The other day I was gathering everything up and ready to head out the door to the grocery store with my two youngest boys when Josiah decided it would be a good time to ask Mommy for a cup of milk.
Since milk was already on the shopping list, and I was kind of in a rush, I grabbed our nearly-empty milk jug from the refrigerator and handed it to my 4-year-old.
“Here you go. Do you want to drink it straight from the jug?”
I figured there wasn’t much left in it, so we’d be throwing the empty container into the recycle box anyway. Plus, I wouldn’t have to get out a cup, and Josiah might have fun with this.
Oh, my goodness! His reaction was adorable.
He gave me a slightly surprised but very excited grin and nod, followed by the best giggle ever – It was equal parts delighted and ornery. Then he proudly chugged down his milk.
My split-second decision, made primarily to save me time and hassle, brought my little guy so much joy that it got me thinking about all the simple, every day ways that we, as parents, can spark joy in our kids.
Now, this isn’t about always giving your kids what they want or thinking that they have to be happy (or happy with you, Mom or Dad) all the time. We all know that our responsibility as their parents is to lovingly teach and train them, and they aren’t always going to be able to have fun or enjoy the process, especially when we have to discipline them.
But with all the hard work of parenting, there are rewards. One of the best parts about parenting, and one that you don’t hear enough about, is that Moms and Dads have the prime opportunity to show their children how to truly enjoy life and celebrate all the good things that God has given us. We get to help them embrace challenges and adventures and watch them grow through them. We are the ones who encourage them to try new things as we nurture and cultivate their senses of humor, their curiosity, and their imagination.
In short, we get to have fun with these little human beings!
And really, they make it easy. They have a natural, God-given desire to explore and discover, and they have an eye for seeing the wondrous and amazing in the common place, every day things around them.
So bringing them little moments of joy usually isn’t hard at all, like letting them drink straight from the milk jug once in a while (and with the understanding that we don’t do it unless we are finishing off the contents!)
HERE ARE SOME OTHER IDEAS FOR BRINGING JOY TO YOUR LITTLE ONES:
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Explore the World & Try New Things
Let them blow those dandelion puff seeds. It’s just plain fun, and it would probably be good for you to pick a couple to blow on, too. You know you want to. (I’ve personally never outgrown it.) Oh, and don’t worry about your lawn. Dandelions are good for the honey bees. 😉
Go through the car wash. Seriously, my boys love this, especially when we go to the “big” one with the big rotating brushes and colorful foam. If you treat something as an adventure, little kids are generally pretty willing to play along.
Also: Have picnics – even just in the backyard or in the middle of the living room, say “yes” to roly polies as pets, encourage them to play in the rain & puddles (when it’s safe, and they are suitably dressed)
Give them the freedoms and independence that you can.
Allow them to pay at the store. Whether they are buying something with their birthday money, or you hand them the cash to give to the cashier during a grocery run, children feel rather grown up when they get to do “big people” things. They love that.
Similarly, giving little children the freedom to pick out their own clothes – and not making them change unless absolutely necessary – is guaranteed to bring them joy. It might just give you a laugh or two, as well. 🙂 Josiah adores “fun” socks, and I’ve learned to just forget about whether they actually match his clothes or not. Sometimes he does well; other times his outfits are awesome in a totally different way. (This also applies to shopping for clothes, too.)
Another “free to choose” thing that my boys love is when I give them the chance to pick what kind of cookies we’ll bake. And then they get to help me in the kitchen. Whether they are just dumping in the ingredients after I’ve measure them out, or Elijah is stirring oatmeal on the stove (supervised), letting kids lend a hand with meal (or goodie) prep is not only fun (forget the mess, make the memories), but it’s teaching them a valuable life skill.
Don’t Be Afraid to Be Silly
Have a spontaneous dance party. For us, that usually means while I’m doing dishes, folding laundry, or doing some other always-present household chore that I can do with a few turns, wiggles, and flourishes. I’ll turn on my Amazon Prime Music, and my boys will break out their moves. ( Try Amazon Music Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial)
Also: Go through the closets and create silly costumes. Or use old make-up (or Dollar Store finds) for face paint fun. Start a water gun / water balloon fight. Become the “tickle monster.” Share jokes.
Give them the paper towel tube. Or an empty box. Some leftover scraps of fabric. My boys will fight over these things because they can use them to either pretend with or make a craft. Kids love to create, even if they don’t have an end product in mind, so give them things they can cut, paste, and color however they want.
Also: Show them how to play the spoons. Shoot video of them doing a pretend commercial or newscast or have them put on a theatrical production.
These are just some things that I know bring a smile to my boys’ faces, but you know your children best. Find out what puts a twinkle in their eyes, and do that.
And, yes, while some of these ideas probably won’t work as well when my guys get older, I think the same main principles will still apply. Hopefully by that time we’ve established a tradition of enjoying time together and being able to celebrate simple things as a family.
“As a family” is the key because if you notice, nearly everything on the list above requires your interaction or presence. Nothing will bring your children joy like spending time with Mommy and Daddy.
And I’m pretty sure that nothing will bring you greater joy than being with them, too!