We all want our kids to be healthy, strong, kind and capable. Mostly, though, we want them to be happy. And yet in our quest to raise happy children we often overlook the simplest ingredients of a happy childhood. So, what makes kids happy? It’s not the latest gadget or digital device. It doesn’t cost money and it can’t be downloaded. It is pure and it is instinctive. Happiness is found in play.
Here is a list of 15 innate things that, all the world over, kids enjoy.
1. Top of the list has to be jumping in muddy puddles. The sound of gumboots sloshing in water, along with shrieks of pure joy. This simple, pure act incites sheer delight.
2. Building, designing and creating. It may not be blocks or Lego, but kids can create extraordinary things from scraps of paper, cardboard boxes and pipe cleaners. Imagination is ignited.
3. Why walk when you can skip, run, climb and roll? Kids love moving! Watching your child roll down a grassy hill is to witness thrill, elation and achievement all at once.
4. Nature. The ultimate source of eternal happiness for children. Watching a snail play hide and seek in its shell. Observing a ladybird on a leaf. Counting the legs on a millipede. Give your kids a magnifying glass to see nature up close. This helps teach them about perspective and seeing the world differently.
5. Rainbows. The way children’s eyes light up in wonder at the sight of a glorious, awe striking rainbow. And it’s double the magic when it’s a double display.
6. Sifting, stirring, whisking. And, of course, licking the bowl. Give your child a stool and a spatula and surrender to the mess. Kids love helping in the kitchen.
7. Messy play. Cutting, pasting, drawing and painting. And glitter… oh how they love glitter (unfortunately!)
8. Sand. At the beach or in a sandpit. Give a kid a bucket, spade and some water and sandcastles are just the beginning.
9. Role-playing. Where imagination flourishes. Kids can create an entire narrative around make-believe play. Playing mums and dad is a traditional favourite amongst all kids; it is not only fun for kids but very revealing for parents too!
10. Dancing. Whatever the music, all kids love to dance and they love it if you’re involved too.
11. The great outdoors: Making mud pies, digging up worms and creating daisy chains. Collecting and gathering leaves, pinecones, flowers, stones, shells, seaweed, or dandelions, nature trails are an endless source for child-led discoveries.
12. Making music. Empty your kitchen cupboards of pots, pans and wooden spoons and let them create their own symphony. *May not have the lasting endurance of other activities depending on your volume tolerance.
13. Climbing a tree. Not only is this fun but it’s a fabulous way for children to test their boundaries and build confidence. A child who has climbed a tree for the first time and discovered the perfect little nook will have a smile on their face from ear to ear.
14. Wheelbarrow rides. Cue: squeals of unrivalled delight. In a child’s world it doesn’t get much more fun than a rickety wheelbarrow adventure!
15. Cuddles. No explanation needed.
No parent needs a PhD in how to makes kids happy.
Happiness really is, child’s play.
* Here’s a little video of my kids enjoying most of these simple pleasure. Enjoy!
What else would you add to this list?