Christmas can be overstimulating for kids at the best of times…and 2020 is not the best of times. This year’s holiday might include arguments over which family members should be allowed to visit, memories of fun traditions you won’t be able to enjoy this year, or COVID-19 scares.
It’s a great year to consider calming toys for your kids.
Sometimes adults get excited about toys with flashing lights, loud noises, and wacky effects. But too much movement and noise, especially repetitive noise, can make kids feel stressed.
It can make adults feel stressed, too.
Think about dialing down the electronic bells and whistles (and beeps and beats) when you choose this year’s holiday treats.
Instead, think about classic toys like blocks, puzzles, pretend play props, and action figures. These toys will engage kids rather than leaving them as the passive observers of lights and movements. This kind of play is more satisfying, and subjects the family to less irritating noise.
Younger kids can get a lot of pleasure from coloring or finger paints. Elementary school kids are old enough to make slime, bake with parental supervision, learn to knit or to build models, and to step up from coloring to art projects. Research confirms that creative activity can reduce stress.
A kit or a set of art supplies is a great way to introduce kids to creative pursuits. They can try out a project during the winter break from school — and if they enjoy it, they can continue to learn.
Other creative activities include coding, developing outdoor skills, gardening, and solving logic or mathematical puzzles.
Dolls and stuffed animals are classic calming toys. Young children can feel relaxed when they snuggle up with a soft toy.
But older kids can also enjoy soothing toys. Fidget toys, stress balls, modeling clay, and “executive toys” all create opportunities to focus on sensory input in calming ways.
Jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, and simple games like checkers or snakes and ladders help teens focus attention and limit anxiety.
Don’t forget books
Books bring adventure and escape when kids need that, and reading aloud can be fun for the whole family.
Consider the Icelandic tradition of Jólabókaflóðið — Yule Bookflood. In Iceland, it is customary on Christmas Eve to give books to family members and then settle in to read and drink hot chocolate. That might be the perfect tradition to add to your family’s celebrations this year.