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Give a Little Piece of Yourself

Tips for buying better toys this season, part 4 of 5

Perhaps the single biggest joy of parenting is the knowledge that children, above all else, want to be close to their parents. In developmental psychology, this is referred to as attachment, and most children seek out their parents for comfort and play. Even as children get older and spend more time independently from their parents, research shows that children need and thrive on one-on-one time with their parents.

This close relationship provides a sense of safety and security and teaches children that they are loved and valued. Having a warm, close bond with mom or dad predicts all sorts of life’s later successes; those kids do better in school, have better friendships and marriages, and have generally happier lives. This is an important goal of parenting no matter the age of the child, no matter the season.

This time of year is a good time to focus on activities you and your child can do together—activities you both can enjoy that give you opportunities to strengthen the bond that will carry your child into adulthood.

As you think about the gift-giving season, think about what activities you enjoy. Do you like baseball or hockey games, do you like going to museums, do you like music, do you like cross-stitching or cooking? Now, think about how you can get your child involved in that thing you love. This should not be based on what your child already loves, and definitely should not be based on whether you are a mom or dad and you have a son or daughter. So for the mom who loves to bake, think about a cooking kit for your son. For the dad who loves hockey, think about season tickets for the local hockey team for you and your daughter.

Granted, children may seem "surprised" when they first get this type of gift (it isn’t the latest Xbox, after all). And oftentimes, dads may shy away from these gifts with daughters and moms avoid these gifts with sons. But these types of gifts will yield more lasting joy once you and your child start to bond over your passions, regardless of how well it "matches" your child. Part of the beauty of giving your child something that you love is that they will soak up your happiness from connecting with them over the activities that are meaningful to you.

It is less about the gift and more about the fun times that can come along with the gift.

Ultimately, children want positive time with their parents; they want this more than any toy at the store. Try to find ways to give your children this. This isn't selfish. Letting your children in on your passions is one of the best gifts you can give.