40+ Quick & Simple Ways to Brighten Your Child’s Day

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Inside: A list of 40+ easy ways to brighten your child’s day today.

Before I had children, I felt very confused whenever I’d encounter a grouchy kid.

What’s there to be grumpy about? I’d wonder. Childhood seems like all roses and butterflies to me!

That mindset (along with everything else!) changed dramatically upon becoming a parent myself. Now I’m better able to see things from the perspective of a little one. Yes, there are many roses and butterflies, but there are also big challenges too:

Like the fact that the entire world is brand new, which is both exciting and terrifying.

Or that their bodies and brains are constantly learning, developing, growing, and changing. That’s hard work!

Not to mention their parents keep imposing silly rules like no ice cream for breakfast, the logic of which they can’t quite grasp yet. But Mom, it’s so yummy!

Being a kid is not always easy, so it’s natural and expected for them to feel down in the dumps sometimes. But there are lots of ways we can offer our kids a fun pick-me-up, and they don’t require a ton of time, energy, or money.

40 Quick & Simple Ways to Brighten Your Child's Day

40+ Quick & Simple Ways to Brighten Your Child’s Day

1. Tell them a joke.

2. Have a family dance party.

3. Get them outside. Even ten minutes of fresh air can positively impact a person’s mood. (This is true for both children and adults.)

4. Surprise them with a special meal or snack. Here are a bunch of funny examples.

5. Play a physical game—anything that will get them moving. Simon Says, Freeze Tag, and Hot Potato are easy options.

6. Blow up some balloons.

7. Draw them a picture or make them a card (just like they do for you!).

8. Play a board or card game with them. If you’re strapped for time, try just a few rounds of tic tac toe.


9. Make something together—a block tower, a Lego set, a batch of cookies, anything.

10. Tell them you love them in an unusual way.

11. Give them undivided attention for 10 minutes.

12. Do something silly with their toys. (Think Elf on the Shelf-style antics.)

13. Put a note in their lunch box.

14. Offer them a gentle hug. Don’t pull away before they do. 

15. Sit out random art supplies and give no direction. Allow for freedom to create at will.

16. Clear their schedule for a day or an evening.

17. Read a book together, no matter how old they are.

18. Leave fun post-it notes for them to stumble upon. Try the bathroom mirror, on their pillow, or tucked inside their favorite book. 

19. Make up a silly song about them. (If you’re not musically inclined, use a familiar tune like Old McDonald or BINGO to help.) 

20. Play in the dark. Outside or inside. If inside, turn off all the lights, give everyone a flashlight, and just have fun for 10 minutes.

21. Get out whatever toy or activity you usually avoid because it’s messy. For us, this means Play Doh and glitter!

22. Buy them a silly surprise at the Dollar Store or dollar bin at Target, for no special occasion. BONUS: Wrap it in pretty paper and ribbon.

23. Print out a photograph for them. Kids love having physical pictures to look at. (I like to use PicMonkey or the Word Swag app to add fun text and designs.)

24. Let them be grumpy. Don’t try to force them to appear happy. 

25. Talk quietly to them for a few minutes. (My 3-year-old daughter loves this. We cuddle and I just whisper to her about how much I love her and how special I think she is. It instantly resets her mood—and mine too, truthfully.) 

26. Eat in an unexpected place. Have a picnic in the backyard or in the living room. 

27. Do a family gratitude activity. Start a thankful jar, make some gratitude stones, or write in a gratitude journal

28. Make an unexpected stop at a playground for 10-20 minutes.

29. Pick flowers for them. (They do it for you all the time, right?)

30. Serve breakfast for dinner. 

31. Add something to their dress-up clothes collection. Maybe one of your old scarves or bracelets.

32. Enjoy dessert together. Savor every bite.

33. Have screen time together. Play a game or watch a video with your kid, instead of using it as a way to keep them occupied or distracted.

34. Go outside and look up. Talk about what you see in the clouds or the stars.

35. Call someone together. Connect for a few minutes with a grandparent, aunt or uncle, or family friend.

36. Take silly pictures together. The goofier, the better!

40 Quick & Simple Ways to Brighten Your Child's Day

37. Or just give your kids your phone and let them take pictures on it. (My son loves to go outside and takes pictures of flowers, leaves, etc.)

38. Go for a drive. Let them choose the directions. (Go left here. Straight here. Now go right.) 

39. Do a puzzle together.

40. Create a secret handshake.

41. Do a random act of kindness together. 

42. Light up your eyes when you see them. That’s all they really want, you know. <3

“When a child walks in the room, your child or anybody else’s child, do your eyes light up? That’s what they’re looking for.” -Toni Morrison