14 Pumpkin Crafts and Activities for Kids

Fall is officially here! We went to the pumpkin patch last weekend and now it’s time for some fall crafting. These pumpkin crafts and activities are great for kids of all ages. Don’t forget to have some healthy pumpkin snacks while you’re enjoying these fall crafts!

Pumpkin Crafts

#1 – Shiny Happy Pumpkins by Sweet Silly Sara
These are an easy fun pumpkin craft idea for younger kids.

#2 – Tin Can Pumpkins by Kennary
These are adorable and are the perfect way to hand out Halloween treats at class parties or for trick-or-treat!

#3 – Book Page Pumpkins by Creations by Kara

Pumpkin Crafts

#4 – Painted Rock Pumpkins by Make Life Lovely
We love rock painting and can’t wait to make some pumpkin rocks!

#5 – Styrofoam Cup Pumpkins by Mom Endeavors
This is another great idea for younger kids!

#6 – Color Mixing Pumpkins by Messy Little Monster

Pumpkin Crafts

#7 – Hand Print Keepsake Pumpkins by Kori at Home
I am a huge fan of hand print crafts, and these would be perfect to remember your little one’s first Halloween!

#8 – Button Pumpkins by Sugar Bee Crafts

#9 – Pony Bead Pumpkins by Cutesy Crafts

Pumpkin Crafts

#10 – Paper Plate Pumpkins by The Best Ideas for Kids
These are a simple, quick idea. You won’t need any special supplies.

#11 – Folded Paper Pumpkins by Pint Sized Treasures

#12 – Craft Stick Pumpkins by You Brew Tea

Pumpkin Face Printable

#13 – Pumpkin Face Printable Activity
We created this activity a few years ago, and it is requested every Halloween!

#14 – Mason Jar Lid Pumpkins by Crafts by Amanda
These are fun for older kids or adults!

Pumpkin Crafts and Activities for Kids

Pumpkin Crafts and Activities for Kids

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Our Family Holiday in Bali

When it comes to holidays, I’m normally a do it yourself kind of guy.

I’m big on exploration, activity, and getting off the beaten track. I want to go my own way. For me it’s all about discovery; trying new things. I want transformative.

At my wife’s insistence we decided to try something new for our most recent family holiday.

“We really just need a break”, Kylie had insisted. “A real break. Where we do nothing.”

Me: “Boring.”

Nevertheless, after some more back-and-forth, our negotiation ended with a compromise. We were going to a resort where there was nothing to do but lay by the pool.


To be clear, that’s not how I roll. But I had to concede that Kylie was right. There are times when you really need a break. Family life can leave you feeling flogged, and we were exhausted by it. Frantic paced deadlines and commitments, kids creating chaos… there’s something special about taking some time away from it all to replenish, rejuvenate, and to literally re-create our lives.

Plus, the idea of not having to plan or cook a meal for a week while spending quality time on amazing family activities sounded like it was worth trying. Logistics-free meant I wouldn’t have to look at google maps. I figured it was worth a try.

The break hardly began in a rejuvenating way.

Our best efforts to pack and prep the night before we left meant we were up late. Rousing six daughters from slumber and herding them to the car at 4:00am was challenging. The youngest were compliant. Our eldest ones truly believed that the plane would wait because they needed another 30 minutes of sleep. My lost wallet didn’t help in reducing the stress.

By the time we arrived at Brisbane International Airport, it felt as though the holiday might be about to begin. Meals were eaten, apps were downloaded, devices were charged, and all was well – until our names were called over the airport speakers. The flight was closing. We’d missed our cue. A short sprint with six kids chasing me, and my wife nowhere to be seen (she subsequently caught up), and we were welcomed aboard our flight – just in the nick of time. All was well with the world.


Landing in Bali in May is a treat.

Rather than the suffocating summer humidity, a pleasant tropical warmth enveloped us as we cast aside the extra layers that had been necessary for warmth on a cold Brisbane morning. ClubMed transferred us to the Nusa Dua resort and our week as #ClubMedinsiders began.

Straight away I knew this was not going to be my usual kind of break. And straight away I was excited.

