Perhaps because my mother was first grade teacher most of her adult life, or perhaps because I am a life-long learner that loves to see children develop a passion for reading and creativity, I recommend books and learning toys for children’s gifts. My favorites include a book series by Diane Shapley Box (a Texas author), Melissa and Doug toys, and a brand called Sluban that produces less expensive building pieces that fit with Legos.
The book series include books with varying difficulty. Diane Box started as an artist first and then developed her passion for writing children’s books. Each story develops a lesson or moral such as “Winning isn’t everything,” “Reading is important,” or “It’s important to listen and pay attention.” Each of her award- winning books has consistent characters such as Tator the gator, or Fred the frog. Her use of colored pencils to hand draw each original illustration allows details that computer generated books don’t have.
The books can be read to pre-readers. The stories are written in rhyme to give a sense of language rhythm. As they are read and the children look at the pictures, there are additional opportunities to learn. She includes items to count, such as three ducks swimming in the water, or colors to identify. One book even takes the child on a tour of Texas landmarks. Additional facts are included in the back of each story for more advanced readers (ages 8-9).
Melissa and Doug toys stimulate creativity through role playing with play costumes, pretend grocery carts and products, shape identification and a world of other items. Building blocks such as Legos or Sluban, teach spatial relationships. If you have difficulty deciding on any toy, we have a former elementary school teacher on staff that can help you select the most age-appropriate gift.
Nancy Pride owns Morgan Fitzgerald’s and Merle Norman located at 3800 S. Texas Avenue, one mile north of University Drive. 979 268 0608, www.fitzyou.com