Photo of an adorable boy in christmas

It’s that time of year again when parents hit the shops (or the internet) in desperate search of gifts for Christmas. Ideally, you are looking for presents that make their faces light up, not cost the earth, get your children off their screens and actually improve their development at the same time. Need some help?

Child health and wellbeing experts at the Sunflower Trust charity have created a list of ideas that tick all the boxes – gifts that will provide children of all ages with hours of fun but have hidden benefits for their body and brain!

Photo of an adorable boy in christmas

Wobble boards/balance boards

What child wouldn’t love wiggling around on one of these? In fact, most parents will find it difficult to resist having a go!

Some of the many benefits:

  • Gets them moving
  • Increases core strength
  • Improves posture and balance
  • Improves co-ordination
  • Helps with concentration
  • Provides important vestibular stimulation (this is the input that your body receives from movement or gravity and is important for a child’s development). Other ways children get this is from swings, fair rides, climbing, hanging from a branch, spinning etc.

How to use:

Once your child has mastered balancing on their board, challenge them to lots of different activities such as throwing and catching a ball while on the board, balancing with their eyes closed, clapping their hands while balancing…

Exercise ball

An oversized bouncy ball will make a whole range of mundane exercises suddenly seem like a fun game.


  • Gets them moving
  • Improves core strength
  • Improves posture and balance
  • Improves co-ordination
  • Improves concentration
  • Provides a positive outlet for their energy
  • Can be used as a wobbly chair for children who don’t like to sit still
  • Can even be used for a silly game of giant catch in the garden!

How to use:

Challenge your child to throw and catch a ball, clap hands, recite spellings and other activities whilst bouncing on the ball.

Balance on the ball on the tummy and walk forward and back on hands. Balance on the ball on your back with feet on the floor and rock back and forth and side to side. Sit on the ball and lift one leg and then the other. You will be able to find lots more ideas and exercises online.

Worry monsters/worry eaters

These are funky characters that come in all shapes and sizes and provide a way of helping your child to identify but then learn to control their worries and anxieties.


Helps to prevent your child from bottling up their worries and teaches them how to recognise them, share them and then put them aside rather than letting the worries take over.

How to use:

Your child can draw or write down their worries or tell you their worries to write down. After talking them through, they can put them in the worry monster’s mouth. This can be particularly useful at bedtimes.


This is a toy that exercises body and brain – in a similar way to juggling balls or that age-old challenge of trying to pat the head and rub the tummy at the same time.

Poi are beanbags attached to a piece of string. The aim is to hold one in each hand and learn to swing them simultaneously in different movements and patterns without them becoming tangled or bashing together.


  • Good for all ages as the movements can be simple or advanced
  • Helps with rhythm
  • Improves right and left brain co-ordination
  • Helps to improve concentration
  • Exercises joints in the hands, shoulders, wrist, chest and core

How to use:

Begin by learning to spin both poi round in simultaneous circles on either side of the body. More advanced moves include making a figure eight in front of you with each poi alternately or spinning alternately above your head. There are many books and online tutorials for learning more tricks.

Other suggestions

Child health and wellbeing expert and Sunflower practitioner Sheree McGregor adds: “Of course each parent will know what their own child is interested in and can then find gifts within those areas of interest but anything that encourages physical dexterity and increased body awareness is great – such as Lego, Hama beads, jigsaws.

“Another area to look at is apparatus to play with outside – such as balls, bats, trampolines, mini trampolines and skipping ropes – as these develop the ability to throw catch, run and just generally increase body use.

“I’d also recommend games that involve communication, negotiation and discussion (from cards to board games) as well as games that focus the mind and involve planning, strategy and problem solving – such as murder mystery or battleships.”

Do you worry about your child’s development or the amount of time they spend on screens? Contact the child health and wellbeing experts at the Sunflower Trust on 01483 531498 or email:  Suppliers include Amazon &