At the resort, five of our six kids were ushered off to kids club by staff (known as G.O.’s) who had become their instant best friends. (Our 6th is nearly 20, and her best efforts to sneak in for all the fun with the kids were unsuccessful.) For the next 5 days our daughters met new friends from all over the world, played sports, swung on the insanely high trapeze – even the 5 year-old! – and swam, snorkelled, crafted, and more. They literally begged to leave before us each morning so they could get to Kids Club, and they wanted to stay longer each night. They wanted to stay at Club Med forever.

Club Med’s G.O.’s were incredible with the kids.

We watched our children and others stimulated to try new things. It was transformative for them. Swinging on the trapeze, improving social skills interacting with kids from other cultures; the kids club brought them alive, and taught them new skills. They tried things they’ve never done before and played with kids from different nationalities and cultures.

We love our kids and enjoy being with them.

We love adventures together. But they loved the independence, so we embraced the downtime. The adults only “zen pool” became a retreat each day, away from the noise and activity of the resort’s main pool.

Club Med has just launched a range of family activities which meant that we weren’t separated from the children all day. Games on the grass, a family cooking class, slip ‘n slide, and a colour party meant we got to play together each day. We had the chance to genuinely enjoy a holiday together, with some downtime for us as well.

The other thing that made this holiday great was the food.

I never knew Club Med was all-inclusive! Activities and meals are included, and while Kylie and I don’t drink, those who like a drop now and then might be pleased to know that most drinks are also part of your package. This was something I appreciated. A break where family can be together or the kids can have fun while the parents get some down time; a getaway where you don’t have to keep dipping your hand into your pocket to pay exorbitant prices for food or activities because it’s all included*; a chance to really recover (or get off the resort and speed things up if you feel the need)… and all in one of the most picturesque places you can imagine. Morning sunrise over the ocean at Nusa Dua is something special.

This was not the holiday I would have chosen before…

But after a week here, I’m sold. By providing quality time away from the stresses of daily life, in a kind, multicultural, relaxed environment, offering a wide range of activities, Club Med gave our family an inspiring break. My kids are calling it our best ever holiday. One thing is certain: we’re heading home with amazing memories, a refreshed mindset, and plans to book in for another break with Club Med soon!

*SPONSORED POST: Dr Justin Coulson and his family travelled to Club Med Bali as #ClubMedInsiders

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How To Stop Yelling

Dear Dr Justin

I have been reading a lot about how yelling isn’t good for my kids, but I can’t seem to get them to listen if I don’t raise my voice! Any suggestions on how I can stop yelling?

Almost everybody yells sometimes. Some of us are better at keeping our voices down than others, but we are all yellers or reformed yellers… or both.

Social media memes celebrate and mock yelling:

‘My kids call it “yelling” when I raise my voice. I call it motivational speaking for the selective listener.’

‘Don’t yell at your kids! Lean in real close and whisper, it’s much scarier.’

Let’s face it though; yelling feels terrible. Most parents also admit it rarely works. And research shows it’s bad for our kids.

How can that be?

When parents use yelling as a way to discipline, studies show increased behavioural problems, anxiety, stress and depression. Yelled-at kids also have lower self-esteem, and a higher risk of developing psychological problems in the future.

Without getting too technical, it’s important to mention that these studies are correlational. So it could be that yelling leads to these issues. Or it may be that kids with behavioural problems, anxiety, stress, and so on make their parents yell! (Or perhaps there’s something else that causes both yelling and behavioural problems… such as alcohol and drugs, low education levels, or poverty.)

But what research shows quite clearly is that yelling doesn’t work. Researchers have found that yelling seldom alleviates a problem. In fact, as soon as you begin to raise your voice your child’s brain is catapulted into the fight-or-flight response. They freeze up, fight back or run away. It’s almost impossible for them to actually listen to us.

So, how can we stop yelling? How can we become reformed yellers?

First, remember it’s not about your child, it’s about YOU.

As parents, we sometimes yell because we’re getting pulled in a million different directions and then something happens and it’s just the final straw. Or we’ve already asked our child to stop pinching his sister 14 times! Or we just lose our cool.

This is when we need to remember that this is about US. Yelling doesn’t happen out of the blue – it is usually triggered by something (asking multiple times, prepping dinner or rushing out in the morning). If we can learn to recognise our triggers, we can stop them from launching us into anger and yelling.

