12/31/2012 02:26 pm ET Updated Mar 02, 2013

2013 Resolutions: REAP What Ye Shall Sow!


When we were children, the biggest gift our parents could give us was their attention. "Watch me!" was an oft-repeated phrase, whether it was jumping off the diving board or riding our two-wheel bike. Nowadays, with everyone on their phone/iPod/iPad /DVD/video game, there is less of an opportunity for kids to interact with us and gain our attention. In 2013, we can resolve to spend more time with our kids and we can even initiate it! Here is a mnemonic to help us all remember that it's all about the interaction: REAP.

Think REAP because the time you spend with your kids now will pay off in the future. Here's what REAP stands for:

1. Reduce!
No, not weight. Let's reduce Josh and Liz's time on electronic media. How wonderful would it be if instead of turning on another video, we asked them to help set the table/make those cookies/draw us a picture of their dream bedroom? Couch potatoes have reduced imagination and read less than kids who aren't on e-toys and screens as much. Reading helps kids do better in school. Find fun alternatives to e-toys and screens! Let's read together and act out a book. Make a diorama using a little box. Go to a park! Go ice skating! Let's DO something -- Josh and Liz will get exercise, sleep better -- and we will too.

2. Explain!
All kids are confused. Remember that time when Marina wanted to understand WHY and we said we'd talk about it later because we were right in the middle of ____ [fill in the blank.] This is our chance to talk with our kids! To have real conversations with Marina about real topics that interest her! And when we explain how something works -- whether it's what makes cars go or why our neighbor uses a walker or what we did with our siblings when we were kids -- we are feeding our children's vocabulary and knowledge of the world, things that matter for Marina's success in school. Explaining why we don't stare at people in wheelchairs and taking Marina's questions seriously implicitly conveys our values. Lecturing? That goes out the window because we meet kids where their interests are and help them understand right from wrong.

3. Air!
Baby it's cold outside! Who wants to go out? We do! 6-year-old Elliott needs a walk; we know that because he is running around the house like a madman. Let's bundle up and head out, again using our creativity to spark learning and fun. We can ask Elliott where the animals all go when it's cold. Do the birds have houses in Florida like Nanny and Poppy? Do the squirrels use umbrellas when it rains? Do the bugs have apartments underground? Make it up! Have fun! Let's grow our kids' imaginations with crazy stories and then look up "the facts" [to be said in a deep and respectful voice] with them when we get home. And don't forget to run and jump. Good for Elliott and for us!

4. Play!
Consider all those new toys and games Allison and Jordan received for the holidays. Our kids are always begging us to join in their play but we have work/dishes/laundry to do. Imagine if we surprised our kids and asked THEM to play one of their new games! They'd be thrilled. And we would be modeling good sportsmanship -- something they can easily pick up from us as they watch us graciously taking turns and cheering happily for the winner. Think wacky; what would we have liked to do as kids? Imagine how thrilled they would be if we asked our kids to tell a group story while everyone lies on the floor, eyes closed, in a circle holding hands in the dark. Come up with a sentence to start it with. Maybe something like, "It was a cold dark night and..." let everyone add a sentence as everyone helps repeat what has already been said. This kind of play fuels imagination, memory, and vocabulary.

Think REAP for 2013. The time and attention we give our kids now will return with interest! We wish all our readers and their families a healthy, happy, and playful new year! The research tells us that smarter, more imaginative, and better-adjusted kids result from REAP practices -- and they build wonderful memories too.