What makes kids happy?

We  all want our kids to be healthy, strong, kind and capable.  Mostly, though, we want them to be happy. And yet in our quest to raise happy children we often overlook the simplest ingredients of a happy childhood. So, what makes kids happy? It’s not the latest gadget or digital device. It doesn’t cost money and it can’t be downloaded. It is pure and it is instinctive. Happiness is found in play.

Here is a list of 15 innate  things that, all the world over, kids enjoy.

1. Top of the list has to be jumping in muddy puddles. The sound of gumboots sloshing in water, along with shrieks of pure joy. This simple, pure act incites sheer delight.

2. Building, designing and creating. It may not be blocks or Lego, but kids can create extraordinary things from scraps of paper, cardboard boxes and pipe cleaners. Imagination is ignited.

3. Why walk when you can skip, run, climb and roll? Kids love moving! Watching your child roll down a grassy hill is to witness thrill, elation and achievement all at once.

4. Nature. The ultimate source of eternal happiness for children. Watching a snail play hide and seek in its shell. Observing a ladybird on a leaf. Counting the legs on a millipede. Give your kids a magnifying glass to see nature up close. This helps teach them about perspective and seeing the world differently.

5. Rainbows. The way children’s eyes light up in wonder at the sight of a glorious, awe striking rainbow. And it’s double the magic when it’s a double display.

6. Sifting, stirring, whisking. And, of course, licking the bowl. Give your child a stool and a spatula and surrender to the mess. Kids love helping in the kitchen.

7. Messy play. Cutting, pasting, drawing and painting. And glitter… oh how they love glitter (unfortunately!)

8. Sand. At the beach or in a sandpit. Give a kid a bucket, spade and some water and sandcastles are just the beginning.

9. Role-playing. Where imagination flourishes. Kids can create an entire narrative around make-believe play. Playing mums and dad is a traditional favourite amongst all kids; it is not only fun for kids but very revealing for parents too!

10. Dancing. Whatever the music, all kids love to dance and they love it if you’re involved too.

11. The great outdoors: Making mud pies, digging up worms and creating daisy chains. Collecting and gathering leaves, pinecones, flowers, stones, shells, seaweed, or dandelions, nature trails are an endless source for child-led discoveries.

12. Making music. Empty your kitchen cupboards of pots, pans and wooden spoons and let them create their own symphony. *May not have the lasting endurance of other activities depending on your volume tolerance.

13. Climbing a tree. Not only is this fun but it’s a fabulous way for children to test their boundaries and build confidence. A child who has climbed a tree for the first time and discovered the perfect little nook will have a smile on their face from ear to ear.

14. Wheelbarrow rides. Cue: squeals of unrivalled delight. In a child’s world it doesn’t get much more fun than a rickety wheelbarrow adventure!

15. Cuddles. No explanation needed.

No parent needs a PhD in how to makes kids happy.

Happiness really is, child’s play.

* Here’s a little video of my kids enjoying most of these simple pleasure. Enjoy!

What else would you add to this list? 

A Garden-themed birthday party for a 4-year-old girl

Four years ago, on the thirteenth day in September, as nature burst into new life and the Jasmine flowers bloomed, my “Miss J” was born. It wasn’t a lovely labour – you can read about it here – but when she was placed in my arms I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Another girl. Another healthy baby. Another life full of possibility. A sister for Miss A. A second daughter for us and a tribe of cousins ready to meet her.

We had shortlisted our girl names but hadn’t yet decided on the “the one.” It’s tempting to say we wanted to wait to see her to name her, but the truth is we simply couldn’t make up our minds. We liked three girls’ names equally. It was my husband who named her shortly after her arrival. “I think she looks like a J,” he said. He was right. She was small, delicate and oh-so-pretty. That she should be named after a Spring flower, the scent of which makes me happy, seemed perfect. And so, “Miss J” she became. (more…)

‘Me time': Why you need it and how to get more of it

IMG_2964

Modern life is fast and furious. We are overcommitted, overscheduled and over-connected. Most of us are working long hours, managing a family and social obligations, and trying to fit in exercise, errands, and all the other activities of modern life.

The majority of parents feel like they don’t have enough time for themselves, but mothers are especially burdened by this feeling. Whether you are working inside or outside the home, being a mother means making adjustments, compromises and sacrifices every day. Often, “me time” is made up of what scraps are leftover at the end of the day. I wrote this article recently about being in a state of mothering burnout. It resonated with so many women, partly because we women tend to overlook their own needs.

Taking time out for yourself is not indulgent; it is critical, but it doesn’t come easily.  The good news,as I have discovered, is it gets easier with practice. Here are four tips to help you get some of the often elusive, yet all-important, “me time.”