Second, be calm and kind.

When I’m starting to get upset there’s a mantra that I use: ‘I’m going to be calm and kind.’ When I repeat this to myself, it reminds me of the kind of parent I want to be and helps me to better regulate my own emotions. Find a mantra that works for you and repeat it when you find your emotions rocketing from 0 to 100.

Third, focus on helping, not hurting.

When your child is pushing all your buttons, take a deep breath and look them in the eyes. Ask yourself, what are they going through? Why aren’t they listening? What is happening inside this little human (that you love!) and how can you help them?

Just turning your focus onto helping your child can help you to calm down and stop yelling.

And here’s a bonus tip: unless there is a genuine physical impairment, your kids are not deaf. Speak softly. They’ll listen harder. A gentle tone and a soft voice are nicer to listen to.

Life can get difficult. If you find that you’ve slipped up and yelled, forgive yourself, hug your little one and start again. And remember that that good parents aren’t perfect – good parents are just trying their best.


For related products, visit the Happy Families Shop.

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What to do when your child is fearless!

My childhood friend Joel was fearless.

When he was about six, Joel’s parents installed a balcony on the back of their pole home. For some reason, the builder couldn’t install the safety railing straight away. The fall from the balcony to the ground was at least 6 metres.

Joel would ride his bike full tilt along the balcony, then execute a perfect skid. His mission? Get as close to the edge as possible. He never did go over, though his bike did at least once!

Some kids are thrill-seekers. While their friends stay away from heights, roads, stovetops, and other dangers, the Joels of the world get a buzz out of risky business. Maybe you have that two-year-old that tries to ‘fly’ off the back of the couch, the three-year-old who cleverly picks the childproof lock on the cupboard of poisonous cleaning supplies or the four-year-old who lets himself out the front door to take the dog for a walk.

These kids are independent, spirited, goal-oriented and resourceful – but parenting a fearless child can be a daunting and stressful task.

Between the ages of about one and five, your child develops new abilities and starts to crave independence. This is healthy. Independence contributes to feelings of wellbeing, a sense of identity and helps promote self-esteem.

In some ways our young children are similar to teenagers. In both stages our kids are in the process of ‘individuation’ – they are learning about difference, separation and self-assertion, and they have an absolutely unshakeable belief in their own invincibility. But unlike a teen, your young child can’t foresee the consequences of his actions. (Some of us would recognise that even teens struggle with this skill at times too.)

So, there are dangers inherent in having a risk-taking child. A fearless, intense, highly motivated child can be difficult to keep safe. Our job as parents is to find a way to keep our fearless kids safe while still allowing them to explore the world.

What do we do?
First, try a reframe of the situation.

There are benefits to having a fearless child. You might change your language from ‘stubborn’ to ‘persistent’, or ‘reckless’ to ‘goal-oriented’. Perhaps your child is ‘optimistic’! This reframe emphasises your child’s strengths. Our children internalise our language about them. And so do we. Choose positive words to describe your child’s spirited ways.

Next, modify the environment for safety.

Sometimes things are just not going to be safe, and you’ll need to find an innovative solution. I know one family whose two-year-old was intent on climbing the cable railing on their deck. They installed pieces of Perspex to stop him. Another mother learned to keep her car keys hung from a nail high up on the wall.

Remember however, that kids have been navigating risks for millennia. They don’t need to be bubble-wrapped.

And finally…

Encourage them to take risks in ways you can feel good about. Bike slides beside a rail-free balcony may be a bit much, and we want to minimise true danger, but giving kids freedom to explore and take risks is good for them. Evidence shows they become wiser when we allow them to engage in risky play.

Joel survived. So did the kid who let himself out the front door to walk the dog and the child who learned to fly from the back of the couch. They all survived.

Of course we need to keep our fearless kids safe, but what a shame it would be if in doing so we also kept all the adventure from their lives (and ours)! Embrace their intense spirits, their clever problem solving and their focused goal-setting… just be sure to keep the car keys out of reach.


For related products, check out the Happy Families online shop

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How to tell your friend what their teen is doing on Instagram

Dear Dr Justin,

My husband and I have some family friends. Their daughter is friends with our daughter. I recently heard their daughter telling my daughter about her ‘private’ Instagram account. My daughter has told me that her friend is sharing sexual images, and images with alcohol and cigarettes on that account. Her parents (my friends) would be mortified. Do I tell them?

