Your Holiday Gift Guide: From a Developmental Therapist

Collection of Christmas present boxes on a light blue background


This time of year, the same question seems to be on everyone’s mind… “What should I get the child(ren) in my life this holiday season?” Here is a guide of my favorite gifts for the children in your lives that are both fun and encourage development!

Best Gifts for 0- to 6-Month-Olds

Newborns are only beginning to learn about the world they live in and their best learning tool is going to be their caregivers their first few months of life. For this age, I love toys that encourage tummy time like this Activity Gym for babies to lay on or this Tummy Time Mirror for babies to look into. Additionally, look for toys that are light-weight for babies to hold onto with lots of textures to explore like this Light Weight Rattle, Bumpy Ball, or Crinkle Book. Other gift ideas include teethers.

Best Gifts for 6- to 12- Month-Olds

Infants are beginning to play with toys in a more traditional way! Stacking Cups are a great toy to bang together or knock over towers caregivers have built! Infants will start sliding toys on a surface, so I recommend this Rattle Race Car that is easy for little ones to grab onto. They also begin taking objects out and into containers, so I recommend the Tissue Box with Crinkle Scarves and Ring Stack & Sorting Block Set. Both toys can be used in a variety of ways! My last recommendation for infants is this Pop Up Toy, which they’ll start by closing and later on master the knobs to open. Another great way to use the pop up toy is to work on imitation: you can “knock knock knock” to find who is in there, say “hello” and “good-bye” to the animals, and make all their fun animal noises in hopes your little one will start to imitate some of your gestures and words!

Best Gifts for 1-Year-Olds

One-year-olds are gaining so many skills and my favorite toys are all ones that encourage their development! Babies this age are often mastering relational play, or using two objects together, and this Musical Instrument Set is a great toy to encourage this skill. I recommend large vehicles like this one Large Truck for little ones to push around and they can even fill it up with “trash” and dump it out. This Piggy Bank is another great toy for container play. I recommend Mega Blocks for construction play and this Magnetic Drawing Board for scribbling and early writing strokes!

Best Gifts for 2-Year-Olds

Two-year-olds spend a lot of their time engaging in symbolic and pretend play. I recommend toys for all genders that encourage the development of this type of play like this Baby Doll with Travel Time Doll Accessories or this Farm Set. I recommend a Chunky Puzzle for matching objects and labeling new words like animal names and sounds. Additionally art supplies such as crayons, markers, stickers, and these Dot Markers are wonderful for creativity and exposing children to a variety of materials they will use in school later on. My last recommendation for children this age are duplo legos like this Lego Duplo Train for more construction play!

Best Gifts for 3-Year-Olds

Three-year-olds are often engaging in more advanced symbolic or pretend play. I recommend this Critter Clinic that develops both fine motor (turning the key to unlock the doors) as well as a fun pretend play! Any pretend food set is going to be a hit for this age, however, I am especially fond of the Cutting Fruit Set that can be used not only for “preparing food” but also has an element that develops fine motor skills by cutting. A Jigsaw Puzzle Set is a great gift idea for this age as children have mostly outgrown their chunky puzzles and are beginning to advance to this more mature stage of puzzle. Any Play-Doh Set will encourage creativity! My last recommendation is simple games like this Bowling Set as three-year-olds have mastered following simple rules.

Best Gifts for 4-Year-Olds

Four-year-olds are often engaging in more advanced pretend play and this Ice Cream Play Set is wonderful for role-playing and pretending to be “ice-cream worker” and “customer”. Next I recommend Magnetic Tiles that can be used for years to come and offer open-ended play! Other recommendations are this Pattern Block Board and Reusable Sticker Sets. Lastly, I recommend simple board games like this Enchanted Cupcake Game that both genders love to play with!

Best Gifts for 5-Year-Olds

For five-year-olds, I recommend toys like this Vet Costume Set or Play Tent that allow for make-believe play. Children this age are often mastering following rules while playing board games and my favorite for this age is the classic Candy Land Board Game! This Craft Kit is great for open-ending artistic expression. Lastly, any small lego set like this Lego Helicopter Set will help children learn problem solving skills as they engage in construction play to complete the set by following the directions provided!

Best Gifts for 6-Year-Olds

For six-year-olds, I recommend toys like Modeling Clay, Lego Bricks and a Lite-Brite all that encourage creativity through open-ended play. Other gift ideas include board games like this Chutes and Ladders Board Game and a Jigsaw Puzzle that children can play together or with their adults!

Best Gifts for 7-Year-Olds

For seven-year-olds, I recommend board or card games like this Spot It Game that is fun for the whole family! Additionally, I recommend this Rock Painting Kit and Origami Kit that encourage creativity. This Robot Pet Shop is a great educational toy. Lastly, I recommend this Velcro Catch Game Set that is not only fun, but encourages hand-eye coordination.

Best Gifts for 8-Year-Olds

Many eight-year-olds love reading comic books like Dog Man or Captain Underpants, so my first gift recommendation is this  Comic Book Kit that allows children to make their very own comic! Other gift ideas include this Slime Making Kit and this Spirograph Craft Kit that are both fun and creative. This Terrarium Kit is a wonderful gift for children to learn about science. My last recommendation for this age are board games like this Blokus Board Game.

Best Gifts for 9-Year-Olds

For nine-year-olds, I recommend this Friendship Bracelet Kit for creativity and this Science Kit for educational purposes. Nine-year-olds often have their favorite characters, so I recommend this Pokemon Building Set or similar ones based on your child’s interests. You can find character building sets for Minecraft, Star Wars, Super Mario, and more! I recommend Connect 4 Game or other fun board games for children to play together or with the whole family. Lastly, I recommend a Chapter Book Set to continue to develop their love of reading!

Best Gifts for 10-Year-Olds

As children enter the preteen years it can become harder for caregivers and other loved ones to shop for gifts. For 10-year-olds, I recommend a Uno Card Game or other card and board games for family game night. This 3D Pen Set not only encourages creativity, but can also spark an interest in STEM. This Crystal Growing Kit or other science kits are a way to make science fun as 10-year-olds learn more about how the world works. An Instax Camera is great for capturing memories with friends and family! My last gift recommendation for this age is a Lego building set like this Tiger Lego Set.

Best Gifts for 11-Year-Olds

Although children this age are often more than happy with the latest clothes or electronics, if you’re looking for unique gift ideas you’ve come to the right place! These Paint Pens and Light Box are both great gifts for encouraging creativity. This Upside Down Challenge Board Game is a fun game for children and adults alike! Squishmallows are often loved by all genders at this age and come in a variety of animals and objects. My last recommendation for 11-year-olds is this Chapter Book Set or similar that tells a coming-of-age story.

Best Gifts for 12-Year-Olds

For 12-year-olds, I recommend this Art Supply Kit that is more mature to continue their creative endeavors. Another wonderful way to encourage creativity as well as develop real-life skills is a Cake Decorating Kit or another baking kit. I recommend the Skip Bo Card Game for fun for the whole family! This adorable Plushie is a hit among adolescents. My last gift recommendation for this holiday season is another coming-of-age Chapter Book Set.


Kelsey Lanham, MA, DT

Developmental Therapist


Photo Credit: Melpomenem via, product images from Amazon