The holiday season is a special time for all of us, and it’s particularly magical for kids. Who doesn’t remember that feeling of growing excitement with each passing week in December? And while family, friends, gratitude, and generosity are the true magic of the holiday season, that moment of pure wonder and happiness in a child’s eyes when unwrapping a special gift is hard to beat. We’re all in search of the perfect gift, so our team has given us a head start this season. We’re sharing their recommendations for fantastic gifts for every child on your list, from toddlers to pre-teens, book lovers to thrill seekers. And in keeping with The Meeting House philosophy that learning happens everywhere and in every way, all of these gifts are not only entertaining, but also educational. First on our list are books recommended by our wonderful Occupational Therapist, Meghan Corridan.
Books make wonderful gifts for children of all ages. Reading together can help us carve out time for bonding and dialogue between parents and children, and the best children’s books contain lessons and learning opportunities, presented in a way that’s appropriate and relevant to the target age.
The books below focus specifically on empathy and kindness. While many children are born with empathy, many need to be taught. Sitting down and talking to them about this subject may not work for all children, so reading stories together (or older children reading books on their own) that focuses on the subject can help bring this skill to life.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee (Preschool-2nd Grade)
Amos McGee is a friendly old man who works at the zoo. Every day, he likes to spend a little time with each of his friends at the zoo doing something special with each of them. Every day he spends a little bit of time with each of his friends at the zoo, running races with the tortoise, keeping the shy penguin company, and even reading bedtime stories to the owl. But when Amos is too sick to make it to the zoo, his animal friends decide it’s time they returned the favor and go to visit him.
Flora and Ulysses (3rd-6th Grade)
A little girl named Flora Belle Beckman is the main character in this graphic novel for lower school children. Because Flora hasn’t had an easy life she is cynical about most everything and doesn’t trust the adults around her. Until one day, after an encounter with a squirrel and William Spiver, things begin to change. After spending time with these two, Flora comes to realize that she is capable of showing compassion and kindness and going out of her way to help these two new friends.
Wonder (Middle School)
This #1 NY Times Bestseller is the story of August Pullman, a young boy born with a facial difference that had kept him out of school until 5th grade. As he begins Beecher Prep, all he wants is to be treated like everyone else and make friends. This magical story begins through the perspective of August and then switches to include his classmates, his sister, his sister’s boyfriend and others. This is a beautiful story of resilience, compassion, empathy and friendship.
Sorta Like a Rockstar (High School)
This book, written by Matthew Quick, tells the story of Amber Appleton. Amber, her mother and her dog live in the school bus her mother drives, after they were kicked out of the house by her mom’s boyfriend. Amber has always been a girl filled with hope and optimism until a fatal tragedy makes her question these things. For a while, she feels broken and blank but over time, she is able to recover her inner light.
While video games and apps may be the games of the younger generation, classic family board games never fail to provide hours of fun. They can provide a healthy break from screen-time, and help teach strategic thinking, decision-making, teamwork, and social skills.
The best toys mask learning and skill-building as fun, engaging play. Toys can encourage development and provide practice in almost every category of skill: grasping and manipulation skills, hand-eye coordination, visual motor and perceptual skills, color recognition, motor planning and organizational skills, sensory exploration and awareness, focus and attention skills, and more.
If you have a baby or toddler on your list, Megan has an extensive list of recommendations for the best skill-building toys for this age group.