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A Great Option for a Holiday Shopping Season With a Microchip Shortage: Low-Tech Toys That Can Boost Children’s Language and Learning

ASHA Offers Suggestions for Low-Tech Gifts That Reap Big Rewards by Age Group

November 16, 2021

A multimedia version of this release is available here.

(Rockville, MD) With gaming systems, “smart” toys, and other electronics in short supply this holiday season due to a microchip shortage, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is suggesting holiday gift alternatives that will help kids boost their language and learning, social skills, and imaginations—at any age.

“For holiday gift giving, ASHA has customarily encouraged families to embrace low-tech toys because they can contribute to children’s development in many ways,” said ASHA President A. Lynn Williams, PhD, CCC-SLP. “They include boosting their vocabularies, conversation and turn taking skills, socialization, ability to solve problems, imagination, creativity, attention spans, and more.”

Williams continued: “Given the supply chain and manufacturing challenges impacting shopping this year, it may be a time to reimagine gift giving. In addition to their developmental benefits, traditional, hands-on toys are often less expensive and a better all-around value, particularly now with increasing costs straining families’ holiday spending budgets.”

Below are some suggestions from ASHA for holiday gifts by age range.

Non-Tech Gift Ideas to Build Kids’ Language and Learning (Ages 0–5)

  • Books (touch-and-feel, lift-the-flap, and simple picture books for youngest kids)
  • Shape sorters, ring stackers, and nesting cups
  • Blocks and balls
  • Chunky wooden and knob puzzles
  • Animal and family sets
  • Toy farms and barns
  • Toy vehicles, garages, ramps/tunnels, and train sets
  • Wind-up, pop-up, and pounding toys
  • Pretend tools and workbenches
  • Toy musical instruments
  • Bubbles
  • Activity cubes
  • Pretend money and cash registers
  • Simple craft kits and art supplies such as crayons and Play-Doh
  • Figurines, dinosaurs, dolls, and puppets
  • Costumes and dress-up supplies
  • Pretend doctor/veterinarian sets
  • Toy food, grocery carts, and kitchen sets
  • Building toys (e.g., Lincoln Logs, Magnatiles, and Legos)

Non-Tech Gift Ideas to Build Kids’ Language, Literacy, and Learning (Ages 5–8)

  • Books, graphic novels, and magazine subscriptions (e.g., Highlights, National Geographic Kids)
  • Board and card games
  • Arts-and-crafts supplies and kits (drawing, beads/jewelry)
  • Science kits and books of science experiments
  • Slime, Play-Doh, and play sand/foam
  • Modeling clay and silly putty
  • Dolls and action figures
  • Building toys (e.g., Lincoln Logs, Magnatiles, and Legos)
  • Trading cards
  • Cooking supplies (child-friendly cookbooks, kid-safe knives/utensils)
  • Subscription boxes (cooking, STEM)
  • Costumes and dress-up supplies
  • Magic sets
  • Jump ropes and hula hoops
  • Sports and outdoor games for group play
  • Bikes, scooters, and roller skates/blades

Non-Tech Gift Ideas to Build Kids’ Language, Literacy, and Learning (Ages 8 and up)

  • Chapter books and magazine subscriptions (e.g., Sports Illustrated Kids, Cricket)
  • Journals/diaries and scrapbooks, fun writing pens/stickers
  • Board and card games (silly, trivia, conversation-based)
  • Trading cards
  • Arts-and-crafts project sets
  • Science kits, instruments (telescope, microscope)
  • Subscription boxes (cooking, STEM)
  • Advanced building sets (e.g., Legos, snap circuits)
  • 3D/jigsaw puzzles
  • Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and chess sets
  • Camping supplies
  • Sports equipment
  • Fitness, outdoor/yard, and obstacle course games
  • Age-appropriate tools or gardening supplies
  • Décor for personalizing bedroom

“It’s also worth noting that, especially for young children, many household items can be used as toys, art supplies, or building materials—allowing kids to create, imagine, and explore,” Williams added. “Parents don’t need to spend a lot of money to foster their children’s curiosity and development.”

For more information and tips on balanced technology use, visit ASHA’s Healthy Communication & Popular Technology Initiative at www.communicationandtech.org.

About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)

ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 218,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems, including swallowing disorders.


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