Telling your friends their daughter is making unwise, unhealthy, unsafe decisions – and probably lying to them – is awkward. It’s almost certain that they’ll feel hurt. And telling them what you have discovered will probably cause conflict in their home too if they confront their daughter.

What should you say? Or is it better to stay quiet and let them find out in their own time?

My primary advice is this:

ALWAYS share if there is ANY risk to the teen.

If you have information that makes you worried for the teen’s safety in ANY way, contact the parents immediately. Things like suicide, self-injury, bullying or eating disorders are too serious to even debate the issue. Tell them. Now. Their daughter’s safety matters more than judgment, embarrassment, or reputations. In fact, it matters even more than your relationship with them.

What constitutes risk?

Perhaps the real challenge is knowing whether something is unsafe or unhealthy. As an example, in spite of the dangers, alcohol is still the most widely consumed drug for Aussie teens. Does drinking put a 14 year-old at risk when so many teens are doing it? After all, everyone else is doing it.

There are countless nude (or suggestive) images sent around the Internet every hour. Does posting these kinds of images put a teenager at risk when so many others are doing it?

Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s safe, healthy, or positive.

So tell the parents! If they don’t see it as a big deal, at least you’ve told them. It’s up to them to decide what to do next.

If she is not at risk, consider the factors…

You’ve indicated you’re worried about some of her decisions. But let’s just say she wasn’t actually doing anything unsafe or unhealthy. She was just ‘posing’ with the alcohol, for example, and the biggest issue is that she’s lying to her parents about having the secret account.

Here are some additional factors to consider:

  • What is she doing in the images on the account?
  • What do you know about the family and their values?
  • Would you want to know if it was your child?
  • Does it feel right to pass that information on?
  • Will telling the parents help?

Sometimes telling people about this kind of thing can make it worse rather than better. And issues around sex and morality are especially tricky. Things such as modesty (wearing little/no clothing), alcohol or tobacco use will be different for different families. You mightn’t think a teen should post a photo of herself nursing a beer, but her parents might not think it’s a big deal. Use your best judgement in these situations.

The reality is that a huge amount of teens have fake accounts. In my own recent research with close to 400 Aussie teens, a significant percentage admitted they have extra accounts which they hide from their parents. Again, just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s safe. Teens hide things because they know they’re wrong – or at least against the parent’s wishes. I still maintain that a quiet word with the parents is probably in order in most circumstances.


For more information on parenting teens, visit the Happy Families Online Shop


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How to Host an Awesome Disney Playdate

We were lucky enough to receive a very special Disney #NowMoreThanEver Playdate Kit in the mail from MomSelect. If you missed our unboxing, you can check it out on Youtube. Since we just got back from our first Disney World trip this summer, it was the perfect opportunity to share our experiences and look forward to our next magical visit. We already have a Disney cruise planned for the fall!

Creating a celebration for our friends was so much fun! This playdate was all about Elena, but we’ve hosted some other fun Disney parties featuring Moana, Toy Story and Cinderella in the past.

I received free products in order to host a #NowMoreThanEver playdate party. The opinions expressed here are my own.

My daughter is happily wearing her new JAKKS Pacific Cinderella dress to welcome to the guests to the party!

Disney Playdate Food

I tend to go way overboard on the food, but we kept it simple this time. We had some fruit and a delicious Michael Angelo’s lasagna from Walmart. The lasagna came frozen but heated up to perfection in the microwave in about 20 minutes!

Disney Playdate Decorations

Since this was just a playdate (and not a birthday!) we kept the decorations pretty basic. We had some hanging Elena decorations and balloons, along with themed tableware. Here are some easy Disney DIY ideas to decorate your party space!

Disney Playdate Activities

You can really stick to your party budget by using free printable activities. The activities we used at out party were Disney Fortune Tellers and a Magic Match Memory Game.

We also pinned the crown on Elena and had a pinata featuring Elena!

It’s so much fun to share our love of Disney!

If you’re headed to Disney World with your child for the very first time, make sure to check out the My First Disney Getaway Package to make the first visit even more special.

