Above anything else we all want our children to be happy. We want to help our kids achieve their best as they grow up to be kind and successful adults.
We want them to be the best versions of themselves and live their best lives. Studies have shown that there are some simple things that we can do to help our kids to grow up to be smarter, kinder and happier. And some aren’t what you might expect:
Make them do chores
This one is music to our ears as science says kids who do chores are happier and more successful in later life. I know what you’re probably thinking, quick – hand them a mop!
Getting your child to do chores teaches them a can-do attitude and shows them how important it is to work as a team to get stuff done.
It sets them up for their life at school and beyond – into the workplace. And a Harvard study even backs this up! Read more with our article on why you should make your kids do chores.
Maths is fun
One of the best things you can do to help your child succeed in school and be more successful in their future career is to teach them to love numbers and to be excited about maths from an early age.
A longitudinal study from Northwestern University found that teaching children to love maths generates positive results that last throughout school and into their future lives. Researcher Greg Duncan reported:
Mastery of early math skills predicts not only future math achievement, it also predicts future reading achievement.
A further study found that kids who were taught to be excited about numbers, were more likely to go on to take on leadership roles in their careers.
Teaching your child to love numbers as much as words doesn’t have to be daunting. It’s all about making it fun.
You could show them how much fun it is to count the things they see in everyday life, like showing them how to count out money when you are shopping.
Or you could play one of our counting games like this Sweetie jar counting game with free printables.
And you don’t have to stick with our learning games, there are also a number of great ones online. If you have a search you can find one that’s right for you.
If your child does some great maths work, show them how much you value it by displaying it around the house.
Having their number skills up on the walls and fridge, just as you would their poems and paintings, shows them that it’s something to be proud of.
Don’t underestimate outdoor playtime
A study has found that kids who play outdoors for 5-10 hours a week are happier, more fulfilled and have a more active imagination than those that don’t.
The study from the University of Essex proved just how powerful outdoors play can be for kids. Just 5 minutes ‘green exercise’ can lead to huge improvements in mental wellbeing and self esteem.
Letting your children play outdoors often will make them healthier, happier and more sociable. It’s not hard to understand why.
Getting out into the big outdoors instantly make us all feel a whole lot happier and a whole lot better.
Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors
concluded another study published by the American Medical Association in 2005.
Bring a little more Danish hygge into your lives
The Danes consistently top polls for being the happiest nation in the world. We could all learn a trick or two as parents for bringing our kids up in the Danish way.
One of the big things they do as a family is to bring a little ‘hygge’ into their everyday lives. Pronounced ‘hoo-gah’, hygge is big on fostering togetherness and cosiness into family lives.
It’s all about unplugging from screens, escaping the stresses of day to day life and spending time together.
That might mean snuggling up in front of the fire to read stories, doing a jigsaw together round the table or digging out the sleeping bags and stretching out on the lawn to gaze at the stars.
Hygge involves slowing down and taking steps to enjoy the moment together as a family.
And it makes total sense. In real life it’s all too easy to get caught up in the rat race. We can end up too busy to stop and slow down and spend magical moments together as a family.
But – it’s good for everyone, so if you can, enjoy a little more hygge!
Read, read and read some more
If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales. Albert Einstein
Reading to your child often – preferably daily – can make them smarter and happier.
The benefits of reading to your child and fostering in them a love of reading for pleasure are huge. Read more about just how much difference bedtime stories can make here.
Let them watch Sesame Street
Yes, really. Big Bird and all his friends were some of the first characters who starred in a kid’s TV show that was not only fun but educational.
Countless kids have learned their ABCs, their 123s and a whole host of moral lessons from watching the show.
Of course, nowadays there are so many more TV shows to choose from. Many have an educational slant and prove that sometimes a little screen time can be a good thing.
There are also shows like Horrible Histories for older children, which teach children exciting facts in a fun and often gruesome way that brings them to life more than in a traditional school text book.
Today’s life is really busy and fast paced. It can be all too easy to fill every second of the day with school, clubs and classes and organised activities.
But if you feel things are getting too much why not take your foot off the brakes and slow down a bit? It can help your child feel calmer and happier.
Having every second of the day filled up can make children feel overstimulated. Whereas giving them quiet times can help them feel reset their batteries.
Even allowing children to be bored can help them to spark their imaginations and creativity as they have to come up with their own ways to entertain themselves.
Research shows that letting your children be bored is a good thing and is essential to their mental and emotional development.
Show them how to give back and pay it forward
Caring about others not only benefits you kids but makes you happier too. And there are so many ways you can teach your child to give back.
Whether it’s having a clear out and taking old toys to the charity shop or popping round to an elderly neighbour’s house to see if they need any shopping.
Even just letting your child choose one item of food when you do the weekly shop to pop into the food bank donation box can help.
You can then talk to them about how it helps families who struggle to find enough money to eat, and how it can be a small way of helping others that makes a big difference.
Nurture your own happiness
There’s a reason why, in an emergency, parents are asked to put on their own oxygen masks before putting them on their children. Happy parents have happier children.
And studies back this up. It makes total sense. When we’re run ragged we never perform at our best. And that’s no truer when it comes to parenting.
Carolyn Pape Cowan and Philip Cowan, are husband-and-wife psychologists at the University of California.
They believe that when parents take care to look after their own health and happiness, they not only improve their own mental wellbeing but that of their children.
the children do not fare well if the adults aren’t taking care of themselves and their relationships.
We all want our children to be happy and to do their best.
Each of these 9 ways to help, are things that you can build into your everyday life, little and often.
And they’re not just good for kids, many of these are great for mums and dads too!
You might also like:
- School readiness and later achievement, PubMed.gov
- The Increasing Complementarity between Cognitive and Social Skills, Catherine Weinberger
- Resurrecting Free Play in Young Children, Hillary L. Burdette, MD, MS; Robert C. Whitaker, MD, MPH
- How to raise your kids like a happy, “hygge” Danish parent, Zachary Krueger
- Children who enjoy reading and writing have significantly better mental wellbeing than their peers, National Literacy Trust
- “Somebody Come and Play:” 45 Years of Sesame Street Helping Kids Grow Smarter, Stronger, and Kinder, New York Public Library
- Children Develop Better When You Let Them Be Bored, Psychologists Say, Denise Hill
- Happy Parents Make Happy Kids, Discovery Health