30 Little Things That Mean a Lot to Kids

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

Sometimes, it's the little things that make the biggest impact. This is especially true with children: Getting an extra story at bedtime, being allowed to pick out the family's pizza toppings, or stopping for ice cream on the way home from school may not be a huge deal to you, but it is to your kids.

Kids want to feel special, noticed, cared for, and loved. When you go out of your way to do something extra for them—like putting chocolate chips on their pancakes because they enjoy it—your children are likely to see it as extra confirmation that you love and cherish them. They already know you care, but these moments simply reinforce that truth while giving them ample reason to smile.

Here are 30 easy things you can do to let your children know how much they matter to you.

  1. Wear the macaroni necklaces they make you to work. Or 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 cite it whenever your child feels discouraged.
  3. If you have multiple children, go for a walk with just one of them.
  4. Slip a note (and an occasional piece of chocolate) into their lunch boxes.
  5. Build your own Minecraft world alongside theirs.
  6. Say "yes" to something that's usually off-limits, like sitting on the kitchen counter.
  7. Show as much enthusiasm on amusement park rides as they do.
  8. Give them a bracelet or t-shirt that matches one you have.
  9. When their room looks like a tsunami hit it, close the door and let it go.
  10. Bring them into a video chat with Grandma every now and then.
  11. If they really, truly want to quit the team (and they've given it their best), allow it.
  12. Let your 4-year-old stomp in every puddle they find. Even without rain boots.
  13. Get out the glitter glue and make a birthday card for them.
  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 on the playground before you intervene.
  16. If they are grumpy and tired after school, wait to ask them how it was. You can always get the rundown at the dinner table.
  17. Cultivate rituals and traditions: Taco Tuesdays, Sunday bike rides, apple picking in fall.
  18. Ask your kid to teach you something, then tell them what good teachers they are.
  19. Let your child wear dress-up clothes to the supermarket if they want to.
  20. Let your child overhear you saying something wonderful about them.
  21. Stay up late to see the full moon together (check the Farmer's Almanac for dates).
  22. Print photos of their friends and family so they have something physical to look at every day.
  23. When your kid is upset, let them vent. They have every right to air their feelings.
  24. Cook them heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast.
  25. Crank up some music while they're doing their homework and have a dance party.
  26. Come up with a secret family handshake.
  27. Hang a whiteboard in their room where you can leave messages for one another.
  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 or refilling a water pitcher. They'll appreciate the recognition.
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