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What To Do When Your Child Lies To You

You enter the kitchen. Your child looks at you like she’s hiding something. You see cake crumbs on the counter and the tips of her fingers.
‘Did you eat the chocolate cake?’
Your child smiles up at you, chocolate stuck in her teeth, and innocently replies, ‘No.’
You know your child is lying. The evidence is everywhere! And in that moment it makes you mad. How could they lie to you? And so blatantly!
So, what do you do?

Lying is normal

First of all, let’s recognise that lying is a normal part of growing up. Studies show that beginning at about the age of three, kids begin lying to conceal things they have done wrong. From the age of four, the majority of kids (even up to 80%) will readily lie to avoid punishment.
Let me highlight that last statement. Kids lie to avoid punishment. They’ve done something we disagree with, and they want to cover it up.
Lying, therefore, is logical and tactical… and it’s also a sign of intelligence.
But lying is also a sign that our kids are afraid of us. Let’s tackle these issues briefly.

Lying is a sign of intelligence

Studies show that lying is a sign of intelligence in children. In fact, in one study kids who lied about peeking at a toy had a higher verbal I.Q. (by almost 10 points) than the kids who didn’t lie. This is because lying takes more mental acuity and cognitive development than truth-telling.
But don’t go celebrating how smart your child is because they’re lying! We still want to teach our kids to be honest. So, what should we do when our kids lie to us?
If we get this right, we can reduce the likelihood that our children will be afraid.

5 Strategies to deal with lying

1. Remember, it’s normal. Catching your child in a lie can be frustrating but remembering that it’s a normal part of growing up can help us keep calm. We aren’t raising sociopaths! Just little ones whose motivation is to avoid punishment.

2. Don’t ask questions that you already know the answer to. If your son is smeared in chocolate cake, don’t say, ‘did you eat the chocolate cake?’ Of course he’ll lie! Instead say, ‘I can see you ate some chocolate cake. You must have been hungry huh?’ Then pause and ask, ‘Do you think I’m pleased or upset? Why? What should we do next time?’

3. Celebrate honesty. When your child is honest, even if they’ve done something wrong, acknowledge their truthfulness. Say, ‘I really appreciate that you’ve told me about what has gone wrong.’ Help them fix it and then talk about how to do better in the future. And don’t punish them or threaten to punish them for lying. Research shows this will cause more lying in the future. They’ll be afraid of you.

4. Extract a simple promise. Studies show that children are less likely to lie once they have promised to tell the truth. But be gentle. If they tell you the truth, and then you punish them severely, they will be less likely to tell the truth in the future, promise or not.

5. Model good behaviour. As adults we are all guilty of social ‘white’ lies. Telling a friend that you have an appointment when you simply don’t want to go to their get together, for example. Our kids are looking to us to learn how to behave. Little white lies show them it’s okay to bend the truth.

Honesty takes time and maturity to learn, especially in the face of the clearly tactical advantages of lying. As parents, nurture honesty in kids by celebrating and rewarding it. And remember, our kids are pretty smart – they’ll get it eventually. In the meantime, hide the chocolate cake!


Visit the Happy Families Shop for more parenting resources.

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What To Do When Your Child Lashes Out

Dear Dr Justin,
My 9-year-old son lashes out at his younger siblings when they bother him and often ends up hurting them. He feels terrible afterwards, but he can’t seem to get his anger or his reactions under control. What should I do?

Lashing out in anger is something that can easily turn into a habit for our children – and for us as adults. Anger, however, is not a “primary” emotion. Anger is usually based on a strong sense of fear or sadness.
What’s really happening when a child is lashing out in anger is that their emotional brain becomes overwhelmed, takes control, and reacts to the big emotions it’s processing.
This can be distressing for us, for them, and for the sibling or friend affected by their outburst. First, we need to work on managing the aggressive behaviour. Then we need to find its root cause. Finally, our focus should be on shifting the habit.

Avoid the situation where possible

Our first step is to try to stop a recurrence of the violent behaviour. You can do this by watching out for, and avoiding when you can, triggering situations. If you see that your son is becoming overwhelmed or upset, or if everyone is overtired or hungry, separate your kids or find something else for the others to do. It won’t fix everything, but avoidance and distraction can be handy strategies at times.

