As a caregiver, nothing is better than seeing your kid enjoy life with a “glass half full” mindset. However, being optimistic doesn’t always come easily. Failure is a regular part of life, and incorporating optimism activities in your child’s daily routine can make them more resilient learners. If your child could use a boost of positivity, try these fun optimism activities to get their spirits up!
Definition of Optimism for Kids
Optimism is a positive outlook or attitude towards life characterized by the expectation of favorable outcomes and a belief that good things will happen. It involves anticipating positive events and outcomes, even facing challenges or uncertainties.
Children become optimistic if their parents and caregivers exhibit such attitudes and behaviors. They may also find influence through environmental factors, social relationships, or inherent personality traits.
The Importance of Fostering Optimism in Kids
Optimism is imperative in positive psychology, which underscores positive emotions and aims to improve mental health. Psychologically, when individuals expect favorable outcomes and have a positive outlook, they are significantly less stressed and anxious.
In addition, optimistic kids are more likely to become resilient amid challenges, even becoming more resistant to developing mood disorders [*]. Because optimistic kids seek social support when facing challenges, they have better coping strategies and an overall positive mood.
Finally, optimism is often associated with physical health benefits, such as lower rates of cardiovascular disease and more robust immune systems [*].
15 Activities to Foster Optimism in Kids
It’s normal for kids to feel down, especially after a long, tiring day. However, these optimism activities can encourage them to foster a more positive outlook.
While kids are notoriously distractible, even five minutes of meditation daily can significantly reduce stress and improve immune function [*]. You can make meditation more enjoyable for kids through guided imaginary journeys, taking them through a forest, beach, or their favorite place. You can also try mindful breathing with props, instructing kids to take slow, deep breaths while blowing bubbles.
2. Perform intentional acts of kindness
When your child is consistently kind to others, they’ll see that overcoming tough situations is possible. Every time you perform an act of kindness with your child, ask them to reflect on it.
3. Create an optimism mural
Some children are visual learners. If they prefer pictures over words, create an optimism mural with photographs, colors, and even memes that inspire optimism. Ask them why they chose specific elements.
Use our All About Optimism poster to inspire ideas for your child’s mural.
4. Introduce optimistic language
Kids can be hard on themselves when they experience failure. Challenge negative thinking patterns by introducing optimistic language. Replace instances of “I can’t” with “I can try again.”
Frame failures as opportunities to learn. If your child dropped out of their spelling bee too early, remind them what matters is the willingness to do better and try again.
5. Watch movies with happy endings
Pessimistic children tend to think things are bad and stay bad. Sometimes, all they need is the occasional happy ending. Get their spirits up by watching movies with happy endings like Toy Story, Paddington, Moana, or Finding Nemo.
6. Embrace humor
Sometimes, kids catastrophize. Injecting humor into challenging situations can teach them to brush off things that aren’t in their control. For example, if your child is helping you cook and they mess something up, shrug and say, “Well, aren’t you glad we aren’t professional chefs?” They’ll learn not to dwell on their mistakes.
7. Visit new places
You’ll be surprised how enlightening visiting a new place can be. Introducing new environments can instill a sense of wonder that excites them to expand their horizons. “New” doesn’t have to mean “grand.” You can visit a new ice cream shop or a new park around the neighborhood.
8. Make positive reflections
If you’ve had a hard day, focusing on the bad is sometimes easier than the good. End each day with your child by making positive reflections. Name things you were grateful for throughout the day and things you’re excited for the following day. They’ll go to bed with a good mindset.
9. Use an optimistic explanatory style
An optimistic explanatory style can significantly benefit children in various aspects of their lives. This cognitive approach involves individuals explaining events or circumstances to themselves, emphasizing positive interpretations.
An optimistic explanatory style asks three things:
- Is the cause external or internal?
- Is the event a one-time thing, or does it keep happening?
- Does the event apply only to me, or does it happen to others?
You might use this approach to help your child understand why they failed a test. Perhaps they didn’t study. If not, they can tell themselves, “If I spend more time practicing, I can do better on the next test. At least I’m doing well in my other classes!”
10. Journalize positive experiences
Take gratitude journals to the next level by asking your child to reflect on positive experiences throughout the day. Talk about how it made them feel and why it made them feel that way. Ask what similar events they’d like to experience in the future.
11. Say thanks once a day
Filling a child’s heart with gratitude makes them more optimistic about their day and future. Encourage them to thank at least one person a day. They might thank their homeroom teacher for inspiring them to learn. Perhaps they’ll thank a friend for inviting them to watch a basketball game.
12. Learn a new hobby
Learning a new hobby or skill is enriching and enjoyable. Your child will discover so much of their potential and have fun. Consider their interests and align your activities accordingly. Even better, try it with them! Learn how to play the flute. Try your hand at baking. The possibilities are endless.
13. Gamify chores
Chores can be a drag, even for adults. However, “gamifying” these chores can keep them motivated and more optimistic to help. For example, you can treat your child’s chores like a daily treasure hunt. Each chore will unlock a “treasure,” like your child’s favorite cookies or 30 minutes of extra screen time.
14. Do something active
Physical exercises promote children's mental health by reducing stress, improving mood, and enhancing overall well-being [*]. Pick out an activity they’ll enjoy, such as swimming, dancing, nature walks, biking, or outdoor play.
15. Put on a puppet show
Roleplaying through puppet shows enables children to step into someone else’s shoes. Create a premise for your puppet show that puts the character in a position to think optimistically. For instance, your character may be upset about something. Ask your child to roleplay what this might be, demonstrating how their character feels and what they can do to make the situation better.
The Bottom Line
If your child feels defeated, these optimism activities can help them bounce back. With the right mindset, your child will learn that failures are just growth opportunities!
Supplement your child’s character-building journey with our character education posters.
- A. Feggi, Gramaglia C, Guerriero C, Bert F, Siliquini R, Patrizia Zeppegno. “Resilience, Coping, Personality Traits, Self-Esteem and Quality of Life in Mood Disorders.” European Psychiatry, 2016.
- Conversano C, Rotondo A, et al. “Optimism and Its Impact on Mental and Physical Well-Being.” Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health, 2010.
- Black DS and Slavich GM. “Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2016.
- Mikkelsen K, Stojanovska L, Momir Polenaković, Marijan Bosevski, Apostolopoulos V. “Exercise and mental health.” Maturitas, 2017.