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6 Things My Kids Really Need for Christmas This Year

Photograph by Twenty20

It never fails. Someone asks, "What do the kids want for Christmas?" and I don't have an answer. I end up suggesting Legos or another craft kit that we won't get around to doing until next summer. (Please, please—no more craft kits!)

So, this holiday season, I don't want my kids to get a bunch of stuff they don't need, that will be broken and forgotten in a week. I want them to know they are loved and that there's a great big world outside our front door. When you ask me what my kids want for Christmas this year, I’m going to tell you what they really need instead.

1. They need to get out of the house.

Like a lot of kids, my children don’t get outside very much during the school week. The hours after school and before bedtime are spent on homework and video games, dinner, reading and TV. A membership to the botanical gardens, the zoo or a National Parks pass for the family would be a great gift and encourage all of us to get outdoors more often.

2. They need time with the people they love.

Take them for ice cream or on a nature walk in a park. Curl up with them on a cold, rainy afternoon and read a book or bake cookies with them. Carve out an afternoon to watch their favorite movie or teach them your favorite board game. It’s not the activity that matters, so much as the time spent with someone they love.

3. They need to feel connected to family and friends far away.

Write an email in a brightly colored font, asking my kids about their lives and telling them about yours. Or email a video of you reading a story or send a silly clip of your pet. Let me know when you’d like to talk to them and we’ll make a date. Better yet, let’s schedule a video chat so you can see how much they’ve grown and they can see a bit of your life. Distance shouldn’t matter when we have all the technology in the world to stay connected.

It’s not the activity that matters so much as the time spent with someone they love.

4. They need to find something for them in the mailbox.

Who doesn’t love snail mail? Some of my favorite childhood memories are receiving mail from friends and family around the world. Send my kids a postcard the next time you go on a trip. Write them a letter and watch how fast they respond. Send a few pictures they can tack to their wall. Just seeing their name spelled out on an envelope is enough to get them excited—and it’s one of the easiest gifts to give.

5. They need to read more.

We have books in every room of our house, but there are so many distractions in my kids’ lives that sometimes it’s hard to get them motivated to read. Get them a magazine subscription so they have something to look forward to every month or send them one of your favorite childhood books. You could even get them a book subscription. I’ll be happy to let you know what they're interested in reading about!

6. They need you to keep your promises.

If you promise to come visit or schedule a playdate, please do it. My kids haven’t yet learned that adults don’t always keep their promises and they take everything you say to heart. So, when we see you or talk to you and you say, “We’ll get together soon," please keep that promise. They need to know you mean what you say—and so do I.

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