icon-arrow-down icon icon-arrow-fill-down icon icon-arrow-next icon icon-arrow-prev icon icon-tag-close icon

Family Matters

8 Things You Already Do That Are Great for Your Kid

Spending time on the play mat, talking through your day, kissing your spouse-parenting doesn't get easier than this

SHARE

Ever gotten to the end of a long, packed day and worried that you didn't do enough to help your child grow and develop? You can skip the guilt, because chances are, you probably did plenty! All of these everyday happenings help kids become brighter, happier, and stronger-without you even trying.

1. Smooching your partner. Babies may get adorably jealous when you lay one on your hubby, but don't let that deter you! One study of 5,000 British families showed that the more often parents kiss each other, the less likely they are to yell at their kids.

2. Talking-a lot. Countless studies have shown how valuable just hearing your voice is to babies. And once your toddler is old enough, "talking through your day-even if they just sit in the back seat and babble back-sends the message to your child that you want them to know," says child development and behavior specialist Betsy Brown Braun, author of Just Tell Me What to Say and You're Not the Boss of Me.

3. Playing on the ground with them. You know how, for adults, taking the stairs is a hidden secret to good health? Experts say tummy time is like that for babies and toddlers: found moments that help their core strength as they reach for stuff or balance while being lifted up in "airplane."

4. Greeting your child at the door. Do you give your sweetie a hug hello? "That very greeting sends a powerful message," praises Braun. "One basic need children have is to feel that they are significant, that they make a difference in the family." This simple moment does it for them, big-time.

5. Letting kids dress themselves. Takes longer, but so worth it. "Encouraging your child to dress herself fosters motor planning and coordination," says pediatric occupational therapist Michelle Friedson Feld, OTR/L. "And learning to do things in order-like putting on underwear before their pants-helps with sequencing, a key literacy skill later on."

6. Saying no. "Children need limits," says Braun. For safety, yes, but also, "to learn how to deal with the natural limits and boundaries that life eventually dishes out. Every time you set a limit or make a rule, you're making a better future for them."

7. Reading your own (grown-up) books. That toppling pile of books on your bedside table may taunt you, but to your kids, it's motivating. Seeing you read makes them want to read, too. Multiple studies have shown that the more books you have in the home overall, the more frequently children read.

8. Letting them stir the batter. When you let small kids help you cook, you're teaching them so much. "You're building math skills by measuring and hand-eye coordination with pouring," says Feld. "Mixing is great, too, for arm strengthening and a better grip."

Lauren Smith Brody is a writer, consultant, and founder of The Fifth Trimester.  She is also the author of the upcoming book The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom's Guide to Style, Sanity, and Big Success After Baby  (Doubleday, April 2017).