Tend to your hurt child

If your son lashes out again and hurts another child, your immediate attention should be on the hurt child. Let the aggressor know you’ll chat with him soon and encourage him to find some space to cool down.
This will be hard! You will want to express your righteous anger! You will want to set your kid straight! But just like our kids need to learn to control their reactions, we do too.

Emotions up, intelligence down

When we are angry our thought processes aren’t so clear. Kids catch our cranky. But they’ll also catch our calm. To diffuse anger in someone else, we have to be calm ourselves. It helps to remember that something has happened inside of our child to stop him from being able to regulate his emotions. There is a root cause to his aggression. And without a doubt, he is in distress. He needs your help too. You can only do that when you are calm.

Respond to your angry child

So, what do we do? Time out? Loss of screen time? Spanking? No, no and (definitely) no. Punishments after the fact don’t work. When a child becomes enraged, his brain stops working. He literally cannot remember any punishments (or lessons from those punishments). Punishing him may make us feel better, but it won’t help him learn to control his aggression.
Aggression is a red flag. It tells you that your child is hurting. The best way to help your son is to dig down to the root cause of that anger. Look him in the eye, and say, ‘You hurt your little brother. He is really scared. You must be feeling really bad to hurt your brother like that. What is going on?’
Studies show that empathy from parents leads to reduced risk for aggression in their kids. Stay compassionate while you work through the issues. Give cuddles and comfort.
And when your child is calm, help him brainstorm better ways to respond (calling out for help, walking away, speaking firmly). Help him practice those responses so that they become easy to implement before he loses control.

Show him you love him.

Finally, show him love – kids need to know that their parent’s love for them is unconditional even when they’ve misbehaved. There’s no need to worry that you are somehow reinforcing his bad behaviour by showing love. The reality is, you’re giving a hurting child exactly what he needs.

Lashing out or acting up are not attention-seeking behaviours. They’re connection-seeking behaviours.

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Helping Our Kids Feel Good By Doing Good

We all want our kids to feel good. Ice cream. Cake. Beach days. Playdates. These are all great for bringing joy. But typically, these good feelings don’t last. Once the ice cream is gone, or the playdate is over, our kids often lose the zest and pep they were feeling.

So, how do make and keep the feel-good feelings?

Feeling Good versus Doing Good

Ice cream, cake, beach days and playdates all ‘feel good’ but they don’t help us to have lasting happiness. Instead, feel-good pursuits give us an immediate rush of euphoria, but leave us craving for more.

And this can lead to an addictive cycle known as ‘the hedonic treadmill’. In that case, one cookie won’t be enough to give us good feelings, we’ll need two. And maybe the next week, we’ll need three. (Until we have so many that we feel bad. Really bad!)

Doing good, however, is the key to living a more meaningful and happier existence. The ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle knew it was true, and modern research bears it out – altruistic behaviours are associated with greater wellbeing, health and longevity. In short, we feel good when we do good.

And interestingly, people who feel good are more creative, more open to learning, have better psychological and physical resilience, less stress, anger, anxiety and depression, and more gratitude, empathy and compassion. It might sound trite and cheesy, but the happiness that comes from doing good for others seems to last longer and feel deeper.

Kind Kids

Every parent wants happy kids. It’s the most common answer I receive to the question, “What do you want most for your children?”

But how many of us knew that if you want kids to be happy, you should teach them to be kind?

Moreover, studies highlight that our kids actually want to be kind. They know it makes them happy! Research shows that from as young as 14 months old, kids consistently want to help others achieve individual goals and cooperate with others to achieve shared goals. This desire to help is something they’re born with – even that child of yours who doesn’t seem to want to help anyone!

In fact, a recent landmark study shows even very young kids find helpful and kind acts to be intrinsically rewarding. In this study, toddlers under the age of two exhibited greater happiness when they gave treats to others, compared to when they received treats themselves.

In other words, they want to help because they feel good when they do.

Teaching Our Kids to Do Good

Bottom line, kids want to help, and it makes them feel great. So, it’s our job to help fulfill this natural inclination by guiding them to age-appropriate opportunities to do so.

