Creative Child

5 Gifts Your Child Needs That Cannot Be Wrapped

by Rebecca Eanes

Have you heard of the 5 gift rule? It’s a way of simplifying Christmas by giving your child just five things: Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read, and something to do. This idea got me thinking about things our children need that cannot be wrapped and put under a tree - things that nurture hearts and honor spirits. It isn’t likely that your child will remember 10 years from now what they opened on Christmas Day 2021, but they will always remember how they felt at home. In that same spirit of simplification, here are 5 gifts your children truly need every year.

A Place to Belong

We are born with a deep need for attachment and belonging. Often, we require children to “fit into” our family systems. We send subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, messages that you must be/do something specific to fit in here. “If you’re naughty, you are sent away. You don’t belong.” “If you disappoint me, you are shunned. You don’t belong.” “If your grades slip, if you hit your sister, if you are too exuberant or too quiet, if you’re too this or too that”… You get the idea. There seems to always be a bar our children must reach in order to be acceptable, and we’ve all dealt with it. Starting in childhood, we all get the message of how to fit in loud and clear, at home, at school, on the field, everywhere. And while children are adept at bending and reshaping themselves to fit into the boxes everyone molds for them, this isn’t filling the need for belonging.

To understand the distinction, I turned to Brene Brown, world-renowned researcher and author of Rising Strong. Brown says, “Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”

The message we must send to put our children’s hearts at rest is this. “You belong, no matter what. You are loved, no matter what. You are worthy, no matter what.” Separating the human from the behavior is so important, and our language plays a big part. It’s the difference between “This behavior is not acceptable” and “You are naughty.” It’s the difference between “Go to your room until you can act right” and “Come sit by me. How can I help?” It’s the message that absolutely nothing can separate you from my love. If we can give our children the gift of belonging, they won’t need to search for it their whole lives, like so many of us have done.

Special Time

We know that quality time is important, but let’s face it - we all have a lot on our plates. It’s easy to slip into autopilot and complete our daily routines like a checklist. We can spend a lot of time near someone and never truly connect. It becomes even more of a challenge when kids turn into teens and they barely want to come out of their rooms, and time with friends is much more important to them than time with mom or dad.

By building small amounts of special time into your daily routines, you can achieve this goal with little effort. A morning ritual of breakfast and chit-chat before school, an after-school ice cream run, or 10 minutes before bed reading, listening to an audiobook, or talking about your day will help fill your child’s emotional cup. But it’s not just about spending time but how you spend the time. Forcing a child to play a board game with the family checks the box, but it may leave them feeling more irritated than filled up. Special time should be child-led, fun, and lighthearted.

Speak Their Love Language

We all express and receive love a little differently. In The 5 Love Languages of Children, authors Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell outline the 5 different ways children receive love. All children receive love through each language, but for each child, there is one particular that has the loudest voice. This personal love language fills their tank the fastest. This is important because when a child’s tank is full, when they feel loved and connected, they are happier, more cooperative, and they take in what we teach much more readily.

If you aren’t sure what your child’s love language is, you can take the assessment here.

Don’t have time for the assessment? Ask yourself these three simple questions:

  1. How does my child show love to me?
  2. What do they often request?
  3. What makes their eyes light up?

Dr. Bethany Cook, clinical psychologist and author of “What It’s Worth - A Perspective on How to Thrive and Survive Parenting, says, “When children feel loved, not only does it bolster their self-esteem, but it also gives them a solid foundation and sense of security so they can more fully explore the world around them.” She adds, “When you know your child’s specific love language, you are able to channel your energy toward gestures that reflect their language.” Read this for 50 ways to love your child according to their love language.


We often talk about how to teach children to respect adults, but we rarely talk about the importance of showing respect to children. In fact, many adults don’t often think about showing children respect, and so we boss them around, talk over them, dismiss their emotions or arguments, and so forth. I believe that all humans deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and that children best learn how to show respect to others when they have experienced it for themselves. Here are a few ways to show children respect.

  1. Allow them to make choices about their bodies. Don’t force your child to hug or show affection to anyone. Stop tickling when they say stop, or don’t tickle them if they ask not to be tickled. Don’t spank or physically punish them.
  2. Model courtesy. Simply treat them how we want to be treated and how we hope they treat others.
  3. Listen. So often, we dismiss their point of view or their feelings because our own problems seem bigger and our views more valid. However, we can show our children respect by allowing them to speak up for themselves and truly listening to what they have to say.
  4. Respect their privacy. Trust is an essential part of every relationship. Don’t share embarrassing photos or stories, and keep their private lives private. Refrain from embarrassing them in front of their peers or talking about them to an adult in their presence, unless of course it’s positive!


We come into the world as creative geniuses. That’s what one study by Drs. George Land and Beth Jarman determined back in 1992. THey tested 1600 children between the ages 4-5 years old and found that 98% of them scored at genius level in creativity. By grade school, only 30% were considered creative geniuses, and only 12% by high school. Guess how many adults are creative geniuses? Less than 2%. It’s clear that we lose our creativity over time, but there are things we do to protect and support creativity. Here are a few ideas:

  • Designate a space for being creative. Provide art supplies, Legos, and other creative toys and materials that allow your child to explore different forms of creativity.
  • Allow unstructured time to play freely. Creativity often arises out of boredom. Don’t feel the need to entertain your child constantly or schedule back to back activities so they don’t complain of having nothing to do.
  • Avoid over-managing their play or art. If they color the grass red, let it be red. If they want to put out a pretend fire wearing a princess dress, why not?
  • Praise the process, not the result. Maybe the LEGO structure fell apart in the end, but they stayed at it!
  • Help them find and pursue their passions. Expose them to different creative outlets such as art, dance, sculpting, and theater and let them decide how to best express themselves.
Rebecca Eanes is the bestselling author of multiple books including Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, The Positive Parenting Workbook, and The Gift of a Happy Mother. She is the grateful mom of two boys. 


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