I read a plea on an adoption forum recently for ideas for gifts that wouldn’t cause fights, be used as weapons or be destroyed in less than five minutes. Of course, not all adopted children are intensely rivalrous with their siblings, struggle to share, find imaginary games difficult, or are inclined to be a bit destructive and not value their belongings, but it must be said that quite a lot of them do face these challenges.
Here is a list of games and toys that have worked particularly well for our pair who suffer, I am afraid to say, from all of that list above.
Category: Board Games
A good board game must:
- not have lots of different pieces and a board that can get tipped over to ruin the game when a losing player gets frustrated
- not be designed to go on to long — lots of shorter rounds with plenty of opportunities to be the winner are ideal
- not require players to be able to read — that way a wide variety of age groups can take part
My top pick is: Pictureka!
Notes: Determined fighters will still manage to get annoyed with one another for blocking their view of the game boards.
Non-readers can play the simplest version of the game, but there are other slightly more complicated options that require reading.
Special mention: Orchard Toys
All Orchard Toys games are made of lovely sturdy card and are very cleverly designed to be both simple and engaging. For my children “Shopping List”, “Two by Two” and “Pop to the Shops” were most successful.
Category: Building Toys
I know Playmobil and Lego are enormously popular and understandably so, but the building bricks that provided us with the most pleasure for the longest amount of time for the widest age group were big, chunky plastic bricks
My top pick is: Mega Bloks®.
They are the obvious choice for much younger children, but even older kids enjoy building with them, especially those who may be challenged in terms of their manual dexterity. They are easier to share, too, as the things you end up building can be larger, joint projects. We still have a huge bag of them in the corner of the sitting room and I reckon if I pulled them out this afternoon I’d be able to get my teenagers to build a tower taller than themselves or a huge fort or something. They are also less prescriptive — more free range, if you like — than Lego. You don’t have to follow a set design or have the exact correct pieces.
Category: Bad Weather Energy Busters
When the weather outside is frightful, you are going to need to find ways of letting your children use up some of their excess energy.
My top pick is: Mini Trampoline
The up-and-down bouncing motion of trampolining is supposed to have a positive effect on a child’s brain, especially for children who have experienced early trauma and have attachment difficulties. But not everyone has the space or the climate for a big outdoor trampoline. That’s where these mini trampolines come in, especially for younger children. They can bounce indoors and, with a sturdy bar to hang on to, can do so quite safely on their own. To help with turn-taking, we had a chant that I would repeat. At the end of , say two repetitions, it was the next person’s turn:
“Lulu, Lulu’s a bouncing bean, The bounciest bean I’ve ever seen. She can bounce so very high, She can bounce into the sky!”
Here are a few examples of the type of trampoline I mean:
Special mention: Gorilla Gym
This is an indoor gym that is installed in a doorway and to which you can attach a number of different swings, bars, etc. The only reason this isn’t my top pick is because sadly we never had one, but by all accounts, they are really brilliant and can provide hours of energetic fun. They don’t need special installation and are very strong. Even adults can use them. I see on the website, it suggests the use of a timer to help with turn-taking, and I suspect its popularity among family members might prove to be its only drawback.
Category: Bedtime Helpers
My top pick is: Beddy Bears
These are soft toys stuffed with wheat and lavender that you heat up in the microwave. They are supposed to help children sleep, and I must say they smell really gorgeous and comforting and are so snuggly and cosy I have been quite tempted to get one for myself. I see there are lots of other versions of these for sale now, which I am sure are perfectly good, too. I did like how well made the Beddy Bears were — no worries about them coming apart even when handled quite vigorously.
Category: Imaginative Play
Imaginative games did not come easily to my children. They needed concrete props to help them along.
My top pick is: Pop-up Play House or Indoor Tent
One of my children’s favourite toys was a pop-up tent sweet shop. Morning snack time often consisted of me giving the snacks to one child to “sell” to the other and then they swapped roles. There are so many pop-up indoor tents, play houses and tunnels for sale these days. They provide excellent support for imaginative games as well as useful hideaways when children want their own space.
Special mention: Hand puppets
These were used by my children in therapy and they really embraced the idea of using a puppet to express things they might otherwise have found difficult to say out loud. My daughter, for instance, had a wolf puppet, that had a loud, strident voice that bossed everyone around. I just hope she wasn’t channeling me! The puppets can be a good way for you to join in with your child’s imaginative play, and perhaps model such play for them. They can be emotional and serious, but equally they can be a lot of fun, with plenty of opportunities for silly voices and OTT antics.And finally, in the true spirit of peace and good will to all at this time of year, you might consider these:
These are just a few ideas. If you have ever had a really big success with a child’s present, please mention it in the Comments below.