Find a spot for your “Mom of the Year” trophy because it’s all the small things you do daily that make the biggest difference.
1. Play make-believe with books.
If you own an Elf on the Shelf, you know the power that pretend can have on kids’ behavior. It may impact their reading, too, finds a study from Japan. Tots dropped their fave stuffed animals at a library for a “sleepover.” The stuffies then “hunted” for books to read, while the staff took pics of them to later show the kids. Afterward, the kids were more into books and even started “reading” to their stuffed animals.
2. Get your cuddle on.
Contrary to what some Facebook friends may say, you can’t spoil your baby by holding her too much, finds a study in Applied Developmental Science. Researchers surveyed more than 600 adults and found that those who’d gotten extra physical affection and support from their parents during childhood were more likely to be happy and compassionate adults, and less likely to be anxious.
3. Take a va—or stay!—cation.
Family trips are good for a child’s emotional well-being long after they end, finds British research. Many of the study participants said they looked back on those memories to get them through hard times. “They act as ‘happiness anchors,’ and we reflect on them in darker moments to find relief,” says study author John McDonald, director of the Family Holiday Association. No fancy trips needed—it’s not about what you do, but that you’re together away from home.
4. Trade a time-out for a time-in.
Give your child the attention he needs, and you may not have to resort to as many time-outs, says Meghan Walls, Psy.D., a pediatric psychologist in Wilmington, Delaware. It can be as simple as chatting before bed or including your kid in cooking (even 2-year olds can get the eggs). Just 10 minutes a day of this one-on one time reinforces good behavior and sets up a healthy relationship between the two of you, which decreases teen risk for mental-health issues and drug abuse.
5. Use your selfie stick together.
Whether you’re trying out a hilarious Snapchat effect (puppy filter FTW) or capturing a sweet cuddle session, taking smiling selfies often promotes happiness and a positive self-perception, found a small study in Psychology of Well-Being. You’ll both get the benefits and have the best mommy-and-me photo album ever.