5 Little Things You Do for Your Kids That Make a Big Difference

Find a spot for your "Parent of the Year" trophy because the small things you do daily really make a big difference.

From sleepless nights and tantrums to dealing with tweens and teens, being a parent can is a lot. Scratch that: It can be overwhelming. But while you may feel like you're flailing and failing, the things you do today can make a big difference, in your child's life and your relationship with them. Here are five little things you can do—particularly with little kids—to make an impact.

parent and child eating snacks together
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1. Play Make-Believe With Books.

If you own an Elf on the Shelf, you know the power that pretend can have on kids. It helps with their emotional and social learning and may impact their reading too, finds a study from Japan. So grab some stuffies, fake food, or action figures and play pretend. You'll get quality time with your kiddo and they'll learn how to take turns, share responsibility, and creatively problem-solve.

2. Get Your Cuddle On.

Contrary to what some Facebook friends may say, you can't spoil your baby by holding them 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 they need 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 filter 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 family photo album ever.

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