Want happy kids?

Think about it. When you make design choices about your home, there’s a train of thought chugging it’s way to the station: What do I like? What do I want to surround myself with? What does it say about me as a person?

Now imagine helping your favorite little people answer these questions in a conversation that goes something like:

“Tell me about places you’ve gone that made you happy. What did you like about them?”

You’re encouraging your child to identify things that make her feel good. Not because they’re popular but just because she likes them. She’s examining why she liked them and she sees that her opinion matters.

  • She may zero in on one special place or she may have a few favorites. While you talk, see if you can help her pick up any themes. Bright colors? Outdoors? Quiet and cozy?

"What are some ways we could make your room feel that way?"

She’s doing a little brainstorming and translating an idea into reality. But even better, she’s learning how to build an environment that reflects who she is and that makes her happy.

  • Does she love to go camping? Help her pick a color palette inspired by her favorite campsite. Or find photographs or art that make her room feel like she’s outside. Together, you can choose pieces (new or reinvented) that feel rustic or inspired by nature. The DIY possibilities are endless.

"Are there people or moments you want to remember every day?"

When you’re a kid, it’s easy to feel like you’re just along for the ride until you grow up. You can counteract this feeling if you give your child an opportunity to highlight moments and people that are significant to her. She will start to see herself as a person whose experiences and perspectives are important, too.

  • Maybe your relationship with your dad was complicated, but her memories of him are pockets full of butterscotch candy and a man who adored her. Make it OK for her to have her own history by giving her a way to remember him. Go big with wallpaper made of personal photographs or go small with a dish of butterscotch candy on a shelf. What matters is that she gets to say, “This is a person or a time I want to remember,” and that you help her find a way to do it.

"Tell me about people who do things you admire. What do you like about them? How would you like to remember them in your room?"

Before you cross your fingers and pray, “Not Miley Cyrus, not Miley Cyrus,” just remember that the most relevant question isn’t who she likes but why. Her reasons may surprise you. But no matter what, she’s her own person and they’re her reasons. Help her focus on the best parts of her role models. She’ll learn that everyone is complicated and she can choose to like parts of people and let the other (tongue-related) parts go.

  • OK, I brought Miley up, so I’ll use her as an example. What does your daughter like about her? “Her music is fun!” And then, the conversation hits a full stop. Don’t panic. There’s plenty of room to maneuver. Let her pick colors for her room that feel bright and lively like the music. Create a little dance floor. Go to school on Miley. Who are her inspirations? Bring in their music or styles. Does she have a charity? Your daughter can have a piggy bank and save money for donations. Inspirational song title? Paint it on the wall. (P.S. I just googled her song catalogue and I’ll be honest, this will be a stretch but I have faith in you.)

Now you’re ready for your child’s first design adventure. She’ll learn how to create a space that reflects who she is and what she cares about. And that's a big step towards being a happy (and pretty great) person.

It’s like drinking a V-8. She’s going to get all kinds of good stuff without ever knowing it.  :)

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