Let Them Eat (pan)CAKE: 10 Simple Ways to Bring Joy to Your Kids (and You!)


You know those parents who just gush over their kid’s every moment of every day? They have infinite patience, unending smiles, and all the time (and desire) in the world to play with their little ones. Let’s be honest. I am not one of those mothers.

Parenting is tough. Really tough. And sometimes it just plain sucks. As a stay-at-home mom there are days when I cannot get a break from at least one, if not all of my three kiddos until bedtime. Please don’t misunderstand; I love them fiercely, but on the hardest mommy days it’s often a huge undertaking (sometimes every fiber of my being) just to make myself believe that I like them.

let-them-eat-panCAKEOn those days I usually resort to “smile therapy.” I put on the fakest smile I can muster, shove aside my irritation and desire to scream my head off or run for the hills, and just grin. Often (not every time) this cheesy, forced smile has a calming effect, and before I know it, I’m actually in a better mood! I have found that when I change my outlook, I am more willing to do things for my kids, and basically enjoy being with them. Which, in turn brings them joy; and seeing that on their little faces can make me happy even on the crappiest days!

Bringing joy to your children (and you) doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. It doesn’t even have to take all day. Contrary to what advertisers try to sell us, you don’t have to take them to Disneyland, buy them expensive toys, or say yes to their every whim. Kids don’t necessarily even want us to spend every waking moment with them. Sometimes surprising them with the simplest thing or offering a few minutes of undivided attention can bring the most delight to their little hearts.

Here are ten simple and cheap ideas to bring joy to your kids. Practice them every day, use them this weekend, next summer or save them for a rainy Portland day, but I guarantee they will do wonders not just for children’s spirits, but yours as well!

  1. Make pancakes or a special treat…just because. Let them help without cringing over the mess, criticizing their technique or taking over.
  2. Do something they always ask to do, but you keep saying no or putting off.
  3. Take them somewhere special. It doesn’t have to be a theme park, or even cost money at all. How about McDonald’s playland? A new park? Just someplace they don’t often go that would bring a smile or delightful laugh.let-them-play-in-the-rain
  4. Let them play in the rain, the mud, or someplace that is usually too messy or requires clean-up afterwards. Watch their faces light up when YOU suggest it, instead of them.
  5. Spend a whole, interrupted hour (or more!) playing whatever game, toys or activity they suggest. Put your phone down and give them your complete, undivided attention.
  6. Let them eat dessert FIRST.
  7. Take them out for a one-on-one date. (If you have more than one child, take turns.) It doesn’t have to be an expensive restaurant; even a trip to the ice cream or doughnut shop with just you two could mean the world to them.
  8. Give them an extra slice of TV time. Just because.
  9. Surprise them with a trip to the toy or book store and let them pick out something special. If on a budget, teach them to look under a determined price range.
  10. Tell them about something that brings YOU joy. If possible, include them or let them help. They want to know what makes you happy, and make you feel that way, too!

Parenthood is hard, but it can be enjoyable if you allow it to be. Take a few minutes every day to smile and remind yourself (and your kids) why you love being their parent. You’ll be surprised just how much these simple things can improve your view!


  1. Sometimes when I drive, I make myself smile, hoping that when I’m really old, I’ll be one of those little old ladies who just always has a smile on her face! LOL Motherhood is not for the faint-hearted. Keep on what you’re doing – playing in the mud and pancakes always make the day better!

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