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Teaching your child the art of happiness

When we speak things aloud, we give them power to shape our hearts and minds. Among all the books and podcasts and articles we read, we often overlook (as I have) the importance of recognizing and speaking aloud when we are simply happy.

Teaching your child the art of happiness

Emotional intelligence, the self-awareness of emotions and the way in which they affect human responses to various situations, is an essential skill we nurture in our children. As parents and caretakers, we may well find that one of our greatest contributions to the future is our purposeful effort to provide children with a greater understanding of their emotions. Our hope is that children will learn to navigate through the intensities and complexities of being human, and develop into capable and empathetic adults.

From contemporary children's literature to “Daniel Tiger" episodes, the world surrounding the youngest generation is instructing children to identify when they are frustrated, impatient, hurt, left out, anxious, or nervous. These words (that I'm confident I did not hear or understand until far later in life) are being taught to toddlers, mine included. When children can identify intense emotions, they can learn patterns of behavior to help see them through conflict toward resolution and understanding.

The longer I'm a parent, the more I recognize how fortunate our children are to grow into emotional intelligence at a younger age than most of us experienced. At 3 years old, my son can tell me he's frustrated when his ambitious building project isn't going according to plan. He's learning ways to cope and work through the frustration (tears and tantrums accompany of course, because he is a three-ager). My 6-year-old can express when his anger is triggered by anxiety and is learning ways to work through those emotions.

By the time I gave birth to my third child, however, I felt there was a certain void missing among the emotional menagerie being taught to today's children. However necessary and important and helpful it was to identify and understand certain emotions, there was a huge and wonderful emotion that often was left unspoken.

Happiness. 

I'm not speaking of "happy" when it's said while sitting around a circle for nursery rhymes, or while at a party singing "Happy birthday." I'm speaking of all those genuine moments throughout our day when we are unaware that we are simply feeling "happy."

Chalk it up to human nature or our interest in the dramatic and difficult but, more often than not, adults and children alike seem drawn to express and remember those emotions which are intense and, for lack of a better word, negative in connotation. We may go the whole day without incident, but wait for one mishap to pop up and often we give it the power to change our attitude regarding the entire day. It's often the troubles and not the simple joys that we remember and speak aloud.

When we speak things aloud, we give them power to shape our hearts and minds. Among all the books and podcasts and articles we read, we often overlook (as I have) the importance of recognizing and speaking aloud when we are simply happy.

So I decided to do something different by the time I had my third baby. Whenever I felt my heart pouring over with joy or simply resting in contentment while I was holding her or watching her play, I'd quietly say this one word, "Happy."

There are approximately 1000 ways to express happiness. I wanted to speak aloud one word that even my newborn could begin to hold on to and recognize.

Throughout our days, I'd find myself thinking I was "happy" more and more as I developed the habit of identifying and speaking aloud this fundamental desire we all possess but so often neglect to acknowledge. While I nursed my baby, or saw her discover something new, or watched as she reached out to touch a loved one's face, I'd increasingly recognize within myself that I was "happy."

Think of all those tiny moments that parents and caretakers experience throughout the maddening chaos of child-rearing. In sharing aloud this feeling with my child, I felt I was able to retain and share an emotion that would stay with us for longer than the fleeting moment in which it was experienced.

Then something wonderful happened.

One evening while the kitchen lay in chaos after dinner, my toddling girl came up to me with arms outstretched. I picked her up and began to slowly swing her back and forth.

Then I heard her say with a smile, "Happy. Happy."

My husband and I both looked at each other with elation. This spontaneous but genuine expression she'd spoken went beyond her needs or wants. She was simply expressing her happiness at being held by her mother.

As the months have passed, our family's habit of speaking aloud our happiness has affected every member of the household. Our older children now identify more often when they are simply feeling good. As my daughter has continued to encroach upon two, her emotions and ability to express them have also expanded. We hear when she is sad, or mad or frustrated.

But we hear more from her than anyone else when she's simply "happy."

Happiness is an inherent desire. It's not something that must be taught, but it's something that must be actively cultivated and savored if we are to appreciate the positive moments. Being happy is often a state of mind rather than the circumstances that surround us. In sharing aloud those positive feelings that make up our days, we are equipping our children with an ability to recognize and share in a collective and lasting joy.

14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Detective set

Plan Toys detective set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

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