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First Things First shares gift recommendations for kids


NORTH VALLEY – Every year there’s a hot new toy that sells out and drives parents to race from store to store in search of the latest gadget or stuffed animal.

This year, make the gift buying experience for the youngest kids in your life easier. When it comes to promoting learning for children five and younger, basic toys and quality time with adults are the best gifts an infant, toddler, or preschooler can receive. First Things First has compiled some suggested toys by age and stage that promote learning and language development. 

Books are one of the best gifts for all ages. Daily reading has been shown to help young children develop language skills and increase vocabulary – both crucial if they are going to be good readers in the future.

Other good choices for different age groups include:

For babies under one year old, focus on toys that stimulate curiosity. Babies are fascinated by their surroundings, especially faces and bright colors. They enjoy playing hide-and-seek with different objects. Look for things such as board books, safe, chewable toys, and toys with mirrors.

For toddlers between 1-3 years old look for toys that encourage imagination and problem-solving, such as pretend versions of everyday objects, balls to roll or catch, building-type toys, including fill and dump varieties, matching and sorting toys, large crayons or markers with plain paper, and simple puzzles.

For preschoolers, which covers ages 3-5, look for toys that help them relate to each other and the world around them, including dress-up clothes, simple board games, counting and letter games, sports equipment suitable to their size, musical instruments, and art supplies such as play dough, safety scissors, glue, etc.

Another thing to keep in mind is that parents and family members talk the most to babies when they are engaging their child with books and traditional toys, rather than electronic toys that claim to promote language development. Young children learn through play, through experimenting with the world around them and through interaction with other kids and adults. The best toys are those that appeal to the way their minds work. Those toys will get used most and will help children develop skills they will need to be successful once they enter school.

First Things First is a voter-created, statewide organization that funds early education and health programs to help kids be successful once they enter kindergarten. Decisions about how those funds are spent are made by local councils staffed by community volunteers. To learn more, visit