“The best thing parents can spend on their children is time, not money.” — Anonymous

A great deal of wisdom from an anonymous source. The advice given in this quote is backed by current research. A report in the Child Development journal about research conducted with two- and three-year-old children shows that the quality time a parent (especially a father) spends with his or her children predicts the quality of the child’s language and cognitive development. Another study, the Chicago Longitudinal Study, which began in 1967 and is ongoing, has found that parental involvement helps children succeed in school.

Make plans to spend time with the children in your life during this holiday season. Instead of many expensive gifts, give your child the gift of time. Some of our best memories are of family traditions and rituals around the holidays. Children who benefit from the gift of time make better grades in school, are less likely to engage in risky behaviors and are more likely to be competent problem-solvers. Besides, spending time with your child is fun!

Do you have certain things that you do each year to get ready for the holidays? Cutting a fresh Christmas tree from a farm, decorating the tree with family members, visiting people who can't get out, making special foods, reciting special stories? These events become part of the sense of history that teaches your culture and values to your growing child.

Parents and children can exchange coupons for gifts of time with each other instead of material gifts. How about coupons for walks in the park, a fishing trip, reading or telling stories together, riding bicycles? These activities foster closer parent and child relationships and encourage the child to grow in healthy ways.

Try some of these ideas or some of your own with your children this season. The results are worth the effort!

Tamis-Lemonda, C.S., Shannon, J. D., Cabrera, N. J., & Lamb, M. E. (2004). Fathers and mothers at play with their 2- and 3-year-olds: Contributions to language and cognitive development. Child Development, 75, 1806-1820.
Miedel, W. T., & Reynolds, A. J. (1999, April). Parent Involvement in Elementary School and High-School Success: Is There a Connection? Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development.