Happy New Year!
Here we are perched at the top of another year. Put your hands up and get ready for the roller coaster ride of 2018.

Over the holiday break I was looking at pictures of my kids from over the years. I flipped through books and my 2 1/2 year old son with his bowl cut and apple pie face and my little girl with her big blue eyes and crazy mop af tangles both stared back at me, and I was astounded by how quickly they grow. As the parent of a now middle school student and a high school student, i look back and wonder, "Where does the time go?".

When I was a kid those "old people" in my life would talk about how the older you get the faster time flies, and I used to think they were crazy. Now, I am that "old person" saying the same thing. I finally get it. Time is precious.

In light of that I say, you only get so much time while they are young and you need to make the most of it. You can start right now regardless of how young or old your children are. Here are some helpful hints on how to make a difference in your child's life and education. It remains true that you are your child's first and most important teacher.

1. Play games together. From Candy Land to Yahtzee it doesn't matter. So many valuable lessons both academic and lifelong are learned while playing games. Kids learn how to work together as a team, complete mental calculations, count, read, and lose. Yes I said it, lose. Don't let your child win just because they are younger than you and you don't want to hear them cry. They have to learn how to lose well. They have to be taught this. And eventually you will get to show them this by example when they beat you. You can also show them by example how to be a gracious winner.

2. Read together. When they are young you read to them, but as they get older let them read to you. Just spending time together reading is a great way to build their skills. The more kids read, the better they get. Keep reading picture books even when they are older. Kids of all ages love a good picture book. It is the best way to be able to discuss the setting and characters, the problem and solution, and not have to wait for weeks to finish a story.

3. Watch television interactively together. I could tell you to not let your child watch tv, but let's get real. What I am saying is, be involved in what is being watched by your children. Make sure it is age appropriate and then discuss it together. This will help your child critically think and problem solve. Ask them character, setting, problem and solution questions for movies and sitcoms. Discuss current events if you are watching the news or news article type shows. Ask "What if" questions. For example "What would you do if ..." Don't let the televesion raise your child without you.

4. Spend some one on one time with each child. I doesn't have to be something fancy. Have them ride with you to the grocery store and take that alone time together to discuss how they are and what is going on in their life. Avoid asking questions that can be answered with: yes, no, fine, and I don't know.

5. Teach your child the skills they need to be an adult and on their own in the world. That can be letting them hand you tools while you explain step by step how to install a new car battery. It can be letting them be your assistant chef while you cook dinner. Then begin letting them do more and more while you assist them. They need to be equipped to live in this world. Who better to teach them than you? By the way, I can change a flat tire and make a mean chili. Thanks mom and dad!

6. Take an interest in what interests them. You might have to kill a few zombies, but hey it's for a worthy cause. You may not get why they want to build robots out of legos or stare at birds for hours on end, but they will be thrilled to tell you all about it.

7. Do someting creative together. That could be designing and building the ultimate fort. It could be poking holes in and building worlds out of play dough. It could be getting out paper, glue, brick a brack, glitter, and making something wonderful with it. If you haven't checked out Pinterest, you should. It is where creative people reign as kings and queens. Whenever I compliment anybody on almost anything they say, "Oh, I saw it on Pinterest."

I could go on forever. You can do an exhaustive Google search and find thousands of ideas on how to spend time with your children but I am going to leave you with this, "Just Do It!" Nike has made millions from this slogan and ad campaign. Its message is simple, but profound. Just spend time with your children. Talk to them and most importantly listen to them.