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By Michelle Salcedo, M.Ed.
Sunshine House Chief Academic Officer

During the holidays, we are barraged with commercials trying to convince us if we get that perfect gift for those we love, life will be perfect. In reality, there is very little a parent can buy that will make that much of a difference in the life of a child. Instead, there are little things we can do every day that really impact on a child’s future.

Presence: Whether it’s watching a favorite show together, walking to the store, or sharing a quick meal, the gift your child craves most is to know you are there. Make it a priority to spend one-on-one time with your child on a regular basis.

Acceptance: As a parent, we have to walk that thin line of having big dreams for a child and accepting her for who she is. Letting a child know he is appreciated for the unique person he is is a wonderful gift. People are more likely to reach greater heights when they know they are valued for who they already are.

Love: It goes without saying that children need to feel loved every day. Make your love evident with small notes, big hugs, a simple and sincere “I love you,” and/or any other expression that works for your family.

Structure: Young children need to feel safe and secure to learn and develop optimally. They gain this sense of security when those that care for them provide a structure for their lives. These structures (for example, consistent bed times, family traditions/routines, etc.) lessen stress as children know what to expect from day to day.

Love of Learning: We don’t know the future our children are going to live in. We don’t know the jobs they are going to have or the skills they will need. One of the best gifts we can get them is an inquisitive mind; the drive to question and understand the world. We do this by reading with children, asking them questions neither of you know the answer to, having conversations, and together exploring new frontiers of knowledge.

It’s fun to shop for gifts and to imagine the smiles on the faces of those you love as they open them this holiday season. But, cut yourself some slack when stressing about finding the “perfect gift.” Know that it is in the simple moments of your interactions with your child that are the true gifts.

Michelle Salcedo is Chief Academic Officer for The Sunshine House and has been in the early childhood field for more than 30 years, working as a teacher, director, trainer, and more. At The Sunshine House, she has the pleasure of working with hundreds of early childhood professionals to develop and deliver high-quality educational programs to thousands of children every day.