Long before author Marie Kondo coined the phrase “spark joy” to help her readers declutter their homes and lives by keeping only items that make them happy, authors Linda and Richard Eyre encouraged the same concept in their book Teaching Your Children Joy. Kids are already born masters of spontaneous delight, so the teaching part is really just a refresher. Maybe we, as parents, are the ones with a lot to learn!
Here, according to the book, is how:
Get excited with children. Swallow your sophistication—be a child with them, emote with them. When they say, “Oh, look!” you say, “Wow, yes!” Don’t say, “Calm down,“ or “Not here.” Let kids be your teachers. They are the experts in spontaneity; do what they do.
Help them relive spontaneous joy moments by remembering. “Remember when we saw the bird pulling up the worm? Wasn’t that great?” “Remember at the picnic when the grasshopper jumped into the potato salad? Didn’t we laugh hard?”
Do spontaneous things with them. “Hey, instead of a bedtime story tonight, let’s put on your pajamas and go to the ice cream shop for a cone before you go to bed.” Or “Mom looks tired. Let’s put her to bed for a nap, and you and I will fix dinner.”
Make spontaneity a priority. Place enough value on spontaneity that you let it happen even if it’s a little inconvenient. Suppose you are walking outside on a rainy spring afternoon and your child stomps in a puddle. Skip the “No, no!” part and instead, take off their shoes and let them splash barefoot. (Or take off your shoes and splash with them!)
Play surprise-oriented group games like hide-and-seek and musical chairs. Revel in the surprise.
Put new surprises into old fairy tales. Watch the delight of mixing two familiar fairy tales or storylines. Think Cinderella meets the Three Bears. Or Shrek winds up with 101 Dalmations.
Do things with kids that are a little—or a lot!—silly and let them show you the pleasure in the unexpected.