1. Give yourself permission to prioritise yourself

Motherhood is an extremely draining role so it’s crucial to engage in something that is just for you. No one else is going to do this for you so only you can make it happen. It’s not going to come from your 3-year-old or your teenager for that matter. If you’re lucky your partner will be on board but really the only person who can make this shift is you. Prioritising yourself will pay dividends for the whole family. It’s not selfish and it’s not a luxury – it’s a necessity. Being healthy and happy in yourself has direct benefits for your children and at work.

2. Schedule regular “me time”

No mother “finds” time for herself. She must make time for herself. Mothers excel at scheduling their children’s activities but often neglect their own. Just as you have to make plans to get your kids to kinder ballet, gymbaroo, or Auskick, you need to apply the same planning to your own needs. If it’s not planned for, and allocated a time slot, it will never happen. Mothers are quick to dismiss themselves, declaring, “there’s simply no time in the day.” While there may not be a lot of free time, there are always pockets of time you can create. It won’t just land in your lap; you need to priorities, plan and execute.

Once a week I drag my tired body out of bed and go for a run before my husband goes to work. And once a week he gets home early so I can do an evening yoga class. On weekends, we adopt the “divide and conquer” rule. While it’s lovely to spend time together on weekends, it’s often the only time when hubby can take the girls off for a couple of hours, allowing me essential replenishment time. I take it where and when I can get it!

3. Choose where you invest your energy wisely

It’s important to recognise the areas of your life zapping you of energy that could be better directed at yourself. We are all obligated to others – that comes with being a part of a family, community or school. But it’s essential to be involved in things that inflate us rather than deflate us. You will know if a particular commitment is becoming a burden. It’s the one that you dread attending and the one that gives little back. Listen to how you feel and protect your energy by saying no when you need to.

I find if I am over-committed it has knock-on effect in all areas of my life. I become unmotivated to write, and less motivated to parent. Instead, I need space from people and activities. It’s how I recharge. These quiet moments to re-energise are actually vital to my performance as a mother.

4. Connect/Reconnect with something you love

With so much time being invested into the family, mothers often find they no longer have any hobbies. This is certainly how I felt until I found a new hobby and reconnected with an old one. It’s easy to say, “I really enjoyed Pilates before having children”, or “I’d love to learn a new language,” but this is a defeatist attitude. While certain sacrifices are unavoidable when kids come along, it’s critical we don’t forsake everything. And “me time” becomes easy when you’re engaged in something you love.

“Me time” looks different for everyone. The beauty of me time is it can take on many forms. Perhaps it’s an afternoon of indulgence, a lazy brunch with girlfriends, or a book and a picnic rug in the park. Identify what makes you feel happy, and then make it happen. And most importantly, enjoy it. Guilt free.

Do you have regular “me time”? What is your ideal way to take time out from work & family commitments?

*First published on Women’s Agenda

My blog turns 2 – elk giveaway up for grabs

Birthday

Birthdays are great fun aren’t they? They are an opportunity for reflection, contemplation and, of course, celebration! For little people, birthdays are filled with intense anticipation, excitement and promise – promise of cake!

When your first baby turns one parents usually celebrate but it’s as much for the adults as it is for the child. At such a young age but they don’t really get into it. They have little concept of what the fuss is all about. And as every parents knows, they’re much more excited by the wrapping paper than what is inside. But by the time the second birthday rolls around they are much more attuned to what’s going on, notably, that the day is ALL ABOUT THEM! (more…)

The pros and cons of being a routine parent

IMG_7021Before I became a parent I was very spontaneous. I once quit my job and flew to Italy to surprise my sister on her 30th birthday. Once there, after the celebrations, I impulsively extended my trip and travelled on to Switzerland and Turkey. It was spontaneous fun! In my early years of marriage, weekends were filled with similar spontaneity; day drives out of town, spur of the moment social outings and many spontaneous Sunday sessions at the pub. Although do they classify as “spontaneous” when you just happen to end up in a beer garden every weekend?

Being a parent and spontaneity don’t sit easily together, at least not for me anyway. When Miss A was born I read Robin Barker’s famed Baby Love, in which she extols the virtues of routines for babies. It seemed to make sense and Miss A easily adapted into a routine. I fed every 3-4 hours, she slept for another 3, and so the cycle continued. This structure held appeal for me, too. I liked knowing what was coming next. I liked being in control, and routines make you feel supremely in control. (more…)

A tale about lingerie and a fabulous giveaway

Image
New motherhood brings both emotional and physical changes.  It involves new beginnings and abrupt endings. Sleep, spontaneity and sex are likely to come to a screeching halt! But perhaps one of the biggest adjustments is the changes to a woman’s body following pregnancy and childbirth. (more…)