The best holiday gifts for children’s vision development

December 11, 2019
Annual lists by doctors of optometry are light on digital gifts and heavy on fun and learning.
Best holiday gifts for children's vision development

This holiday season, consider toys and games that are not only fun but also eye-friendly, two doctors of optometry say.

For several years, Mary Gregory, O.D., of Monticello, Minnesota, and Kellye Knueppel, O.D., of Brookfield, Wisconsin, have been devising separate annual lists of games, toys and other gifts that are not only fun but also good for vision development. Their lists are now holiday traditions, as they share their eagerly awaited gift picks on the blogs of their vision therapy practices.

Both lists jingle games and toys that could be classified as classics (checkers and bingo), but a few relatively new gift ideas are sprinkled in. What's not on the doctors' holiday gift lists? Digital devices, given growing concerns about excessive device use.

Read on to see which games, toys and other gifts made the cut. And share with patients these gift recommendations by doctors of optometry, (some of which may require safety equipment be used).

Dr. Gregory's vision development toy list

"The toys that make our list are ones we use in the clinic or feel we would recommend to further general and visual development," Dr. Gregory says. "Our families appreciate the ideas and we love brainstorming the games as well."

Dr. Gregory's "Holiday Toy & Gift Guide" includes:

Eye-hand coordination: Building sets such as Legos, magnets, Jenga ®, Magformers, K'NEX, Fishin' Around, Operation, KerPlunk, Simon, 3D puzzles, Magna-tiles, Hyper Toss, Bounce Off and Marble Run.

Fine-motor control:
 Play-Doh, lacing cards, Perler beads, coloring books, Etch a Sketch, Lite Brite Magic Screen, sand art, Stained Glass Made Easy, Farm Cube Puzzle, origami crafts, beading, loom boards, Geo boards, Abalone and Gravity Maze.

Visual perception or visual thinking games
: Parquetry blocks, puzzles, Legos, "Where's Waldo" books, seek and find books, Perplexus, Spot it!, Acuity, Battleship, Labyrinth, SET: The Family Game of Visual Perception, Simon, Rush Hour, checkers, Perfection, Memory, Rubik's Cube, Q-bitz, Blink, Suspend family game, Gears!Gear!Gears! ®, Swish TM, Gravity Maze, Maze-O, GeoSmart Flip Bot, Chocolate Fix ®, Pictureka, Blokus, Make 'N' Break, Quick Cups, Otrio, Rubik's Cube board game, Sequence, Clue, GeoBrix, Pengoloo and Trucky.

 Any pretend play toys like dolls, kitchen sets, building sets, dress-up costumes (firefighters and police officers), Secret Decoder Set, magic set and Crayola Color Chemistry Lab Set.

Dr. Kneuppel's vision development toy list

"2019 Gift List: 131 Vision-Friendly, Age-Appropriate Toys" by Dr. Knueppel, who practices at the Vision Therapy Center in Brookfield and Madison, Wisconsin, has a new twist on her list. "The most important gift you can give a child is your time," says Dr. Knueppel before launching into her list.

Those gifts? Reading together. Playing together. Recreating together.

"Reading to your child is not only fun, it can have a significant positive impact on their developing reading skills and school performance," Dr. Knueppel says. "Have fun choosing which books you will read together and shoot for reading at least one book each day."

Dr. Knueppel's age-appropriate list includes:

Building toys 
(develops eye-hand coordination and visualization/imagination): Building blocks (ages 1+), Mega Bloks (1+), Lincoln Logs (3+), TinkerToys (3+), Legos/Duplos (4+), Erector Set (8+), Pindaloo (9+) and Magformers (3+), Roller Coaster Challenge (8+) and VEX Robotics (8+).

Fine motor skill toys 
(develops visual-motor integration and fine motor skills): Finger paints (1+), Kinetic Sand (1+), pegboard and pegs (3+), coloring books and crayons (3+), dot-to-dot activity books (3+), Play-Doh/modeling clay (3+), chalkboard easel (3+), large bead stringing (3+), lacing cards (3+), Lite-Brite (4+), Silly Putty (4+), Rainbow Loom (5+), jacks (5+), stencils, Spirograph, origami sets (8+), paint or color by numbers, bead craft kits and models (cars, airplanes, ships, etc.).

Space perception
(develops depth perception and eye-hand coordination: Jumpin' Monkeys (5+), Don't Break the Ice (3+), Ants in the Pants (3+), Egg and Spoon Race (4+), Fishin' Around (4+), Flippin' Frogs (5+), pick-up sticks (5+), marbles (5+), KerPlunk (5+), Operation (6+), Door Pong (7+), Jenga (8+), ball (all ages), Elefun (3+), Frisbee Rings (3+), dart games (velcro) (3+), Nerf basketball (4+), Box & Balls (5+), Frisbee (5+), ring toss (5+), Toss Across (tic-tac-toe) (5+), cornhole bean bags, Oball (good for kids who have difficulty catching balls) (6+), ping pong (6+), badminton (8+), Bowling Zombies (8+), Cuponk (9+) and pitchback.

Visual thinking toys and games 
(develops visual perceptual skills including): Visualization, visual memory, visual discrimination, pattern recognition and sequencing. These skills are important for academics including mathematics, reading and spelling Gears!Gears!Gears! (3+), Thinkfun Laser Chess (8+), Thinkfun Shadows in the Forest (8+), Kanoodle (8+), UNO (7+), Spot It! (7+), color blocks and 1-inch cubes (1+), wooden form board puzzles (2+), jigsaw puzzles (3+), dominoes (3+), Tactilo (3+), Old Maid card game (3+), bingo (3+), Go Fish Card Game (4+), Parquetry Blocks (4+), Tumble Trax (5+), Tangrams/Tangoes (5+), Color Code (5+), Attribute Blocks (5+), Make 'N' Break Jr. (5+), checkers (5+), Blokus (5+), Rush Hour Jr.(5+), Perfection (5+), Mathlink Cubes (5+), Smart Games IQ Puzzler Pro (6+), Guess Who (6+), Mancala (6+), Chinese Checkers (6+), Set card game (6+), Math Dice, Math Dice Jr. (6+), Qwirkle (6+), Connect Four (6+), Battleship (7+), Thinkfun Cat Crimes (8+), Blink (8+), Racko (8+), Q-bitz (8+), Rubik's Cube (8+), Color Cube Sudoku (8+), Kanoodle (8+), Rory's Story Cubes (8+), Amaze (8+), Bejeweled Board Game (8+), Tetris Bop It (8+), Labyrinth (8+), Connect Four Shots (8+), Perplexus (8+), Rush Hour (8+) and Sort it Out (12+).

Memory games 
(develops visualization and visual memory): Guidecraft Memory Caps (3+), Memory Game (5+), Loopz (7+), Hyperdash (7+), Simon (8+) and Chicken Cha Cha Cha (4+).

Balance and coordination toys and games 
(develops gross motor skills, laterality and bilateral coordination): Sit and Spin (1.5+), Hoppity Hop (3+), foam pogo jumper (3+), Walkaroo Stilts (4+), Hoola hoop (4+), jump rope (5+), Slip 'n' Slide (5+), pogo stick (5+), Twister (6+), balance beam/walking rail, balance board, mini-trampoline/trampoline, bicycle, snowboard and skis.

Choosing safe toys

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