Nov 26, 2013 Post By: Hillary Carrington, MS, LPC-S, RPT-S

2 Steps to Identifying Your Child's Perfect Holiday Gift
Selecting the perfect holiday gift for your child can be challenging, especially when your child has special needs. Follow these 2 steps to identify the perfect gift.

Selecting the perfect gift for your child can be challenging, especially when your child has special needs. This holiday season consider natural strengths before heading out to shop.

Dr. Robert Brooks coined the term "islands of competence" - a metaphor for finding and nurturing a child's individual strengths. This holiday season, try giving a gift that nurtures strengths and in turn advances a sense of pride and accomplishment, and builds confidence. Finding the perfect gift will be rewarding for both of you! To help you determine the perfect "islands of competence" holiday gift, follow these two steps.

Step 1: Identify Areas of Skill or Interest

Knowing answers to these four questions will help you identify your child's areas of skill or interest. If you are unsure of an answer, consider asking for help from a grandparent or teacher.

  1. Where does your child succeed?
  2. If in school: Where does your child earn his highest grades?
  3. What hobbies does your child enjoy?
  4. In which activities does your child feel a sense of pride and accomplishment (even if those activities are not traditional)?

Step 2: Identify Your Child's Developmental Age

Developmental age, or the age at which your child is functioning is an important aspect to picking a great gift. Developmental age will not always be your child’s chronological age.  If you need help with assessing developmental age, see this page from the American Academy of Pediatrics or search your local library for a book and locate the age where your child succeeds at most tasks and a few are still a challenge.

It is tempting to want your child to be light years ahead or even on target in some circumstances. Occasionally chronological age will match developmental age. If your child has a developmental delay, purchase a gift with their developmental age in mind. Instead of the latest gadget that promises your child will learn to read in 6 weeks, pick a gift that will focus on existing skills, interests, and strengths. Joy will result from playing with these toys that provide a sense of achievement.

Gift Ideas

        If your child likes to....

  • Doodle or draw
  • Find an artist box filled with watercolors, colored pencils, pastels, pencils and erasers at your local hobby store. If your child is younger, maybe create your own artist box filled with crayons, watercolors, washable markers, a doodle board or modeling clay.
  • Help in the garage or workshop
  • Create your child a first toolbox filled with age-appropriate tools. If your child is 10 years old or older, head to your local hardware store and pick out a screwdriver, screws, hammer, nails and even some blocks of wood. If your child is younger check out the toy store for the plastic and safer versions of pliers, hammers and nails.
  • Take care of others
  • Consider doctor kits and veterinary kits from the toy stores for the younger ones and a real stethoscope, thermometer, notepad and fancy pen for an older child.
  • Bake
  • Fill a mixing bowl with a child-friendly cookbook, spatula, measuring spoons and a coupon for one hour of your time.
  • Dream of being a fashion designer
  • For the younger child, consider fashion designer craft toys. For the older child, consider a professional sketch book with colored pencils. And for the older adolescent/young adult, consider a sewing machine and fabric swatches.
  • Sing or rap
  • A great gift may be a leather-bound journal and an attractive pen to document his or her writings

Give your child the best gift, a gift for hours of fun-filled imaginative play, and most importantly a gift that targets those "islands of competence" and therefore becomes a source for increased self-confidence and self-esteem.