The holiday season is upon us and so many parents have asked me the question over the years of what they should get for their children. Here are responses I have always given and stick to. Our children don't need all the fancy gadgets. Below are some ideas for gifts for your child that are not only fun, but help to increase their achievement and love for learning along the way!
Below are a few of my favorite things as an educator I recommend parents give their children for holiday, birthday gifts, and for whatever event throughout the year, and gifts I also enjoy giving my own children.
Give the gift of writing
No matter how old your child is there is always time to record important life happenings and along the way strengthen their writing skills. When my children were babies and toddlers, I had a journal for each of them that I would try to write down little happenings and cute quotes or “firsts” that they would say or do.
Then when they were preschoolers, they would tell me what they wanted to remember about the day and I wrote it in their “forever” journal. When my son became a kindergartner, he began asking me to help write and I encouraged him to sound out the words in the sentence, but just give it a go for spelling for ideas are most important. Then as both my kids grew as first and second graders they were able to write their own sentences each night with little assistance. This writing work helped not only by helping them reflect on their day but preparing them to orally recall small moments, a great beginning to writing personal narratives. Now they both can't stop writing and want to be authors! In fact, it is a big crisis in our house if there is no paper or we are out of staplers and a book cannot be created! Just a packet of copy paper, a stapler, and some cool pens can help your budding author!
And guess, what? For older children, journals or diaries help give a parent a little window into their world and open communication between parent and child. As they grow, journals can also be therapeutic and encourage positive emotional growth.
Give the gift of reading
• New books
Of course, in my mind there is no greater gift than a new book or several new books! In our house we have books in our library, books in the living room, in the kitchen, in the bathroom and stacked on our bedside tables. Books everywhere! And if your child doesn't have a bed lamp, that is a must as well!
A recent study supports this culture of books in our homes. “Scholarly Culture and Educational Success in 27 Nations,” a study by four researchers in the United States and Australia and based on 20 years of research, suggests that children who have 500 or more books in the home get three years more years of schooling, on average, than children in homes that have no books. Even just 20 books make a huge difference in a child’s life. In my mind, there can never be enough books in a home as we work each day to raise readers who can and choose to read.
Also, remember if you are looking to buy new books support your local bookstore! Elk River Books here in Livingston always has a great selection and recommendations of children’s literature and books for all ages. If they don’t have a certain title in the store they can always order the book for you. They have been supporting the parent and educator book clubs at Winans and we are super grateful.
Give the gift of math
• Games: Board games/card games
The one thing that is most often overlooked as educational is the power of a board game – talk about fun! Not only do most board games, yes, even Candyland, help a child with one-to-one correspondence, counting, focus, and memory, they help a child learn to follow rules, directions, and get along with others in an often competitive situation.
Board games help teach children how to win and lose, a skill needed for the rest of their lives. Classic games like Yahtzee are perfect for kids working on their addition or multiplication facts, Monopoly for the understanding of money; the game of Sorry is especially good for reading and counting forward and backward. The list goes on and on. What does your child need to work on in the area of math? Find a game to help. There are a multitude of websites that can recommend specific games for ages and math skills.
Give the gift of time
You know your children and their interests. Maybe this year give them the gift of an art class, gift of a concert, a cool hike together, the gift of traveling on a new adventure or experiencing an outdoor excursion and join them! Give your child the gift of time. What our children probably most want to put at the top of their wish lists is for us to slow down, put down our phones, put away our computers, and listen to them and reconnect.
The journals, books, and games listed above can support this family quality time, as well. We learn so much about our children when they write in their journals about what they want to remember forever at the end of the day. We share special moments when we read the last chapter of “Charlotte’s Web” together and both express our feelings of happy and sad together. We enjoy the laughter and smack talk we offer one another during a good game of UNO that seems to go on and on forever. It is these moments that our children treasure most and we should hold onto as well.
I remind myself each day how fast they grow. I want to treasure these times, these moments and just by you reading this I can tell you do, too. You care about your child’s education and the fact that it is important to have fun and I agree, that is the key.
One of the best gifts we can give our children is the joy of learning.
As your child’s first and most important teacher, remember the gift of yourself you give all year long is what matters most to your child. Enjoy this holiday season and all the many special memories of writing, reading, playing games and spending quality time together.