30 Little Things That Mean a Lot to Kids

While these gestures may seem trivial to adults, they go a long way with your little ones. Here are a few easy tricks to make your child smile.

Sometimes, it's the little things that make the most impact. This is especially true with children. Small details like getting that extra story at bedtime, being allowed to pick the pizza toppings, or stopping for an ice cream cone on the way home make not seem like a big deal for parents, but to kids, these gestures can mean so much.

Kids want to feel special, noticed, cared for, and loved. So, when you do extra little things that aren't really needed, like putting chocolate chips in their pancakes just because, your child is likely to see those gestures as extra proof of your love and how important they are to you. Of course, they already know you love them, but these moments simply reinforce that truth while giving them ample reason to smile.

Here are 30 little things you can do to make your child smile and show them how much you love them.

  1. Wear that macaroni necklace to work. Well, at least until you're safely out the door.
  2. Tape a family mantra or slogan ("Unstoppable!" "We can, we will!" "We've got this!") to your refrigerator door and invoke it whenever your child feels discouraged.
  3. Go for a walk with just one child.
  4. Slip a note (and an occasional piece of chocolate) into their lunch box.
  5. Build your own Minecraft world alongside theirs.
  6. Say "yes" to something usually off-limits, like sitting on the counter.
  7. Show as much enthusiasm on amusement-park rides as they do.
  8. If you and your partner quarrel in front of your child, make sure that they also see you make up.
  9. When their room looks like a tsunami swept through it, close the door and get on with your day.
  10. Video chat with Grandma every now and then.
  11. If your child has given it a good try, but they're still miserable and anxious and really, truly want to quit the team, give them your blessing.
  12. Go ahead: Let your 4-year-old stomp in every puddle along the way. Even without rain boots.
  13. Get out the glitter glue and make a birthday card for your child.
  14. Take in a pet that needs a home—and a child's love.
  15. Give your toddler a chance to fight their own battles in the sandbox or on the playground before you intervene.
  16. Hold off with the barrage of how-was-your-day questions if your child comes home from school grumpy and tired. You can always get the rundown at the dinner table.
  17. Cultivate your own rituals and traditions: Taco Tuesdays, Sunday-afternoon bike rides, apple picking every fall.
  18. Ask your kid to teach you how to do something. And once you get the hang of it, be sure to tell him what a good teacher they are.
  19. Let your child wear their dress-up clothes to the supermarket or all month if they want to.
  20. Let your child overhear you saying something wonderful about them.
  21. Stay up late to see the full moon. Check the Farmer's Almanac together to see when the next one will be.
  22. Print their childhood photos so they have something physical to look at one day.
  23. Don't be in a hurry to tell your kid to let it go. They need to vent, too.
  24. Cook heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast.
  25. Crank up the music in the middle of homework and have a dance party.
  26. Make a secret family handshake.
  27. Hang a whiteboard in their room to leave messages for each other.
  28. Start a pillow fight.
  29. Share your old diaries, photos, and letters from when you were their age.
  30. Thank your child when they do a chore on their own—even if it's just hanging up a wet towel without prompting or refilling the empty water pitcher.
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