Three Happy Things is a game that will help your child develop a gratitude attitude (a very important core life skill), encourage them to focus on positive things in their daily life and help improve their happiness. If you play this regularly, it will create a life-long template that will help them develop into positive, happy adults. Three Happy Things is very simple to play: at the end of the day (preferably at or just before bed time), sit down with your child for a few minutes and then ask them if they can think of three things that made them feel happy that day. Once you both have thought of your happy things, you can take turns in naming them one at a time and saying why they made you feel happy. This is repeated until each of you has shared three things that made you happy that day.
How Long Does It Take To Play? The time it takes to play this game will vary from child to child, and from day to day, but it should typically take about five minutes.
Ages: Four and older. This is a game you should start playing regularly with your child as soon as they have developed the verbal skills to easily talk about events in their day.
Core Life Skills It Will Help Develop: Intrapersonal Skills – Gratitude, positive thinking, the ability to identify positive events in their life; Interpersonal Skills – Empathy for others, ability to share emotions, the ability to listen to others talk about their emotions.
Parental Skills It Will Help Develop: This is a game that will benefit you, as an adult, too, as it can lead to improvements in your own happiness. Also, it is a great way to listen to your child and find out exactly what makes them happy, and how this changes as they develop. This is an important key to developing a strong, positive relationship with your child.
What Do You Need To Play It? There is nothing that you need to play this game, other than a few minutes of your time.
Preparation: There is no real preparation required for this game,. However, if you struggle to find positive events in your daily life to talk about, it is important that you prepare a list before you start playing this game with your child. In addition, you might want to consider writing down things that made you happy when they happen to you to make it easier for you to recall them later (a byproduct of making such notes throughout the day is that it will potentially also help you become a happier and more positive person too!)
How Do You Play It? Sit down with your child at the end of their day, preferably at or around bed time, and tell them you are going to play Three Happy Things. To play the game, each of you needs to think of something that made them happy that day. Invite your child to go first, and once they have thought of their first happy thing, encourage them to tell you what it was, and why it made them happy. No matter what they choose, or why, don’t criticize your child’s choice (after all, the game is about what made them happy, not what you think should have or have not made them happy!) Instead, praise them appropriately for their choice and reasoning. In addition, do not interrupt them while they are telling you about their choice. Once they have finished, then it is your turn, and you must tell them something that made you happy, and why. It is important that you’re honest about this as your child (especially older ones!) will be able to tell if you are being insincere. Once you’ve told them about your first happy thing, let your child take a second turn.The game is completed when each of you has told the other three things that made them happy that day.
When And Where Can You Play It? To ensure that your child gets the most out of this game, it is important to play Three Happy Things on a regular basis, preferably every day, as this will help develop a good gratitude attitude and teach them to focus on the positive things that happen in their lives and not the negatives ones. This game can be played any time, but it is best played at the end of the day, preferably during a quiet time or close to bed time, as it encourages them to reflect on the positive events in their day. Remember that you will be listening to your child share their emotions. This means that, whenever you play it, you must make sure that you are not going to be interrupted before the game is finished, so it is really important that you switch off your phone (or leave it in another room), turn off the TV and remove any other possible distractions. Also, play this game one-on-one with your child so that they are the sole focus of your attention. This is really important as they have to feel that they are being completely listened to when they are sharing their emotions (this will encourage them to talk to you about other things in their life as well). If you have several children, it is best to play this with each of them in turn (and not in front of each other), so that they don’t make fun of each others choices. If you do choose to play it as a group, then strictly enforce the rule that no one is allowed to make fun of another’s choice.
Variations: While it is best to play this game at the end of each day, if your child is having particular difficulties with specific things in their lives, like school, then you can vary the game and play Three Things That Made Me Happy At … (e.g. Three Things That Made Me Happy At School – where they choose events from their school day, and you from your work day). If you do this immediately after the event they are struggling with (like a day at school), then it will help them switch their perception of it from negative to positive. You can also extend this game throughout the day by encouraging your child to make a mental note of anything that makes them happy when it happens. If they have trouble remembering things, you can also encourage them to take notes, but make sure that you don’t go over the top with this, and end up turning happy things that happen to them into a chore!
More Information About The Theory Behind This Game
This game is based on the idea that actively thinking about things from your day that made you happy on a regular basis can be a very effective way to switch your brain from a negative-based view of the world, to a positive-based one. This, in turn, will increase your overall happiness levels. It has the added benefit, that after you have been doing this for a few days, you will start to search your day for positives things as you go through it, and you learn to start focusing on positive events as and when they happen, rather than always looking for the storm-cloud to every silver-lining you encounter in your life. This is something that many adults struggle with, and most people would be much happier if their general outlook was focused on positive rather than negative thinking. This is because they have never learned or been taught the benefits of focusing on the positives instead. This is what this game is designed to achieve, and the earlier you can get your child into this way of looking at the world, the happier they will be throughout their life. You can find more information about this topic on the following links:
- Find three good things each day (Action for Happiness).
- How to cultivate an attitude of gratitude (Happify Daily).
- Seven ways to foster gratitude in children (The Greater Good).
As well as providing them with a framework which they can use to develop a positive view of the world, by listening to what makes them happy, you will learn more about them, and it will help develop a deeper bond, and understanding between you that can last a life-time. In addition, because you are sharing your emotions with them, it will also help them learn that this is okay. As a result, it is important that this game is not always played by the same parent, and it is best when played by as many of the important adults in a child’s life as possible. This is because it will help them learn that different things make different people happy, and that it is okay to share their emotions with every important person in their lives. However, ensure that any adults who intend to play this game with your child understand they must fully focus on the child while it is being played, that it must be played completely uncritically and that they must never ridicule the child for their choices, as this could cause them lasting emotional damage.
About The Author: This post was written by Colin Drysdale, the creator of How To Raise A Happy Genius.
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