Taking Your Christmas Toy Budget Further

Taking your Christmas toy budget further!

Don’t you just love Christmas morning? Those exciting minutes (or seconds) when the landscape under the tree changes from beautifully wrapped gifts, to a throng of crumpled paper, boxes, arms and excited smiles. But as you reach for your tool kit complete with screwdrivers, pliers and assorted batteries to extract the packaging, do you ever wonder, “how long will the novelty last?”

We are spoilt for choice when choosing children’s toys, and it is easy to get caught up in the packaging and promises on the side of the box. But what are you really paying for, and will the toy really do what it says? Put simply, a toy is not capable of fast-tracking children into little-Einsteins. Children develop best with meaningful, stimulating and engaging play. As a parent, I want my children’s play to develop their brains and their bodies in some of these ways:

  • Stimulate their brains! Brain development is not a passive process. From infancy, our children learn about their own body, the environment around them, and how to understand and process information.
  • Develop sensori-motor skills. This is a child’s ability to combine what they see, hear, feel and taste and then direct their actions accordingly.  Eg eye-hand coordination requires good visual inspection skills, eye movements and spatial awareness (depth judgement).
  • Develop their imaginations. The ability to visualise is a priceless skill. It is important for many things, including maths and reading later at school.
  • Bilateral integration. This involves learning to use the two sides of their body in a coordinated and efficient way.


My philosophy towards children’s toys has come about from studying child development, and how this may affect their performance at school. So how do we make our children happy with quality play time?

Here’s my top 5 tips for Santa and his elves:

  1. A toy should require your child to do something with it – and this should be more than just pushing a button! Toys shouldn’t entertain a child, rather the child should entertain themselves with a toy.
  2. Encourage concrete or real play in Pre-prep children. This means a toy can be physically touched, manipulated and inspected. Screen based toys and gaming consoles should be avoided at this age.
  3. Toys that require movement are gold -if it doesn’t get into the muscles, it won’t get into the brain! Children develop their spatial awareness by physically moving.
  4. Let their imaginations run wild with dress ups and pretend play. Children can learn to be so many things!
  5. Less is more – quality not quantity. Children are more easily over-whelmed by too much sensory information than adults. When confronted by a mass of toys, they simply don’t know what to do first! They either move off to play with the box, or flit from one thing to the other, never stopping long enough to engage in meaningful play. As a result, they are not learning to choose something and develop sustained attention on a task.

It really is easy to put smiles on little faces, whilst also knowing you are developing little minds and bodies – you just need to know what to look for. To see some of my favourites, just visit a great children’s toy store Puzzling – smart toys for girls and boys.

Paul Graham

Paul believes that what he truly practices is “Optometry for the Individual”. Whether it be vision training, glasses, custom or disposable contact lenses, orthok or precision tinted lenses, Paul will consult with you, completely assess your vision and custom design a treatment approach that is right for you. If you want a fresh approach, then Paul is the Optometrist for you!