There is nothing quite like seeing a smile light up a child’s face or hearing a laugh that rocks them from head to toe. Children experience happiness as they discover, create and encounter the world around them. As adults in these special little people’s lives, we have the privilege of helping to create joy in their everyday. No matter the gender or age of the child or teen you hold close to your heart, there are simple ways each day that you can invest in them, delight them and keep them smiling.
1. Lunchbox Notes
For those who still take lunches to school, finding a few words between their sandwich and fruit will surely brighten their day. Use colorful pens or paper cut into creative shapes to personalize your words. Small, quick and simple, it will remind them they are cared for and may be just what they need to get through their day.
2. Joy Jar
In a world with so much negativity, it’s important to seek out the bright spots. Placing a jar in a key area where everyone can jot down something positive about their day or week (and then share them or leave them to read until later) goes a long way to creating an optimistic atmosphere. Seeing and focusing on the good around them affects kids’ attitudes and outlooks and helps them to continue that trend.
3. Mirror Messages
All you need for this kind gesture is a dry-erase marker. Leave a sweet, encouraging or funny note on their bathroom (or bedroom) mirror to wake up to or to return to at the end of the day. Since they're easy to wipe off, these can be changed quickly and frequently to recognize a birthday, encourage them through a challenging situation or just remind them of how awesome they are.
4. Living Room Picnics
Who doesn’t love a picnic? You don’t have to eat at the table every day; breaking up the usual monotony is fun! Grab a blanket, use disposable plates and utensils to cut down on cleanup, and have the laid-back, relaxed feeling of a picnic right on your living room floor as your kids delight and relish in this simple change of routine.
5. Table Talk
Communication is everything, so leave the electronic devices charging in another room and actually talk with one another during dinner. If you breeze through the daily updates and news quickly or get stuck on topics to discuss, type up or write a list of questions, hot topics or open-ended thoughts, cut them into strips, and place them in a bowl in the center of the table. Then take turns pulling one out, having everyone answer the question or give their opinions and ideas. You’ll learn a lot about one another, hopefully laugh a little, and have a good conversation.
Make a playlist of your kids' favorite songs. Have it playing when you pick them up from soccer practice, while they are doing their ever-dreaded chores, or just because it’s a great soundtrack for a midweek family dance party. Knowing that you pay attention to what they like and play music they enjoy will boost their spirits.
7. Date Days
It doesn’t matter if they are 5 or 15, setting aside specific one-on-one time, where you don’t have distractions of other siblings or to-do lists, works wonders for your kids' heart, soul, mind and relationship with you. Younger kids may be more excited about this than the “cool” teen, but teenagers value and crave time like this even if they don’t express it. It doesn’t matter if it’s only once a month; take them out to do something they enjoy where you can zone in to their world and connect with them: a movie, an arcade, window shopping, a cooking or art class, putt-putt, a petting zoo, go-cart racing, a sporting event, a concert, fishing, a pedicure—you get the idea! Plus, this provides a priceless teachable moment. Model a “good date.” Show them how they should expect to be treated when someone takes them out and how they should treat someone they take out.
8. Create Birthday Week
This can be as extravagant or as simple as you choose, but every kid will love celebrating their birthday for an entire week. Make each day leading up to their birthday special in some way: a present, a new outfit, their favorite meal, breakfast in bed, a “Get out of Chores” coupon, an activity of their choice—the possibilities are endless! Then on the day of their birthday, have their bedroom door decorated with balloons or signs, sing “Happy Birthday” with a breakfast cupcake or have a special treat delivered to them at school or work, and end it with a party!
Go on an imaginary adventure. Create their “perfect world.” Plan the future. Dream up a vacation. Spend the lottery or inheritance money you surprisingly receive. Come up with new, ridiculous and silly rules or laws. Generate new ideas for a TV show, movie or book. Make up new animals by combining ones that exist and giving them new names. Design their ideal outfit, room or car. Explore new planets or the depths of the ocean. Spending time being creative and letting your imaginations run together is an inexpensive, enriching and incredibly entertaining activity.