The Present your child wants most

The flurry of paper ripping and squeals and giggles is still fresh in my mind. Christmas, the time of year for gifts, has just rolled through. 
Everybody loves presents, every child especially loves them. But would you believe that there is something else a child loves even more? An invisible present…something so simple many people don’t even see it, or know that it is there. And it is. It sits on the shelf, beautifully 
wrapped, waiting, waiting to be given with heart to every child who is waiting, waiting to receive it with so much love.

This gift does not magically appear only around Christmas or birthdays. 
It’s always ready to be given, any day and every day, once a day or many times a day. What’s more, it can only be given by you. And here it is…

Just being present is your greatest present.

Nice play on words. Easily written, not as easily done. Sadly our current age has numerous “present thieves” who surround us at any given time. Social media – a biggie (ye, that includes well meaning Facebook 
and Instagram, You tube, Twitter and the news); relentless work; strife, which saps emotional energy dry; anxiety; worry or a sense of being overwhelmed by too much on the never-ending “to do” list. They all pull 
our attention away from the “here and now”, either pushing our focus deep into our mind’s overcrowded cupboards, or flitting on the surface of everyone else’s lives. Distraction that shrivels our ability to see and give our gift of self.

I know, I feel it too.

So how do we combat this onslaught? What does “being present” look like? To be honest, it can be hard, but it’s not complicated and I think it starts off with a decision made over and over again. Deciding to put the 
worries on the shelf, making peace with the messy home for now, purposefully putting the phone away. Just for little moments, or 5 minute chunks of time where you decide to really, truly engage with your child. Like when your child comes to show or tell you something – go down on their level, lean in and listen, or when they want to play – 
choose to play with them instead of half-watching from the side. 
Recently a lovely mommy took to heart some advice I gave, which was to just take 5 minutes to play with her daughter every day, without any agendas other than to have fun and connect. A week later she came back beaming and reported that their simple ball game together had led to the 
most beautiful connection that she had ever experienced with her daughter –even from her birth! And the result was that her daughter started initiating interaction and bringing the ball to her everyday to play, because she too, loved it that much.

I have found this “5 minute” play strategy to be incredibly powerful to help parents connect with their children. This then opens up the best learning and language opportunities because they come from a place of fun and real engagement. So now, while your children are still revelling in their new toys from Christmas, why not take a little extra time to sit with them and play with them, and giggle and laugh and connect. 
According to Yogman et al. (2018), who are Doctors from the American Academy of Pediatrics – “It is parents’ and caregivers’ presence and attention that enrich children, not elaborate electronic gadgets.” 
Furthermore, they confirm that “One-on-one play is a time-tested way of being fully present.” So let’s be purposeful and intentional about offering our most precious resource, our perfect gift, which is our time 
and ourselves.  Presence – even better than presents!

Reference:
Yogman, M., Garner, A., Hutchinson, J., Hirsh-Pasek, K. & Golinkoff, R. 
(Sep, 2018). The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing 
Development in Young Children. PEDIATRICS, 142,(3). Retrieved from 
https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/142/3/e20182058.full.pdf

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