35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget

You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” – Kahlil Gibran

I have countless holiday memories. Most of them center around faith, family, and traditions.

Very few childhood memories actually include the gifts I received. I distinctly remember the year that I got a blue dirt bike, the evening my brother and I received a Nintendo, and opening socks every year from my grandparents. But other than that, my gift-receiving memories are pretty sparse. Which got me thinking… what type of gifts can we give to our children that they will never forget? What gifts will truly impact their lives and change them forever?

To that end, here is an alphabetical list of 35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget.

  1. Affirmation. Sometimes one simple word of affirmation can change an entire life. So make sure your children know how much you appreciate them. And then, remind them every chance you get.
  2. Art. With the advent of the Internet, everyone who wants to create… can. The world just needs more people who want to…
  3. Challenge. Encourage your child to dream big dreams. In turn, they will accomplish more than they thought possible… and probably even more than you thought possible.
  4. Compassion/Justice. Life isn’t fair. It never will be – there are just too many variables. But when a wrong has been committed or a playing field can be leveled, I want my child to be active in helping to level it.
  5. Contentment. The need for more is contagious. Therefore, one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is an appreciation for being content with what they have… but not with who they are.
  6. Curiosity. Teach your children to ask questions about who, what, where, how, why, and why not. “Stop asking so many questions” are words that should never leave a parents’ mouth.
  7. Determination. One of the greatest determining factors in one’s success is the size of their will. How can you help grow your child’s today?
  8. Discipline. Children need to learn everything from the ground-up including appropriate behaviors, how to get along with others, how to get results, and how to achieve their dreams. Discipline should not be avoided or withheld. Instead, it should be consistent and positive.
  9. Encouragement. Words are powerful. They can create or they can destroy. The simple words that you choose to speak today can offer encouragement and positive thoughts to another child. Or your words can send them further into despair. So choose them carefully.
  10. Faithfulness to your Spouse. Faithfulness in marriage includes more than just our bodies. It also includes our eyes, mind, heart, and soul. Guard your sexuality daily and devote it entirely to your spouse. Your children will absolutely take notice.
  11. Finding Beauty. Help your children find beauty in everything they see… and in everyone they meet.
  12. Generosity. Teach your children to be generous with your stuff so that they will become generous with theirs.
  13. Honesty/Integrity. Children who learn the value and importance of honesty at a young age have a far greater opportunity to become honest adults. And honest adults who deal truthfully with others tend to feel better about themselves, enjoy their lives more, and sleep better at night.
  14. Hope. Hope is knowing and believing that things will get better and improve. It creates strength, endurance, and resolve. And in the desperately difficult times of life, it calls us to press onward.
  15. Hugs and Kisses. I once heard the story of a man who told his 7-year old son that he had grown too old for kisses. I tear up every time I think of it. Know that your children are never too old to receive physical affirmation of your love for them.
  16. Imagination. If we’ve learned anything over the past 20 years, it’s that life is changing faster and faster with every passing day. The world tomorrow looks nothing like the world today. And the people with imagination are the ones not just living it, they are creating it.
  17. Intentionality. I believe strongly in intentional living and intentional parenting. Slow down, consider who you are, where you are going, and how to get there. And do the same for each of your children.
  18. Your Lap. It’s the best place in the entire world for a book, story, or conversation. And it’s been right in front of you the whole time.
  19. Lifelong Learning. A passion for learning is different from just studying to earn a grade or please teachers. It begins in the home. So read, ask questions, analyze, and expose. In other words, learn to love learning yourself.
  20. Love. …but the greatest of these is love.
  21. Meals Together. Meals provide unparalleled opportunity for relationship, the likes of which can not be found anywhere else. So much so, that a family that does not eat together does not grow together.
  22. Nature. Children who learn to appreciate the world around them take care of the world around them. As a parent, I am frequently asking my kids to keep their rooms inside the house neat, clean, and orderly. Shouldn’t we also be teaching them to keep their world outside neat, clean, and orderly?
  23. Opportunity. Kids need opportunities to experience new things so they can find out what they enjoy and what they are good at. And contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t have to require much money.
  24. Optimism. Pessimists don’t change the world. Optimists do.
  25. Peace. On a worldwide scale, you may think this is out of our hands. But in relation to the people around you, this is completely within your hands… and that’s a darn good place to start.
  26. Pride. Celebrate the little things in life. After all, it is the little accomplishments in life that become the big accomplishments.
  27. Room to Make mistakes. Kids are kids. That’s what makes them so much fun… and so desperately in need of your patience. Give them room to experiment, explore, and make mistakes.
  28. Self-Esteem. People who learn to value themselves are more likely to have self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. As a result, they are more likely to become adults who respect their values and stick to them… even when no one else is.
  29. Sense of Humor. Laugh with your children everyday… for your sake and theirs.
  30. Spirituality. Faith elevates our view of the universe, our world, and our lives. We would be wise to instill into our kids that they are more than just flesh and blood taking up space. They are also made of mind, heart, soul, and will. And decisions in their life should be based on more than just what everyone else with flesh and blood is doing.
  31. Stability. A stable home becomes the foundation on which children build the rest of their lives. They need to know their place in the family, who they can trust, and who is going to be there for them. Don’t keep changing those things.
  32. Time. The gift of time is the one gift you can never get back or take back. So think carefully about who (or what) is getting yours.
  33. Undivided Attention. Maybe this imagery will be helpful: Disconnect to Connect.
  34. Uniqueness. What makes us different is what makes us special. Uniqueness should not be hidden. It should be proudly displayed for all the world to see, appreciate, and enjoy.
  35. A Welcoming Home. To know that you can always come home is among the sweetest and most life-giving assurances in all the world. Is your home breathing life into your child?

