Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

Like many traditions that have endured over the years, making New Year’s resolutions serves a valuable purpose. It creates room for reflection and for refocusing ourselves on living with intention. In the whirlwind of raising small children, this is especially hard to do—and especially needed. 

Days with little ones can feel so very long, yet the years feel all too short, and living them mindfully helps with both. To aid you in thinking about your values for the coming year, we’ve put together our picks for five meaningful New Year’s resolutions for parents with small children, plus some useful tips, tricks, and tutorials for putting them into practice easily and painlessly.

Spend Quality Family Time (Here’s How) 

Time is what every parent of young children feels they have the least of … and it’s the one irreplaceable gift to our kids, and ourselves, that really matters in the long run. But the funny thing about time is that it’s not absolute. Instead, it’s malleable, stretching or compressing in experience and memory. 

Just like hours in pleasant company can disappear at breakneck speed while minutes at the DMV stretch like hours, truly meaningful moments will loom larger in memory than the days or weeks surrounding them. Focus on creating those meaningful moments with your little one this year, and give yourself a break about the rest of the time.

Fantastic ways to construct quality time together include sitting down to do a DIY craft or activity with your child, cooking a kid-friendly recipe together, cuddling over a shared book, or playing an old-fashioned board game. (You could even make your own DIY board game.). Why not take a few minutes to brainstorm what you’ll do together, so you have something up your sleeve when a window of time opens up?

Get Outdoors

Researchers have found that spending time in nature is wonderful for our mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as naturally supporting physical health. Various studies have found that exposure to nature reduces stress, supports greater attention and focus, and improves children’s behavior. It even appears to make kids smarter, as various studies have found that time in green spaces correlated to higher IQ. Read more in our article about the benefits of green spaces for children.

This year, why not look for opportunities to spend time with your child in nature? That might look like having a picnic dinner now and then, sharing a book together in an urban garden, or taking a 15-minute walk in a green space after school or daycare pickup. You might also check your local library for tickets to botanical gardens or other nature areas, and note options nearby. 

For inspiration, consider taking a nature walk story time with your child, picking up some good picture books about nature, or going on an alphabet scavenger hunt together outdoors. 

Focus on Mental Wellbeing

Mental health is like a gate. It can keep you and your children from reaching your full success, potential, physical health, and joy just as surely as a gate can block your way. Open up your family’s path by making mental wellbeing and social-emotional health a priority this year. 

And we’ve got some great news: You can start just by curling up with a good book. Because, as it turns out, reading stories nurtures emotional intelligence, open-mindedness, and altruism. It also helps kids build social-emotional intelligence. Learn more in our article about the benefits of reading fiction.

Plus, engaging with kids during shared reading has been shown to support parents’ mental health. In fact, in research, mothers who received coaching about how to read with kids and engage more with them reported as much stress reduction as people get from therapy or direct instruction in coping mechanisms.

What a lovely way to nurture ourselves and our children. Read our post about how to practice engaged reading with your child for tips to get you going.

Do Good

Taking actions to support positive change in the world and help others in need are among the most powerful commitments we can make. They also instill important values in our children. And what’s more, doing good is remarkably empowering.

This year, choosing to take some simple actions with your child to support a good cause will teach them that they can impact the world for the better—and that you think it’s worth their time and effort to do so.

Browse our list of some awesome organizations that support literacy in different parts of the world for a cause that’s close to our bookish hearts, or think about issues that matter to your family. We also recommend finding ways to help out your local library.

Read Together

Well, we know we’ve mentioned this above a few times, but this is a site focused on raising readers, after all, so what did you expect? Make a resolution to read together this year—for a few moments or a few hours, in the park or the doctor’s office waiting room, at night or at the breakfast table—and you’ll further all these resolutions and more. 

To get started, add some awesome new reads to your repertoire. We’ve got lists of picture books for all kinds of themes and occasions to inspire you, plus a selection of articles on how to maximize the benefits of story time, even if you have just a little bit of time to stretch into reading memories. Add some of our recommended books to your library list, or ask your librarian for books that match your child’s interests (and your own). 

Happy New Year!