Jennifer Petrilli Headshot

Give Kids What They Really Want This Christmas -- Your Time

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Just about every magazine, newspaper, blog and store flyer has published Top Picks for what to buy your kids, spouse, parents, siblings, friends, teachers and pets this holiday season. We're absolutely bombarded at this time of year with these messages, so where do you turn to find that perfect gift for your kids?

We tend to look everywhere but the most obvious place: our kids. And I don't mean the list for Santa they've been compiling and revising since last Christmas. What our kids really want they will never write down on a list. And truthfully they don't just want it for Christmas, but throughout their entire childhood and beyond.

With two weeks off school over the holidays, Christmas is an optimal time to start giving kids what they really want. Here are the top things they wish for the most:

Your Complete Attention
In every day life our attention is pulled in a million different directions. We all say that family is a number one priority but deadlines at work and the banalities of life can easily get in the way. Computers and smart phones often pull our focus away from those around us and it's easy for kids to feel that whatever is going in the virtual realm must be of utmost importance, when really quite often we're just checking social media or watching online videos.

Over the holidays make a pledge to completely unplug and give your kids the undivided attention they crave. Challenge yourself to go as long as possible without turning on a computer, tablet or even the TV. Once you've rid yourselves of these distractions, it will be easy to focus on your kids. They're much more entertaining than what's on YouTube anyways.

To Feel Important
We make a lot of little decisions every day, such as what to wear, what to do, and what to eat. Over the Christmas holidays see how many decisions you can leave up to your kids. Let them steer the ship for a while. If you're like me and you like to have a schedule so you don't end up sitting around the house all day, let your kids decide what the day's activities will be. Ask them to create the dinner menu, incorporating the four basic food groups, and then become the sous chef as they make the meals.

Like all of us, kids want to feel like their opinions matter and that they're making a contribution. The bigger the role we allow our kids to play in the family business, the more important they're going to feel and the more we will help them build their leadership skills and self esteem.

To Feel Proud and Accomplished
Is there something your kids have been struggling with at school, like the multiplication tables or spelling? Although the last thing kids want to do over the holidays is more schoolwork, they will love the one-on-one attention from you, especially if you can inject fun into learning. There are many online resources that can help you extend your child's learning in a fun way. For example, The Royal Conservatory's Learning Through the Arts program has hundreds of online lesson plans presenting the curriculum through a wide variety of art forms. Search by curriculum, grade and province and you'll find many activities to choose from, including how-to videos. Your child will dance and draw and sing and hardly realize that they're learning, and they'll feel proud to have a better understanding of their schoolwork when they return to school.

Or you can involve your children in tackling that big household project you've been dreading. At the risk of sounding like Mary Poppins, when you give your children a task that they can take ownership of they'll feel proud when the job is done and you all sit back and enjoy the benefits together. So go ahead and clean out those closets or organize those photos. If you involve the whole family you'll be more motivated to get it done and you'll have more fun in the process.

To be Active and Have Fun
You know that sluggish feeling you get after a day of watching TV or sitting around the house? Your kids hate that. They may not tell you they hate it, and they might loudly protest when you turn off the TV or tell them to shut off the video game, but they really don't want to feel like a zombie at the end of the day.

Get outside. You may feel like hibernating in the house but after a few minutes of ice skating or sledding you'll forget about the cold. Take a winter hike to try to spot some animals. Or if you'd rather stay inside, spend the afternoon at the pool or experience some free family events going on in your community.

Christmas vacation can be family time at its finest, so make sure you maximize the time for you and your kids. That's the perfect gift this holiday season.