My “baby” is now 20-years-old. I consider myself to be a fairly good gift-giver, but his 20th birthday had me stumped. He is living in an apartment at college, semi-independent, cooking his own food and cleaning his own bathroom. He doesn’t need “things” from me, and he is hesitant to ask us to spend money on him because, well, college is expensive.

So, I asked him what he wanted for his birthday. (A question I rarely ask anyone because it takes away the surprise element.) I should not have been surprised when he said, “Mom, just plan something for all of us to do together. You always plan the best adventures.” And, that’s what I did.

Because, that’s what we almost always do in our family to celebrate birthdays, accomplishments, each other. We started doing that at the beginning of our family life because we had little, or no money, for gifts. Then, it became a tradition, and we continue to give the gift of our presence—rather than presents—to each other.

This is not intended to send the message that there should be absolutely no gifts. It is intended to suggest that we can give some thought and consideration to the gifts we choose. Think about how the gift might lead to more time together with your child? One of our son’s favorite gifts at Christmas when he was three-years-old was a toolbox, tools, and a hard hat. We also had a stack of wood and sandpaper ready so we could start working on project together that very day.

Another family tradition every year at Christmas is to open a new, old-fashioned (no electronics) board game that we always reserve time to play together on Christmas Day. If you choose to do the start this tradition with your preschooler, it may mean you will have to review the rules of Candy Land or “let” your four-year-old win sometimes.

What does your preschooler really NEED this Christmas? Besides that loud and annoying toy you mother-in-law couldn’t resist? Time, time,and more time. The gift of your presence is priceless. It will create the kind of family memories and traditions that will last for years to come.