How to Hunt for Joy

by Meghan Fitzgerald

This year, we’re putting joy at the top of our list—and for great reason. And, we’ve gathered these favorite ways to seek out joy moments with our kids. Try some out. Share your findings using #huntforjoy and #Tinkergarten. And, comment to keep new ideas coming too!

Get outdoors every day: The natural world inspires joy. Even if it is only for 15 minutes, get and be outdoors. Your kids will thank you. And, when you see how joyful (and calm) it makes them, you will thank you too.

Learn from wee ones: With brains ready to learn about everything and full of wonder, kids are natural joy hunters. Build in time each week to slow down and follow their lead. Wonder about what interests them. Use all of your senses, and see what they see. They’ll lead you straight to joy.

Move your body: Exercise. Walk. Dance. Chase after your kids, but reframe it as exercise that is triggering positive emotion in your body. That reframing can actually increase the joy you’ll get from it.

Savor color: Colors, as noted by designer, Ingrid Fetell Lee, are a source of joy. Play with color. Stop to notice the colors around you, especially those in the natural world—we are hard-wired to find natural pigments both stimulating and calming, which is an amazing combination for the growing brain.

Watch the Sky: Most of us do not stop and really look at the sky too often. But, when you stop to think about it, the sky paints a background for our day. If color inspires joy, it could be our joy screen. Winter skies are particularly fascinating. Start by just start noticing it as a family. Wonder together, What colors or shapes do we see? How does the sky change on different days or at different hours of the day? How does the sky make us feel?

Notice the tiny things: When you are outdoors, slow your pace. Linger to appreciate the iridescence of a beetle’s back or the courage of a seedling just sprouting through the surface. If it helps, pop a magnifying glass in your pocket—even just as a reminder to think small.

Make messes: The more freely we play and the more senses we engage, the more joy we can take in. Read more about how to make friends with messy play, or get clever and easy DIY ideas here.

Befriend the animals around you: Try saying, “Hello, friend,” to squirrels, birds or other animals you normally might just pass by. Notice what they are doing and wonder about it. “Look at you scurrying so fast up that tree. I wonder what you are rushing for today...” You may want to start with birds—winter is a great time to learn about birds, no matter where you live.

Make friends with the plants too: Take time to really feel, smell and look closely at the leaves or needles on a plant. Learn even more about the amazing world of trees. Or, take time to “get to know” the plants. My girls love to shake hands with ferns when we are hiking. We used to scurry them along, but we’ve started slowing down and savoring this sweet little way they invented to connect and find joy in the company of plants.

Play with shapes: Hunt for symmetry or for shapes in the world around you. Round objects, in particular, help inspire joy. Take a day and gather all of the round things you own (and would want your kids to play with). Place them all together in a play area—it can be mind blowing—and have at it. Look for round things in the world around you as well, Joy all-a-round!

Joy Books: Read books that teach kids how to hunt for joy. Here is a list of our all time favorites.

Smile a little longer: At the risk of sounding like a Big Red commercial, make an effort to smile at everyone. Really, everyone. And, challenge yourself to hold your smile an extra few seconds. When you smile, your brain releases neurotransmitters associated with joy. When people smile back (nearly guaranteed if you hold your smile long enough), that joy will amplify. And, if your kids see you smiling and see people smiling back, they’ll learn to do it too!

We hope these will bring you and your loved ones joy. And, we’d love to hear more joy hunting tactics from you, so please comment and share using #huntforjoy and #Tinkergarten!