By Ella Miller

As parents, even though we’ve created a family life that is uniquely ours, we share something with other parents around the world — the heartfelt hope that our child(ren) will have a good life, grow up confident, do well, make thoughtful decisions, and carry strong morals. To aid in those desires, here are gifts that parents can give their child TODAY that don’t cost a thing yet can leave a lasting impression and make an impact on the kind of person they grow up to be.

1. Meals Together. Life moves fast and sometimes we find ourselves all moving in different directions. Gathering around the dinner table might be the only time the entire family gets together each day. Sharing a family meal is the perfect moment to catch up on how everyone is doing and what they’re up to. To get the conversation started, ask each person, “What’s the best and worst thing that happened to you today?” The responses you get can give you a good gage on what is going well in your child’s life and where your child needs some support. It also sends the message that ups and downs are a normal part of life — we all have good and bad days.

2. A Loving, Comforting Home. If there’s one place in this world that children should comforted, safe and loved it’s in their home. Beyond everyone living within the same four walls, this means creating an environment that feels warm and nurturing. This requires action on the part of the parent(s). For example, you can reinforce your home is a place of love by doing simple things like family hugs, creating one-on-one time so each child feels individually appreciated, and tucking them in at night with the chance to talk about any topic they’d like so each child knows they have your attention. Listening intently also reinforces that what they have to say is important.

3. One-On-One Time. Time is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child. In families where there are multiple children, time can be spread thin among various family members. Or the moments we spend together on a daily basis can be short or interrupted by phone calls or daily to-dos. What has worked for me in making each child feel individually important is going someplace special with each child so they can feel like “the star” of that time together. I often let them pick the place so I’m sure it’s something they’ll enjoy doing. Some ideas you can try: going out for frozen treats (ice cream, Italian ice, or fruit popsicles), taking a bike ride, walking through local gardens, visiting the dog park to see all the different pups, stopping at a pet store to watch the fish, or lunching at their favorite pizza place/restaurant.

4. Cooking Lessons. When my children were as young as 2 years old, they loved to help in the kitchen, and I loved our time together. From cracking eggs into a bowl (I just pulled out any shells that fell in) to mixing batters, kids can start getting comfortable with the kitchen from an early age. As soon as kids are old enough to safely stand in front of a stove (for my boys, this was age 7) you can start teaching them some cooking basics that will serve them well as they mature. With your supervision, they can craft grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, omelets, hotdogs and pasta with sauce, and other easy-to-make dishes. Teaching cooking skills will alleviate the worry that your child will go hungry when it’s time for them to be home alone or on their own as young adults. Best part, the look of pride and accomplishment in your child’s eyes when they see their creation!

5. Exploring Their Talents. Children don’t inherently know what they are good at. As parents, it’s important to provide opportunities to try different things to find what makes them happy. This doesn’t require much money and can include everything from crafts, tinkering with mechanical toys, and sketching/drawing, to baking, dancing, gardening and inventing things out of materials found around the house. And once they find what brings them joy, fueling and supporting their talents can lead to a fulfilling hobby or even a future career.

6. Exposure to Music. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, Music is the universal language of mankind.” Music’s power is that it ignites something in everyone, including kids. A good beat, a catchy rhythm, and that feeling you get when music touches your heart and soul — it’s all core to your child’s development. Music helps the body and mind to work in tandem. Exposing young ones to music in early stages of development helps them learn sounds and meanings of words and improved overall literacy. As kids get older, exposing them to different types of music helps broaden their perspective of various cultures, language, times throughout history, and more.

7. Parent-Child Play Time. Making time to play with your child is a powerful way to let them know they’re valued. Children crave the time and attention. Play is also a method of learning and communication. Some ideas on how to engage in fun and imaginative play include: create a puppet show; turn big boxes into a house, fort, car or airplane; use kitchen pots and utensils as instruments; hide stuffed animals and go on a safari scavenger hunt.

This list goes to show that some of the most important aspects of life cannot be purchased at a store, yet CAN be created and nurtured with conscious effort. For more inspiring tips for your family, check out: Uplifting Experiences For Your Child. What are other gifts that are valuable to give your child? Leave your comment below!

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