What really matters to kids? Maybe what we think matters doesn't really matter at all. Kids value simplicity more than we know. They are not so complicated.
What matters to them is spending time together, at least when they are young and if we want them to value time with us later we ought to value time with them now, when it matters.
To a child what matters is that they are loved unconditionally and accepted just as they are. They need to know that although they are not perfect, they are perfectly loved by you.
Does it matter whether the floors are hardwood or ceramic? No. What really matters is that if they spill something they won't get yelled at and condemned. They need to know that they mean more than the floors and accidents happen because no one is perfect.
Does it matter if you get a child a $3 bike from the thrift store or a $120 bike brand new? No. What matters is you going bike riding with them. Riding the $3 bike to the local school yard or around the neighborhood with you means the world to them.
Does it matter if you buy kids the best of everything? No. What matters is teaching them by actions that the best things in life are free. They enjoy taking nature walks, going to the beach, having a book read to them, or telling them a story at bath time.
Does it matter if children have lots of electronic gadgets? No. What matters is that you play and laugh with them. They won't care if it's a simple game of tic-tac-toe, checkers or hide-n-seek, they want to have fun with you.
I have seen it constantly with my children. I get them new markers to draw with, they are happy with that but it always comes to "can you color with us?. Sheesh, I got the markers to keep them busy. Not enough, they want time.
I get the dvd they have been asking for. What do you think they ask for next? "Can you watch it with us?". I fix them lunch and plan to check my email, they say "are you going to eat with us?" Need I go on? The common thread here "with us".
The lesson I am learning is that children equate love with time and there's no getting around it. They don't really want all the trappings that stuff has to offer. They want our attention, acceptance and love. They want our time because taking time says they are important to us.
A bunch of expensive stuff is just a cheap substitute for the real thing called love!