As a parent, you may berate yourself for not doing enough for your kids, but if you’re like my husband and I, you’re working multiple jobs, running around like crazy heads, and doing everything you possibly can for them.
The truth of the matter is, that your kids appreciate the little things that don’t take up much time, but show you care, more than you realize. You need to give yourself a break and give yourself a little credit for all the amazing little things you do to make their hearts sing every day.
Parents don’t realize just how much these 50 things mean to kids:
1. Getting up with them in the morning
You could sleep in; they’re old enough to get dressed on their own, but every morning you rise so that when they get up, they see your smiling face ready to help.
Photo: Pavel Danilyuk/Pexels
2. Preparing them breakfast
Your kids are quite capable of pulling out a cereal bowl, cereal boxes, milk, and a spoon, but for some reason, when you do it breakfast just tastes better.
3. Making sure they brush their teeth
You would think something like this would be an annoyance, but it’s the little reminders that let them know that you love them.
4. Overseeing that their rooms are clean
I know how much my kids complain about this, but then I see their smiles once their rooms are organized and they realize they can sit on the floor again.
5. Brushing their hair
Especially if you have a little girl with long hair, you know that only you can brush it the right way.
6. Monitoring their snack intake
You don’t let them go full hog whenever they want, and they know (even if unconsciously) it’s good for them.
7. Tying their shoes
You’re also teaching them the old bunny rabbit ears, but they know when you’re running out the door for the bus, you’ve got their back (or their laces).
8. Checking the temperature
My son loves to wear shorts into the winter, but he also appreciates when I tell him to check outside on the porch before we head for the bus stop.
9. Hugging them
Even when your kids act like they don’t want to be hugged, even if you have to give them a one-arm, side hug, just keep hug, hug, hugging.
10. Being silly with them
I think this is my kids’ favorite. They love that I can walk silly, talk silly, and sing silly songs at the drop of a hat.
11. Playing board games from your childhood
My kids love the classics like Sorry!, Checkers, and Clue, and will pass up on electronics quickly for board game night.
12. Letting them pick out one favorite item at the grocery store
My kids know I don’t buy a lot of stuff I always say yes to one special personal choice at the grocery store.
13. Opening up their juice box
Kids can do this on their own pretty early but appreciate it when you come along and stab that little plastic straw into that annoying metal foil.
14. Remembering what “special” they had at school
For some reason, my kids love it when I say, “Oh, how was art today?” Their eyes light up when they realize I pay attention to their lives away from me.
15. Not wiping off their wet kisses
Even if my kids are sick, when I get a big slobbery smack on the cheek, I leave it there.
16. Watching them play electronics
I’ll never understand why it’s so important for my kids to have me sit and watch them play a video game, but it thrills them.
17. Hanging up their art on the wall
Just like adults, kids love to see their artwork celebrated.
18. Giving them their special plate or glass
I had a “pretty spoon” when I was young; it made me feel loved when I found it next to my plate.
19. Reading to them
A classic for a reason — nothing beats your kids’ expressions when you read to them.
20. Lying down with them at night
All parents know the struggle of sneaking out of a baby’s room without waking them, but even big kids love the feeling of safety you provide when you rest in bed with them for a few minutes.
21. Continuing rituals
Going through all the steps of a special goodnight kiss or a before-school hug is reassuring in its reliability.
22. Pouring their juice for them
Another activity they can do completely on their own, but it tastes better when you pour.
23. Making them do chores
My kids seem happier with themselves when I’m on top of them about getting their chores done before electronics.
24. Checking their temperature even when they’re faking
Pulling out the thermometer and going through the ritual can be enough to make them realize they’re fine.
25. Holding them when they’re upset
It works every time.
26. Verifying their seatbelts are fastened correctly
My kids are old enough now to buckle, but they always appreciate that I double-check for their safety.
27. Standing at the foot of the stairs
My kids hate to run upstairs by themselves, but sometimes I’m too busy (or lazy) to go up with them to get their forgotten socks. They appreciate the fact that I’m always willing to at least wait for them so I can beat up a monster if need be.
28. Taking them to the playground or park
An unexpected trip somewhere fun is like your kids won the lottery.
29. Apologizing to them
The most important and most appreciated thing you can do when you make a mistake.
30. Letting them get filthy
I’m not one of those moms worried about kids’ clothes getting dirty. Have at it! (But they may need to take a bath later.)
31. Turning on the light
All of my kids had some issues with the dark. We’ve settled it in different ways: one leaves her door open, one has a nightlight, and one has a permanent set of Christmas lights hanging along his window.
32. Sharing your stories of childhood
I was surprised my kids love to hear my childhood stories so much, but they like to travel back to the olden days before computers and cell phones were invented.
33. Riding bikes
Get physically active with your kids; don’t just sit on the sidelines.
34. Sharing the last piece of bacon
Yes, we fight over bacon on the weekend, but I’m always willing to break the last piece in half.
35. Sharing your love of animals
Whether you have pets or just gaze at outdoor creatures, kids get a kick out of their parents being interested in and excited about furry, feathery friends.
36. Listening to them
This is one of the biggies — your willingness and readiness to listen to them always.
37. Playing dress-up
You will wear a silly hat or a princess dress (even in public), and that hikes up your awesomeness score.
38. Showing interest in what they like
Being interested in what they care about can be a game changer.
39. Laying out their pajamas on the bed
I don’t do this every night, but when I can, I pull clean undies and jammies out and lay them out on the bed.
40. Letting them try it on their own first
Even if you think they might mess up, let them try anyway.
41. Saying “I love you”
Always reassure them when you’ve argued that you love them… always.
42. Driving to seven different stores to find that birthday present
Haven’t you shopped all night long to find that one special gift they’ve been begging for all year?
43. Not making them wear the ugly sweater from Great Aunt Bertha
Recognizing when they get unwearable clothes for presents and allowing them to shove them in the back of the drawer.
44. Listening to Kidz Bop in the car on repeat
Need I say more?
45. Waiting in a 45-minute long line to go down that one waterslide
You know, they keep smiling at you because they can’t believe that their luck (or you) is going to last that whole line.
46. Keeping some sausage to the side without sauce on it
Or pasta, or chicken, or name-your-food-item-that-must-be-plain here.
47. Letting them get wet when it’s raining
Come on, it’s not going to make them sick!
48. Offering your sleeve as a tissue
Sometimes it just has to be done.
49. Taking one for the team
Stepping in the way of a flyaway baseball or soccer ball happens unconsciously.
50. Laughing at their jokes, even when they’re not funny
But of course, sometimes in the laughing, the joke does become funny…
I’m sure you could make a list of fifty more things you do as a parent that mean the world to your child. It’s all about sharing, listening, and being present.
You don’t have to be there with them every minute of the day; it’s those little moments that you spend with them, doing the things you always do, which they’ll remember in their hearts.
Sheila Hageman is a writer who has appeared on The Today Show, ABC News, NBC News, and programs with Bill Cunningham and Anderson Cooper. Her writing has been featured in Salon, Mamalode, Mom Babble, and The Huffington Post.