmas day. In our home, we did not have a fireplace to hang our stockings, but that didn’t stop Santa from filling our stockings with toys and treats every year. What’s more important, is we tried filling up our stockings not only with fun items, but with small toys that could really help develop our kids sensory and motor skills. Even the smallest of toys has a purpose in a child’s development that helps them learn in the classroom, structures their mental capabilities, and builds their sensory input so they can hear the teacher, follow instructions, learn their ABCs, solve math problems, and complete their homework.
For me, my kids’ stocking stuffers were always last on my list and the thing I procrastinated with until the very last minute. If you are like me, you may be scrambling to find some last minute stocking stuffers for your children. This year, instead of filling your child’s stocking with candy and sugary foods, try stuffing them with small and inexpensive toys that not only “trick” them into learning, but also keep them productive and active for hours. You’d be surprised that some of these fun toys and games might even go over better than some of the more expensive ones they asked Santa for this holiday season.
Jacks are becoming something of a lost art. I used to play this game for hours when I was a child and loved it. The great thing about jacks is how it helps the brain. Because you have to bounce the ball and then pick up the jacks, it improves coordination and strengthens the brain by forcing kids to focus. Jacks provide kids with opportunities to improve their critical thinking and problem solving skills and helps them learn to count if they are younger.
Now I know the last thing you want to give your child for Christmas is more toys that make a lot of noise, but whistles are a great way to help improve and develop speech and language. Blowing into whistles strengthens a child’s respiratory and builds the airwaves that improve pronunciation and vocabulary. Have you ever noticed when you blow into a whistle that your lips are in an “O” shape? This is no accident! Whistles help children not only pronounce words like “who,” “what,” and “why,” but they also allow them to develop enough air to say the words they need to. You’d be surprised how many children actually struggle with finding enough breath to speak.
We all know Rubix Cubes are beatable and it’s easy to find the solution on the Internet, but don’t let that stop your children from getting a great mental workout trying to solve the puzzle on their own. Rubix cubes are a great stocking stuffer to help your children learn their colors, match the colors with each other, and most importantly, help them to think about the right moves to line up the colors, which is also a great tool for problem solving and critical thinking.
Don’t forget our old friend the slinky. Slinkies are a great way to help with your child’s hand eye coordination. By shifting the slinky in both the right and left hands, children can work both the creative side of the brain (right) and the organizational side of the brain (left). Have your child watch the slinky with their eyes while they shift it from side to side in their hands, or have them follow it as it “slinks” down a flight of stairs. This strengthens the eye muscles, which helps kids track words on the page and is critical for reading.
Stress balls do more than just relieve stress when you are at work or when your child is at school. Stress balls can be a great form of developing a child’s gross and fine motor skills. Because stress balls are squishy, children can grasp on to them tightly since it flexes and releases. Have them grasp the stress ball tightly in their hands and release it multiple times, switching from one hand to the other. The more they strengthen their hands and fingers, the more strength they will have to hold a pencil, write stories, take exams, and type reports. They can also learn to juggle the ball, which helps that hand eye coordination we mentioned above.
Hacky Sacks do wonders for a child’s gross motor skills, hand eye coordination, and proprioception, which is the amount of strength the body uses as it creates movement (for example, throwing a ball). As you know, a hacky sack can be used with the hands and feet, moving it up and down and back and forth. There is no greater movement than getting the left and right sides of the brain working together. This allows both the creative parts of the brain and the organizational parts to work together for higher learning.
We often have parents asking us how they can help improve their child’s intellect and ability to learn better in school, especially during the winter months. These toys and activities, although small and simple, can help your child be more academically competitive with their peers. Many of them prove effective for creating more opportunities for the brain to focus, attend, learn, and perform in school.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs