WITH so many toys available on the market, it can be tricky knowing just what to buy your children this Christmas.
After all, is there anything more frustrating than a child playing with their new gift just once, only to then find it stuffed at the back of their cupboard?
Now, speaking exclusively to Fabulous Digital, parenting expert Holly Zoccolan, who is the founder of The Carol App, has shared the best gifts for different age groups so that you won't have to worry about wasting your hard-earned cash this festive season.
And the best part of all? The bargain buys, which are from the likes of Home Bargains and Ikea, start from as little as just £4.99.
0-1 Years: Sensory Toys
Holly explains that for infants, sensory toys like soft plushies, musical mobiles, or textured teething toys are ideal.
"They not only provide comfort but also help in early-stage developmental growth," she says.
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First up, she recommends the 'Playgro Rock & Stack' from Home Bargains, which is currently in the sale for just £4.99.
The online product description reads: "A rainbow of five teeth-able rings fit over a cone with a rocking base. Baby can sort and stack the rings, then bat at the base to watch it rock back and forth."
According to Holly, the bargain buy is "great for developing your little one's hand-eye co-ordination and helping to improve their fine motor skills."
She adds: "They can use precise movements to stack the pieces any way they can imagine. It encourages your children to enjoy colourful, imaginative play and exploration."
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For 12 months and over, Holly recommends the 40-piece wooden building block set from Ikea, which is priced at £13.
"This toy helps with hand/eye coordination and helping them to learn colours, shapes and different sizes," she explains.
"It can also be used a few years into toddlerhood for continuous development."
2-4 Years: Educational Toys
The parenting expert explains that between the ages of 2-4, toddlers are in a phase where their "brains are like sponges."
"Opt for educational toys that boost their cognitive and motor skills—think building blocks or simple puzzles," she advises.
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Holly begins by recommending the £7 'Crayola Colour Wonder Gabbys Doll Playhouse' from Sainsbury's.
"It's a mess-free colouring set that can help with drawing skills and learning colours – and means no crayons on your walls!" she explains.
Moving on, she also suggests that the £13.99 'Melissa & Doug Shape Sorting Cube Wooden Toy' from John Lewis is likely to be a hit with this age range.
"This wooden shape sorter helps to develop your little one's hand-eye co-ordination and teaches children important problem solving skills as they explore how to work things out for themselves," she explains.
"The brightly coloured shapes will also help with improving their problem solving skills."
Not stopping there, the parenting pro suggests the £10 'Chad Valley Baby 10 Piece Gift Set' from Argos.
"With so many sensory experiences to explore they can shake rattles, feel new textures and be mesmerised by new sounds as they improve their gross motor skills and learn to grab and hold on to their toys," she explains.
"We know that colour is proven to help with a baby's cerebral development and they'll have so much fun exploring new sounds and textures and learning new things."
Amongst Holly's other recommendations includes the £7.99 'Blo Pens Animal Activity Set' from Home Bargains, which can help your child's exploration skills, and the 'Chad Valley Pop Up and Surprise Jungle Animals' from Argos.
"This play set is perfect for developing your child's hand-eye co-ordination, fine motor skills and developing children's imagination as they play," she adds.
5-7 Years: Creative Sets
The parenting whizz points out that kids between the ages of 5-7 love to be creative so art sets, LEGO kits, or anything that allows them to express themselves is likely to be a big hit.
Amongst some of the toys Holly recommends includes the 'Melissa & Doug Play, Draw, Create – Farm,' which retails at £4.99 from Home Bargains.
"We love this play set as it helps with creative development and imaginative play," she says.
The parenting expert goes on to recommend the 'Chad Valley 40 Classic Board Games Bumper Set,' which "helps with problem solving, patience and no screen time," and the 'Play-Doh Super Colour Kit' – both £10 from Argos.
"We love these play-doh sets as they encourage imagination and creative play," she adds.
Finally, Holly suggests the 'Casdon Pick & Mix Sweet Shop', which retails at £8.99 from Home Bargains, would also make a great present for this age range.
"This toy is great for role play and also for learning early counting and weighing skills – just like a real shopkeeper," she says.
How to Deal with Ungrateful Children
Even with the most thoughtful gift, you might encounter a moment where your child seems ungrateful.
But Holly explains that while it's disheartening, it's important to remember it's a learning experience for them as well.
"Instead of reprimanding them outright, open a dialogue about gratitude and the meaning behind gifts," Holly advises.
"Use it as an opportunity to instil valuable life lessons."
Lead by Example
The parenting guru points out that children learn by observing.
"Show them how to express gratitude and they're more likely to follow suit," she says.
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Holly notes that if your child is really unhappy with a gift, consider turning it into a re-gifting exercise.
"It can be an enlightening experience for them to gift it to someone who needs it more," she concludes.
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