GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles looking for the perfect Christmas gift for children birth to age five need to look for toys that engage children in a variety of early learning skills. Kimberly Gowdy with the Mississippi State Extension service in Gulfport helped compile a list of the top five toys to do just that this holiday season.
Starting at the bottom, "My Pal Violet" is a cuddly pup for toddlers ranging from six to 36 months. It offers music, lights and interactive play.
"The neat thing about this as well is you can program it with your smart phone. And the doll can actually recite your child's name," explains Gowdy.
Gowdy says the key to learning at an early age, is repetition.
"So the more they hear that sound that beat, they learn that through the sound through the music. Repetition increases cognitive abilities."
Next on the list, the VTech Ultimate Alphabet Train with four ways to play. Gowdy explains how it's one of those toys that grows with the child.
"It goes from the child being able to sit down to working with his fine motor skills using his fingers. Moving on up to him being able to ride, using those fine gross motor skills using those legs. Also pushing for the walker and pulling for the cart."
And with more than 260 songs and sounds, it offers a wide variety of ways for children to learn their numbers, colors, and the alphabet.
Coming in at number 3, the "Little Tikes Little Ocean Explorer.
"It's the three in one adventure course," says Gowdy. "What child does not love an obstacle course? And this toy allows your child's little curious brains to explore and learn as they're doing so. It focuses on the fine and gross motor skills."
The number two top toy of the 2015 Christmas year is called "Bright Beats by Fisher-Price." It too, grows with your child and is recommended for ages six to 36 months.
"Encouraging them to learn about using their body parts and moving and listening to sounds, and actually building those thinking skills as you're developing as well."
And finally the number one toy of the 2015 holiday season: The "LeapPad 3" tablet by Leap Frog for ages three to nine.
As Gowdy explains, "Some of these kids now work an iPhone or a particular phone better than us adults. So this is kind of their own sense of technology use for themselves. And it's built for their hands, their small hands."
As with any tech toy, parents need to monitor content and screen time, But Gowdy says this is a great way to help your child get ready for school.
"Now schools are including more technology use in the classroom, so this kind of gives our kids before they enter into public schools, private schools, a kind of a head start with use of technology."