As parents, we want to be able to find and get that "must-have" toy on our child's wish list. A local child specialist said skipping flashy trends could be the best gift of all.
Dr. Regina Gargus is a developmental pediatrician.
Her gift-giving philosophy can be summed up in one simple sentence, "Parents need toys that do not have a battery or a plug. Allow children to develop imagination and creativity," said Gargus.
Gargus urged parents to think of toys they enjoyed from their childhood, a "back to basics" approach to buying last-minute toys or stocking stuffers.
She elaborated, "Paper, crayons, safety scissors, building blocks, Legos."
For children up to two years old, Gargus recommended a specific kind of toy.
"Children that age really need cause and effect toys, where they have to do something for the toy to give them feedback," she explained.
Building blocks, shape sorters, and stackable rings all fit the bill. Puzzle work helps develop fine and gross motor skills.
For ages three to five years old, Gargus said nothing beats a book for language development.
She said "I Spy" type books and books that name items are perfect for this age, but any children's book can function as both. She emphasized how important is it for parents to read to and with their children, asking open-ended questions along the way.
For children five to 10 years old, Gargus strongly suggested different kinds of building sets. There are many kinds on the market, from magnetic ones to old-fashioned linking log sets.
She laughed, "You want the gigantic box of Legos."
Buy the sets and throw out the instructions and suggested pictures. Gargus said future engineers and budding architects need the freedom to breathe, think and create organically without suggestions or criticism.
"If in their mind that looks like a dinosaur, great," she continued.
She said that kind of play promotes problem-solving and strengthens analytical skills.
For tweens and teens, Gargus said craft sets like jewelry-making kits and model airplanes are often overlooked options, along with board games people can play together as a family.
"Relationships require time, and to have a relationship with your child, you have to spend time with your child," Gargus said.
Dr. Regina Gargus is fairly new to the Pensacola area. She is employed by Mednax Medical Group to work with The Studer Family Children's Hospital at Sacred Heart as the medical director of Developmental Pediatrics, The Autism Center and Early Steps.