Of course, none of these gifts are on sale at your local department store. But, I think that’s the point.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. paul maccormack says

    love the list…just need a bit of clarification on point #5 when you talk of contentment. I am all in agreement with teaching children to be content with what they have…but should we not also teach them to be content with themselves? not in the sense that they should never do anything to better themselves, but rather teaching them to accept their personalities and their bodies and simply love themselves?
    paulm

    • says

      You are correct. I don’t think we should ever stop growing as human beings or challenging our children to do the same. That is a different point than celebrating our uniqueness and helping our children celebrate theirs. I think we’re on the same page here.

      • says

        I think that can be a fine line, with adults and children alike. We need to be content with who we are and how we were made, yet we also need to strive to be the best “me that I can be”. I guess it would be maximizing what was given to us. I think it is important to point out to our kids the unique gifts that each of us were given, music, arts, words, work with hands, etc… That we are not all the same, but we are all perfectly made!
        Bernice

        • Ted Smith says

          Great comments and thoughtful replies
          We are certainly on the same page, however, I’ve always had difficulty with asking someone to “be” her “best”. It becomes so easy to find guilt and rejection when we leave no room for circumstance. When a child or adult does really well at something, say a music recital or a running race, this performance becomes akin to “best” and the de facto expectation that she will always perform at this level. As a coach, I liken it to the spectators who, with all good intentions, yell for the runner to “run faster!!”.

  2. says

    What a great reminder of what is important. I get to combine several of these when I take my niece to Chuck E Cheese to celebrate events. She doesn’t need any more things, and the time we get to spend together, doing something she enjoys, is good for both of us. I hope she will remember these outings and carry on the tradition when she is an adult.

  3. Jennifer Miller says

    Thank you, Joshua, for this amazing post! It would be wonderful if all children were given these gifts. Blessings to you.

  4. Shellie Anne says

    Beautiful article, thank you so much! I have sent this link to others and said “35 Gifts Your Children/Grandchildren Will Never Forget” since many parents are absentee these days and grandparents often step in to fill that parenting/nurturing void. I sent it to some grandparents…they are important in the life of a child.

    May I add two more:
    Faith.
    Respect.

  5. says

    Absolutely! I especially love what you say about the gift of time. My kids are young and they really want to be with me all the time. I don’t take that for granted! We give each other this beautiful gift of time together.

  6. says

    Love this, as usual.

    As a grown woman, this especially struck a chord with me:

    “Contentment. The need for more is contagious. Therefore, one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is an appreciation for being content with what they have… but not with who they are.”

    It finally clarified for me my issues with contentment. I thought b/c I wasn’t content with who I am that it meant I was discontent. Now I see as long as I am happy with what I have (which I am) I can still strive for more as a person without it being something I feel bad about.

