It’s never easy leaving your little ones at nursery, particularly when they're latched on to your arm or leg.
But with Christmas around the corner, it’s the perfect time to get some Christmas shopping done.
Plus nursery workers get a sneaky insight into what kids really want from Father Christmas – and can tell us what gifts are most likely to keep them quiet.
Sharon Birch is the owner and founder of award winning outstanding rated child care provision, Footprints Learning for Life nursery in Hartlepool.
She said Christmas is a fabulous time to be in the nursery as the children are filled with wonder and delight and it’s a magical time of discovery and spectacle.
She said: “They learn all about the Christmas story and everything that comes with Santa – reindeer, elves, grottos and presents, good food and pudding and so much more.
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“It’s a great time to talk about kindness and caring for each other and giving.
“It’s truly magnificent to watch their little faces light up when we learn Christmas songs, wrap presents, play games and decorate the many trees we have.”
In the nursery, they dim the lights and let the twinkling trees take over at the end of each day.
They also serve hot chocolate and warm mince pies to parents when they come to collect their children and each child receives a small gift from their very own Santa Claus.
She added: “We collect gift items for the children to deliver to a local care home where they sing songs to the residents.
“We also give gifts to the foodbank, the Hartlepool Giving Tree and our local refuge.
“On the approach to Christmas I can heartily recommend some gifts that Father Christmas might like to deliver, with the help of his troop, to your excited little ones this year.”
The nursery founder revealed the top nine gifts you should buy your kids this Christmas to keep them quiet for at least two hours.
Dressing up costumes will keep kids’ occupied this Christmas.
Anything dressing up is a good idea, whether it’s an animal costume, an occupational uniform, superhero set, or fantasy, as all children love dressing up.
Nursery expert Sharon said: “The world of make believe and pretend is a place of learning and exploration about the world around us.
“Children become engrossed in a fantasy land, a place they can be whoever they want to be, and their imagination whirrs at a fantastic pace as they exercise their playing skills through experimentation, communication, and building relationships with each other.”
Mud kitchens are another great Christmas gift idea for little ones as it will keep them occupied for hours.
The outdoor mud kitchens are great for children to get messy, enjoy creativity with open-ended play and imagination.
Plus, kids’ can be free to make wonderful creations without fear, building confidence and a great sense of self.
Sharon suggested filling the mud kitchen with old pans and utensils so that children can explore and create for hours!
Sharon suggested musical instruments – while they’re noisy – will keep kids quiet and occupied for hours.
She said: “Children love to make noise and will forever if they can. Music enhances brain function in children and playing instruments helps the body and mind to work together.
“It can be a rattle for our babies, musical mats for toddlers, or a drum kit for your four year old, all children love them.”
Children love jumping, bouncing and rebounding – it’s a simple pleasure that releases stress and endorphins so mini-trampolines are a great Christmas gift to keep kids busy.
Sharon explained that it requires coordination and concentration but bouncing up and down helps to focus their brains and settle their mood – plus they could be bouncing for hours.
She said: “Trampolines are brilliant for all ages as they provoke sensory stimulation, and they are a fabulous exercise for strengthening bones.
“It also takes them outside for fresh air and releases excess energy before bath and bed.”
The nursery expert explained there’s been an influx of building games using gears, whether it’s a wooden puzzle or making a car or robot creation, or building an imaginative structure.
These are fab for keeping kids quiet at Christmas as gear games are great for understanding mechanics, have developmental benefits for problem solving and using fine motor skills.
Sharon explained they aid critical thinking and are brilliant for developing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills in early childhood.
Sensory balls are another great Christmas present to keep kids occupied, especially for babies, but good for all ages.
Sharon said: “They are great for tactile and sensory stimulation, easy to hold and lightweight, and they help to develop spatial perception and eye-hand coordination.
“They also aid visual stimulation and colour and shape recognition. Little ones love them, to touch, throw, taste, squeeze, suck, using all senses and brilliant for helping to focus attention.”
Another gift you should give your little ones this Christmas to keep them quiet for a few hours is a toy dinosaur – after millions of years, they've had a resurgence!
All children love to play with them for hours as they get lost in an interesting invented past world, explained Sharon.
Sharon said: “Their curiosity in the world around them really helps to develop intrigue, provoke interest and has a huge impact on learning.
“They really do help children discover the earth, and life and the natural world. Dinosaurs are everywhere – they adorn coats, pyjamas, lunchboxes, everything!”
Sharon also recommended LCD writing and drawing boards as well as doodle magic mats for children this Christmas.
She said children love these, especially for those quieter moments when they want alone time or are worn out after being on the trampoline or playing in the mud kitchen.
Sharon commented: “They are brilliant for mark making, learning to write and draw letters, numbers, names and are fab for communication, for dexterity and developing the pincer grip.
“Then in one wipe, it’s all gone! No paper or broken crayons to throw away.
“But equally, there’s nothing wrong with good old paper and pens and pencils if you like the old-fashioned way of a roll of wallpaper and crayons.
“Children will play for hours writing and drawing and making wonderful creations.”
Nursery expert Sharon revealed one of the current must haves is anything Superheroes.
She explained that superheroes are great role models and help to develop good moral values so they’re a great Christmas present for little ones.
Sharon said: “Solving problems, working hard, being kind, helping people, are all positive reinforcements for evolving wholesome personal characteristics.
“Superheroes help little ones to explore ideas of the world, responsibility, qualities, truth, comradeship and compassion. Anything superhero will ensure your little one will have hours of delight and inventiveness.”
The nursery expert went on to explain that anything that provokes imagination and learning through play and discovery will have your child entrusted for hours.
Plus, it doesn’t have to be expensive, just creative. So you don’t need to go mad this Christmas with buying presents to keep kids quiet.
Sharon said: “An old sheet becomes a superhero cape, wallpaper and pens become a masterpiece, old pots and pans become the best dinner you ever tasted.
“Give invention, and your child will reward you with the gift of creation!”
Meanwhile, I rent my kids’ Christmas presents and send them back when they’re bored – it saves so much money
This Christmas-mad mum has already done her present shopping for the next THREE YEARS (and they’re all neatly wrapped too).
Why not check out this super-organised mum sets 12 alarms a day and arranges her daughter's playtime with military precision.
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