With their imaginative minds and free-thinking ways, children can be so much fun. However, sometimes, negative emotions and behaviors can get in the way.
The fact is, children are tiny humans that don’t always have the social and emotional skill sets to regulate their actions. As a parent or caregiver, you have a strong role in helping your child develop these skill sets.
Many family-friendly activities that offer a way to have fun can also secretly help your child develop positive behaviors and ways of thinking.
The Importance of Reinforcing Positive Child Behaviors
Before looking at the importance of reinforcing positive behaviors, it is a good idea to get familiar with important positive behaviors all children can benefit from growing. Positive child behaviors that can be valuable to reinforce include:
- Being a good listener
- Recognizing body cues
- Knowing how to follow directions or instructions
- Asking for permission or help
- Being polite or using manners
- Taking turns and waiting your turn
- Cooperating and sharing with others
- Showing empathy, thoughtfulness or support for others
- Solving problems with critical thinking
- Taking responsibility
Reinforcing positive behaviors is a good way to help a child overcome negative emotions and behaviors. In general terms, when a child knows how to use positive behaviors and emotions, they can better work through negative emotions and situations. For example, a child that is easily angered by having to share toys could potentially benefit from learning the value of cooperation.
Nurturing positive skills and behaviors as a parent is a good way to make a lasting difference in your child’s social skills for the long term. While children can pick up positive social skills and behaviors through everyday interactions, working to nurture these skills builds positive attributes early. These positive behaviors can then be applied to many life situations.
10 Family-Friendly Activities to Encourage Positive Behavior in Children
1. Have Scavenger Hunts
Scavenger hunts require following instructions, actively listening and even cooperating and problem-solving. During a scavenger hunt, children are instructed to collect certain items. Instructions can be given orally or written down for older children, and if you are entertaining several children, they can be divided into groups for an added element of teamwork.
2. Enjoy Team Sports or Games
Team sports foster excellent social skills. Children who play together on a team have to learn how to cooperate, take responsibility, think critically and show empathy. Even without large teams, families can play basic team games like kickball or board games and use some of the same skill sets.
3. Play Emotion Charades
Emotion charades are just like ordinary charades, except children are only acting out certain emotions. For example, a child may choose to act out “anger” or “excitement” using only facial and body expressions. This activity can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a good tool for helping children learn how to recognize body cues and expressions associated with certain emotions.
4. Try Music-Making Games
Music-making games involve using instruments (or any kind of substitute, from pounding on a table to snapping fingers) to make enjoyable sounds. No one has to be a musician to play — you are simply using whatever you have on hand to make music. These activities can be an excellent way for children to learn about taking turns, supporting one another and listening.
5. Play Simon Says
Simon Says is one of the most effective activities for developing positive behaviors. During a game of Simon Says, an instructor will give children a command, such as “Twirl in a circle” or “Take two steps backward and clap your hands.” The key is that players are only supposed to follow the command if it is prefaced with “Simon says.” If not, the kids who follow the command are out of the game. Simon Says encourages active listening and following instructions.
6. Tell Stories
Telling stories and listening to stories are fun activities for children and a great way to get the family together. However, both sharing stories and listening to other people tell stories can encourage reinforcement of listening, taking turns, developing empathy and cooperating with a group. Stories can be something from a book or made up, but they can also be an account of an event, dream or day, or simply share interesting bits of information.
7. Play Strategy Games
Strategy games come in a variety of forms, such as checkers, dominoes, chess or card games. These games can also be played without an actual board or deck of cards. For example, hide-and-seek is a game of simple strategy. In any case, games that require strategic thinking reinforce several positive behaviors, such as thinking critically, solving problems, following instructions and taking turns.
8. Play Roleplaying Games
Roleplaying games mean allow users to step into unique or out-of-the-ordinary roles. The big imaginations of kids make creating informative play scenarios easy. For example, you could pretend you are in a store, and every family member has a role: a cashier, a stocker, a shopper and a bagger, with each family member trying each role. Through the process, children can learn more about taking turns, asking for help, having manners and communicating effectively.
9. Build Something Together
Building something together enhances communication, listening, following instructions and cooperating. You don’t have to build anything major to put these skills to work. For example, building a blanket fort in the living room, a stick lean-to in the backyard or even just a Lego creation can work.
10. Plant a Garden
Planting a garden or simply growing a few planters of different seeds is calming and rewarding. Get children together, explain to them what you’re doing along the way and talk about what the outcome will be. Gardening teaches children valuable knowledge of plants but also gives them the opportunity to nurture something alive, work together for a common goal and take responsibility.
Final Thoughts: The Right Activities Nurture Lifelong Positivity
While it is easy to focus on negative childhood behaviors and try to correct them, highlighting and encouraging positive behaviors can be the better solution. Whether you’re having a blast playing charades and hide-and-seek or planting a garden as a family, these fun-filled activities can be a secret weapon for honing positive emotions and actions.
About the author
Justin Cooper is Marketing Manager for Machrus, an e-commerce consumer goods company focused on creating products for at-home family fun. He has more than 15 years of marketing experience ranging from education, tourism and direct-to-consumer.