The more people who love a child the better off they are. That's why aunts and uncles are so important. When moms and dads are too busy to do some of the extras that kids enjoy, like a trip to the zoo, a walk in the park , a game of checkers or (oh, help) Monopoly, that's when you as an aunt or uncle can shine and make their lives a little sunnier.

At a women's conference one of the speakers said, "I've never married, I have no children, but I have 20 nieces and nephews! And I adore them. They are a light in my life." Seeing her enthusiasm carried a powerful message. We could only imagine how lucky those nieces and nephews are to have someone like her in their lives.

A friend of ours posted this on her Facebook page recently: "Best Sunday in a while: classifying various screams as either velociraptor, nazgul or slagathore* with an 11-month-old, ballet with a 4-year-old, Spongebob and Xbox Kinnect with a 6-year-old, drawing penguins with a 7-year-old, passing notes with a 9-year-old (wait - maybe he's 10 - I can't keep track of their ages). Yup - nieces and nephews are officially the best people on the planet."

Here are 10 things you can do to show your nieces and nephews how important they are to you:

Remember their birthdays

You don't have to buy gifts, unless you want to, but a birthday card with a loving message of how proud of them you are can mean a lot.

Give them a call

It's fun for kids to receive a personal call from an adult, especially an adult they love. All you need to do is say you're thinking of them, then ask them what happened at school or play that day. Just listening and commenting with an occasional "Wow! That must have been fun (or hard)" will do the trick. They will love that you care enough to listen.

Invite them to a concert or a fascinating museum exhibit

That only has to happen once in a blue moon for them to feel special. Exposing children to exceptional talent can spark their interest in the arts.

Take them for a walk or a drive and tell them about an experience in your life when you overcame a difficult situation

Knowing what you've gone through can help them conquer their fears and challenges.

If you live out of town, write them letters

Just one every month or so can help them feel that you love and care about them. A woman told about letters she received from an aunt that helped her want to live better and accomplish more in life. Just reading about her aunt's experiences helped her want to be like her.

Give them undivided attention

An overwhelmed mother of a mentally disabled child told how she appreciated the love her brother showed to her child. She said, "My daughter always felt like this uncle really loved her, and still does many years later. What did he do? He paid attention to her when he would visit the family. He looked at pictures she colored and praised her. He held her on his lap and told her a story or two. He hugged her and told her she was pretty. She loved visits from this uncle.

Show up

Showing up at a recital or a soccer game they're in can put a big smile on their faces. When someone cares that much it means the world to a kid. It doesn't mean you have to be to everything, just to some events some of the time. While you're there, take pictures and be sure you're in some of them with the child. Then print a few favorites and mail them to the child with a note that says how much you love them and are proud of them.

Share a word of counsel

A woman fondly remembers a conversation she had with her aunt when she was just a budding teenager. Her aunt, a person with an indisputable happy attitude, said, "You need to smile more. People love to be around people who are happy and nothing shows that more than a smile." She even suggested that her niece practice smiling in front of a mirror so she could perfect her best smile. The girl did it, and it made a huge difference in her ability to make friends after that. What a gift from a caring aunt.

Pray for them

Let them know you're praying for them. They may not think their own prayers are being heard, but because of the love and respect they have for you, they're certain God will hear your prayers in their behalf. That can be very comforting, no matter the age of the child, even when they become adults. We all need that kind of love and caring.

Hug them and tell them you love them

These tender gestures can make a big difference and they will remember this interaction their whole lives. In this crazy world, children need all the love they can get.

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