The holiday season is upon us!  It is a time for reflection, gratitude, and giving.  It is also a time for a little extra magic although I’m here to remind you that you don’t have to look very far to find it!  Simply listen to your children as they play and they will instantly show you the magic of creativity that lies within.

Over the years my children have shown me just how little they really need to create rich learning experiences all on their own. Their minds possess powerful imaginative capacities without the need to buy into a consumer culture. Still, toys, games, and resources allow children realize their plans, explore their curiosities and gain new skills. With that said, I want to share with you the toys, games, and resources my children and I have selected to support their natural ability to make magic!

 

I always follow the principle that less is more.  At Conscious Homeschooling we value quality over quantity and connection over distraction. When it comes to resources, materials, toys, and games in our home we follow our children’s lead and work in collaboration with them to carefully select items that will fully enrich our lives. Our low consumption lifestyle has allowed us to care more about what we do have. It has positively contributed to our nurturing, calm, and mindful lifestyle. Decluttering and focusing on minimalist living has also provided us with opportunities to be creative, imaginative, and thoughtful using what quality resources we do choose to invest in. 

Most of all we rely on nature to nurture our innate love of learning and natural drive to explore and experiment. Step outside or simply look out your window to observe the wonder that is nature. The trees out your window might inspire an imaginary adventure to a woodland forest or the crawling ant on your sidewalk might inspire a hunt for where this powerful insect might live. Nature heals and nature teaches so that is what we always rely on most of the time in our home.

Take a look at some of the research. It is clear from various studies that fewer toys spark creativity which is exactly what Einstein meant when he said “play is the highest form of research.” With that said, take a look at this recommended holiday gift list and decide for yourself if these resources will be of value to your family and contribute positively to your child’s education. 

 

Conscious Homeschooling’s Top 10 Holiday Gift Guide

1. Blocks– Constructive play is play that involves the physical creation of new objects through the use of planning, building, creating, experimenting, constructing and deconstructing. It is manipulating your environment so that you can create something new.  Blocks are just one powerful way to foster constructive play.  They are extremely versatile and can be used not only in constructive play, but also socio-dramatic play, fantasy play, language play and more.  They can help us all make sense of our world as we consider angles, shapes, measurements, physics, and more. We love this Melissa & Doug 100 piece Wood Blocks Set,  but I plan on putting these on our holiday wishlist Melissa and Doug Standard Unit Blocks this year.

2. Legos– Legos are right up there with blocks in that they provide opportunities to learn about the world around us through play. Reasoning, decision making, persistence and perseverance and fun are just some of the things that come to mind when I think about legos! Do you know that kids can also learn over 50 different math concepts through their play with Legos or that the computer science principles of growth mindset, pattern recognition and computational thinking are elevated through the use of Legos? I can’t say enough about them!  I’ll link here to We are Teachers who shares the many ways in which Lego’s can be used to nurture our understanding of math. My kids love Disney so we have many varieties of disney themed legos, but I would never go without the classic set here.

3. STEM Set– I know that legos and blocks satisfy much of the need to play with problem-solving, constructing, and inventing, but I purchased this STEM construction set with my kids help a year ago and ever since they have built the most imaginative creations! Even after a year this set never ceases to engage and excite them. STEM or STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math and while I know that we can all engage in STEAM activities naturally in our daily lives, I also know that kids enjoy opportunities to build with a complete set of tools that are designed for just them. 

Here is another STEM game that my kids and I chose because of their new interest in roller coasters.  After recently experiencing a roller coaster ride for themselves, they jumped at the idea of building one. I’ll have to admit that the level of focus and attention this requires is high.  Not only do the kids need to read, calculate, and plan, but they also gain in an understanding of force, acceleration, and gravity. Yet, even my one year old can enjoy this as he pieces the posts together one by one. 

 

4. Alternative Blocks- Magna Tiles– I’m sure most of you already have Magna Tiles or some version of them at home already, but if you don’t I urge you to join in the fun.  These open-ended construction toys help kids develop a wide range of skills including various math concepts, spatial relationships, higher level thinking, magnetic principles, and more. Have you ever stopped to think about how magna tiles allow kids to experiment with fractions, multiplication, and division as well? They support a wide range of learning styles too which make them a must!

5. Vehicles– Vehicles allow kids to imagine that they are part of the adult world as they take on the role of race car driver, pit stop crew, mechanic, animated car, pilot, community helper, and more. These toys have become part of our pretend play scenes, dinner parties, thousands of stories and on many occasions the foundation for talking about natural math. 

6. People/Figures/Dolls/Characters/Animals– Your children must have built the most elaborate stores, kingdoms, garages, buildings, businesses, or homes so they will need characters for their creations. We often use the duplo/ lego characters or animals, but these Frozen II figures have taken the lead in recent months.

7. Puzzles– One of my favorite activities is sitting down to concentrate on putting a puzzle together.  My youngest enjoys the ones that play music and is recently curious about the alphabet puzzle.  My girls will devour any Disney themed puzzle and will attempt the most challenging ones like this 300 piece puzzle inspired by puzzle aficionados in our family. A tried and true favorite is this pattern blocks puzzle by MEA Toys.

8. Journals- What better way to invite children to become more aware of their thought processes and reflect on their play, ideas, and observations than to have a fun journal for drawing, writing, and coloring! My children have selected three journals altogether.  One is used for nature journaling, the other for writing stories and this Mommy and Daughter/Son journal so that we can each spend time communicating and sharing stories in written form.

9. Drawing Materials- No play area should be without a space for writing and drawing. We had an easel gifted to us which we use with dry erase markers and chalk.  Most of the time my children use coloring books, journals, notebooks, construction paper, workbooks, post it’s, or what ever materials they see mommy and daddy using to satisfy their need to explore, create, and practice their writing skills. 

10. Books- My favorite of all! Books are invitations to a world less traveled, a connection to the human spirit, and nourishment for our imagination. Books are social, playful, and bring laughter and joy into the home. While we may sometimes think that learning to read is structured and scientific, children are actually learning to read from birth. Children naturally learn to read the day they are born as they learn to read their parents face and objects around them.  They observe, recognize, listen, identify and this is exactly how reading words and objects in books begin. Literacy also begins with learning to listen so whether your child can read to themselves or not, when they listen to a story, a song, or a conversation they discover the art and beauty of language.  Playing with language is so enriching and magical! The Emily Windsnap series by Liz Kessler is one of our favorites along with just about ANY Disney story!

May this guide give you some peace of mind, clarity, and reassurance that the holidays do not have to be overwhelming or confusing.  Look through this list with your child and together choose one or two quality items that will inspire and cultivate a continued lifelong journey of learning and joy! The rest of the time please enjoy experiences together that nourish your soul like playing in the snow, admiring the lights, sharing stories of past holiday joys, cooking, baking, watching movies, and of course lots of hugs and snuggles!

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