3 Tips for Selecting Holiday Gifts That Encourage Creative Play

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Editors at Highlights magazine offers hints for Black Friday deal seekers of toys that engage the imagination and keep kids interested long after they are unwrapped.

For kids, imagination is a skill that needs practice every day. “Play is children’s important work,” says Highlights Editor-in-Chief Christine Cully. “Creative play is essential to children’s social and cognitive development, and toys can offer great opportunities to encourage it.”

But when it comes to encouraging imaginative play, not all toys are created equal. As the holidays approach, Highlights magazine editors have tips for those looking for gifts that will encourage creative play.

1.    Look for toys that can be used in a number of ways. There’s a reason the stick has made it into the Toy Hall of Fame. It can be a wand; a pencil; a dividing line; a baseball bat. The best gifts for creativity are ones where you wouldn’t say: “You’re doing it wrong!” Building toys (not kits) are great. A set of magnets in various colors can be arranged to make thousands of shapes; a color-by-number set has one “correct” way to complete its task.

2.    Look for toys that match your child’s developmental stage and skill level. It is wonderful to be challenged and to learn new skills, but if a toy has a standard for success that is very far out of reach for a child, it can be very frustrating. A cross-stitching kit can be a lot of fun for a child new to textile arts, but giving the materials and not a prescribed pattern offers a child without developed skills the chance to build their confidence.

3.    Listen to what your child takes interest in and select gifts that follow those interests. Ask her what she finds interesting about her favorite things. If she likes a sculpture in the park, ask why. If it’s because of the pigeons on it, she may have more compelling creative interests elsewhere. If it’s because of the way the artist created folds in the fabric out of stone, she may find 3-dimensional art fun to try.

Gift seekers can find creative gifts such as Imaginets, Palette, Buzz Blast and Silly Situations and Highlights magazines and books at Highlights.com. For those looking for 2011 Black Friday Deals, Highlights has free shipping for all merchandise orders all weekend. On Cyber Monday, Highlights.com will offer $10 off $50 of merchandise orders.

About Highlights:
Devoted to “Fun with a Purpose,” family media brand Highlights for Children, Inc. has helped children become their best selves for generations. Its flagship publication, Highlights magazine, is the most recognizable and widely-read children’s magazine in the nation. Other Highlights offerings include the award-winning Puzzle Buzz book club, Highlights games and apps, and online fun at http://www.highlightskids.com.

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Hillary Bates
Highlights
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