Therapists Share Gift Ideas to Help Kids Throughout the Year

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- It's crunch time to cross presents off your shopping list. Health experts hope you will give a fun gift that doesn't involve screen time.

Aiden, 3, is looking forward to Christmas. “My sister wants a present, and my dog wants a present,” he said.

He just wants a dinosaur and maybe a monster truck, which is good news for his aunt, Kathy Pilch. She’s a physical therapist at Blank Children’s Hospital. “I like any toys that get kids off the couch and moving," she said.

Pilch has suggestions for gift givers. "Balance beam, hula hoop, and things you can use in multiple ways," she said. "Bubbles are great no matter what age."

Board games are another great option, which promote turn taking and social skills. You can never go wrong with a book. “For our older kids, if you can maybe read the same book and talk about the book that you're reading, the plot and the characters,” suggested Pilch.

Experts say it's good to avoid electronic items or at least limit use after the holidays. "I always recommend looking for non-electronic toys," said Rose Giorgio-Nelson, Blank Children’s Hospital’s speech language pathologist. "You can bring a lot more creativity. From a language stand-point, kids are exposed to more vocabulary," she added.

If your child gets electronic gifts, make sure you talk about use. "The American Academy of Pediatrics has a media management tool,” Giorgio-Nelson said. "You can list what screen time you're already using. It helps you come up with a plan to find that balance."

Another idea: give your time. Pilch suggested signing up the child for a class, museum membership, or just an afternoon together. "Off the couch, away from the screens, go do something and learn something," she said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics Media Management tool is in English and Spanish.

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