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Updated Dec 11, 2012 - 9:33 am

Don't overlook educational gifts during the holidays

As the holiday approach, most of us are eying a fancy new toy for the little ones in our lives, but a Valley program is urging adults to keep education in mind when they're out doing their holiday shopping.

Arizona's First Things First program works "to give more kids access to education and health programs that help them arrive at school prepared to succeed." They said that simple toys are inexpensive and often, the best, for promoting learning.

"Brain research tells us that young children learn most from experimenting with the world around them and by interacting with adults," according to a statement from Rhian Evans Allvin, Chief Executive Officer of FTF.

FTF's spokesperson Liz Barke Alvarez stressed the importance of at least including books under the Christmas tree this year.

"Reading is the best way to give children the vocabulary they're going to need in order to be successful at school and to be good readers," she said.

The recommended amount of reading with your child is about 15 to 30 minutes every day.

"Research has shown a child's vocabulary -- at three and four -- is tied to their reading comprehension levels in third grade, so when we're reading with our children, when we are teaching them, not just vocabulary, but to enjoy books and stories, we are actually helping them to be successful in school years before they get there," said Barker-Alvarez.

Using a variety of sources, FTF compiled a list for parents with good gift ideas for children aged birth to five. According to information provided by the organization, the list is comprised of "items that help children develop critical skills and encourage families to play together, a crucial combination for success in kindergarten and beyond.

1. Books
2. Blocks
3. Balls
4. Art supplies
5. Dress-up clothes
6. Board games
7. Dolls
8. Bubbles
9. Musical toys or instruments
10. Duplos or similar building toys

About the Author

Sandra moved from the small border city of Yuma, Arizona to study Broadcast Journalism at Arizona State University in the late 90s. Since graduating, she's worked at several local TV stations including Univision, Fox 10 and 3TV.

Working at KTAR, has allowed her the opportunity to cover major national news events, including Presidential visits, the Tucson Tragedy and the Wallow fire.

When Sandra isn't covering breaking news or behind a microphone in the studio, she's probably at home with her best friend Mark and her two dogs, Lily and Lola.

Sandra enjoys cooking and admits to enjoying "really bad" reality T.V. She also enjoys spending quiet time at home with people she loves, playing a little poker and traveling.


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