A friend’s toddler vigorously waved a comb at his mama this morning and said, “This makes me happy!” Then he waved the same object and said, “This makes me mad!”
Which is to say, kids don’t always communicate clearly about their emotions. We can see their giggles and smiles, but how do we know what makes kids happy? One British group asked 1000 kids what made them happy, and the answers are a bit surprising.
Computer games ranked 8th, well below more wholesome activities like spending time with family and friends and celebrating holidays.
Here’s the complete list of answers to the British survey asking kids “What makes you happy?”:
- Playing with friends (83.7%)
- Your birthday (82.3%)
- Spending time with family (79.6%)
- Christmas (75.3%)
- Your hobbies (74%)
- Watching a film (67.2%)
- Doing something nice for someone (64.5%)
- Computer games (64%)
- Eating your favourite meal (62.3%)
- Playing with my toys/gadgets (61.6%)
- Reading a book (61%)
- Playing outside (58%)
- Chocolate (54.9%)
- Spending pocket money (38.4%)
- School (36.5%)
- Going for a walk (36.3%)
- Playing on/texting on your phone (27.8%)
- Social networking sites (20.9%)
On the whole, kids are pretty happy. They rated their happiness at about 8.5 on a 10 point scale. Compare that to 6.5 for adults, and you get the picture. Kids are cheerful people for the most part. They seem to know a few things about happiness that we don’t: adults are always striving for success and recognition, while kids seem content to spend time with loved ones.
When asked what made their parents happy, the kids ranked spending time with them as the number one source of parental joy. They also think parents enjoy holidays and time with each other. Only 11 percent of kids thought having lots of money made their parents happy.
I love that time with loved ones surpasses expensive toys and structured experiences in the scale of what makes kids happy. We could all take a note from that: kids don’t need the latest gadget or the most exclusive violin lessons. They need time with us, and enough free time to enjoy strong friendships.
Doing nice things for people ranked fairly low on the kids’ list of happiness-inducing activities. That’s surprising, since happiness research with adults shows that doing something nice for others is one of the best routes to happiness. Not only does it make you happy in the moment, but the happiness lasts well beyond the joy of hanging out with friends or getting a new toy.
I wonder if doing good is really less of a happiness boost for kids, or if it’s just more subtle and they’re less aware of it.
What makes your kids happy? Are their answers in line with this British survey, or does something else make your little ones smile? What about you? Where does your happiness come from?