    Awesome.

  7. Jennifer says

    Love every word of this post… your words never fail to arrive in my lap just when I need the encouragement and inspiration. Thank you.

  8. says

    Thanks for another great post. Its a wonderful reminder about the important lessons we need to teach our childern and what they want more than the latest toy.

  9. says

    I love this post! As soon as I read the first Gift of Affirmation, I called my daughter (who’s 4) into my room and asked her who’s daddy’s #1 girl. Of course she said she was. And I told her I loved her and she was intelligent and I’m proud of her. Sometimes we can forget about the small things. Thanks for reminding us.

    Alyx

      • Noelani says

        I’m relating to both, having a preschooler as well as a teenager… but..ah… would it be possible for you to create inspirational quotes or 35 gifts geared more specifically towards teens!! lol!!!!! i know, all these wonderful 35, u have already listed does indeed apply to any age of child but, i bet your great mind can create 35 just for young adults! ha!

  10. says

    Before I read all the comments, I wrote a post and linked this list to it on my blog. I plan to give each one of these to my children and grandson this Christmas!

  11. says

    I agree with this post 100%. Growing up, my parents would buy me tons of things for Christmas, Birthdays, ect, but that’s not what I wanted. What I wanted was the emotional support of the things listed above.

    I hope parents see this and realize that a child doesn’t really want anything tangible. They want your attention, support, and to know that you’re proud of them no matter what.

  12. says

    Love the article and quote in the beginning – Kahlil Gibran is one of my favorite poets/authors! Just stumbled across your blog, and I love the concept and the encouragement you provide to other to truly remember what is important!

  13. says

    So true! Beautiful post.

    They are all so important, but perhaps the greatest one is TIME…something that is often hard to schedule in a typical American life of busyness.

    I’d add travel to the list too, especially global travel as it is something that can be done on very little money and can enrich the whole family.

    We’ve been living a minimalist life as a family and traveling the world non-stop for the last five years on 23 dollars a day per person, as a way to give these kinds of gifts to our child. The world is our home and we are so grateful to have all this time together and the shared experiences and memories.

    I only wish that every child could grow up with all these important gifts. Kids grow up so fast, so cherish that precious time together!

    • says

      Thanks for the addition. I agree. Travel opens our eyes to new worlds, cultures, and people. it is a valuable gift. In fact… I know it was on my original list to include.And I’m not sure when it got edited out. I don’t remember crossing it off. Thanks for adding it.

  14. Annette says

    My current husband is not the natural father of my 11 year old son, whose real father died from leukemia when he was only 5 years old. My husband now feels like 11 is too old to give kisses to or to be hugging, but doesn’t hold back from our 5 year old son that we had together. I realize that it’s probably an issue of my husband being a “step-dad”, but he claims that it is the older son’s age, and my husband rough-houses only with him and gives him “love punches” which are okay. My oldest, though, tells me he loves me and hugs me more than what I would expect for an 11 year old to do, and that makes me feel that he really needs that, most likely from a father figure too. I am right to read into like this?? I cannot get my husband to see eye-to-eye with me on this at all…..very much into denial in my mind.

    • Peter Piper says

      Annette, let it be. They will have what relationship they will have and from what you say it sounds pretty loving. If you push at it you may find you get the opposite of what you hope for. Guys show love in different ways and your husband is teaching your son a culturally expected way for guys to act around each other.

      • Annette says

        Thanks Peter. I have already sensed resentment from my husband on this issue, so I do leave it alone now. My heart breaks for my oldest, but am thankful for the family that we have now and that we have a husband/father who is a true provider and obligated dad.

        • Peter Piper says

          Can I offer one other bit of advice? As part of a blended family, the term “real father” is somewhat hurtful. The “real father” is the one who stepped up and is doing the job. Your loss and your sons loss of his biological dad and “real father” are real and I think you are seeking a way to honor that man which is admirable, but do not do it at the expense of the second “real father” your 11 yo has. Sounds like you hooked a great guy. I hope you have a lifetime of happiness together.

          • Annette says

            I think you need to also realize that the term real father vs. step father is only used here to explain in detail our situation, and does not imply that those terms are even used in our family dynamics at home. In addition, you do NOT know the whole situation in our particular “family”, and I have every right as my son’s natural mother to see to it that all of my children are treated fairly and equally in this great family. Please do not assume that you know who my husband is or if he is a great father, for which there are many, many definitions.