Here are 5 ways to do just that:

  1. Be a good role model. Kids learn to be helpful and kind from you.
  2. Perform small acts of kindness. You don’t have to run out and paint someone’s house or mow their lawn for a year – although you can. Being kind, saying something nice, helping tidy up; these small acts are just as powerful and effective.
  3. Make helping a family project. Get your kids involved when you take a meal to a family who have just had a new baby or visit a sick friend in the hospital.
  4. Be a good neighbour. In other words, help your kids learn to keep an eye on others, whether it really is your neighbour, or a boy on the soccer team. Teaching your kids to notice what’s going on in the lives of people in their community teaches awareness and empathy.
  5. Be grateful. Expressing gratitude is one of the best ways to do good. In fact, nothing can improve your life (and the life of others) like gratitude.
The Takeaway

Doing good is what makes us human. It lifts the burdens from others and lifts us by activating the joyful part of the brain. And teaching our kids to do good is the best way to help them have lasting ‘feel good’ feelings. Of course, you should eat cake too. But sharing it with a friend is even better.



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The Case Against Boredom

Recently there has been a groundswell of popular opinion extolling the value of letting our kids be bored. A recent New York Times article argued, ‘Boredom teaches us that life isn’t a parade of amusements. More important, it spawns creativity and self-sufficiency.’

The “experts” say: kids are over-scheduled these days; life is too busy; it’s not your job to entertain your children, so let them be bored. It’s good for them.

It’s tempting to jump on the boredom bandwagon and encourage everyone to stop stimulating their kids with so many opportunities, gizmos and classes.  But I can’t. It’s bad advice, and the research bears that out.


Boredom Makes Us Feel Bad

While these self-proclaimed experts claim that being bored will teach our kids to figure out how to amuse themselves and be creative, there isn’t any actual evidence to support that idea. In fact, I haven’t found a single study where boredom in our kids was studied at all.

Wherever these experts are getting their data from, it doesn’t seem to be science.

What limited data does exist comes from adult or young adult studies. And they support the opposite conclusion – that boredom is unpleasant, unsatisfying and leaves those suffering it with a craving for relief.

In fact, boredom is so powerful that in one study participants who were forced to spend time alone only with their thoughts chose to self-administer electric shocks rather than deal with being bored. Pain was preferable to boredom.

Boredom is Associated with Negative Outcomes

Boredom is also associated with negative outcomes and wellbeing, and can lead to unhealthy and unsafe choices.

Research indicates that students who are bored perform poorly at school, put in less effort, and have an increased likelihood of quitting school altogether.

Teens who are often bored are also 50% more likely than their peers to take up smoking, drinking and illegal drugs. And it’s a frequent trigger for binge eating. It also leads to an increased risk of depression and anxiety, and a diminished sense of life satisfaction and purpose.

Being bored is NOT good for our health.

The Argument: Boredom leads to Creativity

Some limited research does show how boredom can lead to creativity. And anecdotally parents know this is true. Think about a bored five-year-old who fancies a mohawk on his little sister or a bored 15-year-old who thinks he could probably manage to drive the car down the driveway.

Being bored leads to creative outcomes. But while people with high levels of self-control may motivate themselves to find positive, safe and healthy creative outlets for their boredom, not everyone responds to boredom wisely. I got up to more mischief as a teen when I was bored than I ever did when I was occupied.

Should We Let Them Be Bored?

It seems that whenever we have an issue, opinions become polarised. On one side are the ‘uber-parents’ that over-stimulate and over-schedule their kids. On the other side are those that believe children need to be bored.

I suggest a more moderate approach. Evidence supports providing enriching activities for our children. They offer opportunities to explore and expand interests and relationships and build confidence and competence.

And parents should be encouraging ‘down-time’, where activities are not scheduled and device usage is reduced. This is not boredom but a time when children can autonomously choose how to re-create themselves. We can help by having play dates, setting up a table for painting or providing a smorgasbord of books.

This gives them the space, time and opportunity to develop the emotional and cognitive resources that will enable them to pursue their own creative interests in a safe and beneficial way.

Let’s stop pushing our kids too hard or giving them something to swipe or stare at every time they complain that they lack stimulation. But let’s also stop encouraging boredom. There’s no evidence to support it. And what evidence does exist suggests it’s harmful.


The post The Case Against Boredom appeared first on Dr Justin Coulson's Happy Families.

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