  15. says

    The hugs and kisses one is so important. My mother said that when she was five, her father told her she was too “old” to get hugs, or to sit on his lap. I’m 15, so I’m too big to sit on my parents lap, but hugging is a wonderful way to show affection.

  16. says

    What an inspiring list! It brings to mind two things:

    * in order for us to give these to our children and grandchildren, we first must possess them because we cannot give a gift we do not have
    * the gift of peace is a gift we give to ourselves that radiates out from within us at home and at work, doing our part to create the possibility of world peace.

    I so appreciate your offering this and I’ll send it on to my lists because it is likely the very best gift list I’ve seen.

    Continue to Sow Peace™,
    Rhoberta

    Rhoberta Shaler, PhD
    Founder of Sow Peace™ International and co-author of Soul Solitude: Taking Time for Our Souls to Catch Up.

  17. Linda Hunter says

    We have been giving ‘experiences’ rather than gifts for many years, and our children remember every one. In the end all of we have is our memories, and love, the stuff is left behind. Better to spend your time creating those memories, and the freedom that having little or no stuff brings

  18. says

    Joshua, I am always so glad to have read something you wrote, but perhaps even more so than usual today. Thank you for sharing this list.

  19. says

    As a parent and an educator it is so important to focus on giving kids the gifts that they really need. Everything around us pushes us towards accumulation, over-scheduling, and generally material achievement. Yet, as kids are given so much whether it is more “stuff” or filling their time for them, we also take away so many of their opportunities to grow and develop into self-sufficient people. Your list helps us remember what is important.

  20. says

    I think it’s our will to succeed. Mostly, people will want success in easy installments so to speak. Few people want to do it the hard way. Those who keep going without let up and keep the desire burning inside are theones who mostly succeed.

  21. Monica says

    What a wonderful, timely post! I would love your permission to re-print in our school’s newsletter (with proper credit and acknowledgment, of course). We’re a small elementary school with a great mix of families and I think this post would definitely be of interest. Please let me know if that would be ok. Thank you!

  22. says

    Purchased gifts for the most part are really about short term fulfillment / gratification / enjoyment whereas the gifts above are in many ways character building and laying a foundation for a meaningful, fulfilling, happy and successful life if one chooses.

    Seeing your great post reminded me of a poem of sorts which I hope is OK to have included below …

    CHILDREN LEARN WHAT THEY LIVE
    If a child lives with criticism
    He learns to condemn
    If a child lives with hostility
    He learns to fight
    If a child lives with ridicule
    He learns to be shy
    If a child lives with shame
    He learns to feel guilty
    If a child lives with tolerance
    He learns to be patient
    If a child lives with encouragement
    He learns confidence
    If a child lives with praise
    He learns to appreciate
    If a child lives with fairness
    He learns justice
    If a child lives with security
    He learns to have faith
    if a child lives with approval
    He learns to like himself
    If a child lives with acceptance and friendship
    He learns to find love in the world

    Cheers
    David

  23. says

    This is a truly valuable post. As a parent I think it is so important to give time and effort into our kids lives. They need guidance, love and support. And they need to know that we are always there for them- no matter what.

  24. says

    Well put. Great reminder that we are the sum of our actions, not our incomes.
    I still remember the joy of hearing. “come sit with ME”. Time is precious and it’s never too late to start living each moment – being present with our children is the best gift of all.

  25. says

    Joshua,

    I am Santa in Cary NC. I would like to use this list on my website (under construction) and to send to clients as an attachment or link in my Thank You note after Santa events. Let me know how I might do this please, it will have links to your site and full credits of course.

    This is an outstanding list and we all need reminding about this…I am especially appalled when children come with lists longer than they are with “wants” . I am also delighted when I get the special child that askes for something for someone else and nothing for themselves.

    Thanks so much for your wonderful list!!

    Merry Christmas to you and yours

  26. Jacquey Ferrell says

    Of all the Christmases I have had only one stands out. It was when my family was. at a crisis point. I was seven. I got two gifts, a doll with real hair and my uncle gave me a mandolin. I still have the doll. What I do remember is the love and warmth of my family every day.

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