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10 Things Children Need to See Their Parents Doing

As a former early childhood professional, I’m keenly aware of how much children learn from observing those around them. The adults in a child’s life are especially influential.

I was recently thinking about what I want my children to see me doing and I came up with this list of essentials:

What do you want your kids to see you doing?! Check out this list! #parenting Click To Tweet


I don’t read as much as I would like to. Plus, when I do read, it’s while I’m riding the exercise bike or before bed. Children need to see their parents reading and enjoying books. By modelling an appreciation of literature, children are more likely to engage in reading as well.

Action item: 

Try scheduling reading time as a family. Everyone grabs some books and reads on the couch together. 

Helping those less fortunate.

We are a one-income family. Even though our budget is tight, we often look for ways to help those less fortunate. Whether it’s donating food to the food bank or collecting money for the homeless, we do what we can to help those less fortunate.

Action item:

Commit to one volunteering or charitable action at least once a month. Whenever possible, involve your children. It could be as simple as asking them to look through their drawers to select clothing items to donate to a local shelter. Another idea is to have your children choose several items to donate to the food bank

Saying please and thank you.

I don’t mean to sound like your grandparents but what’s with the lack of manners nowadays? I think good manners are essential and have an enormous impact on the way people interact with you. Children need to see their parents being polite with others because this is the fastest way for them to learn. They won’t do it if they don’t see you doing it!

Action item:

When someone holds a door open for you, say thank you (or be the one holding the door open for someone else). Be kind and polite to servers and cashiers. Be well-mannered with your spouse. If your hubby washes the laundry, thank him for it (and make sure the kids see you doing so as well). Thank your children when they do something helpful. 

Making healthy choices.

Many factors contribute to living a healthy lifestyle. From exercise to food choices, to adequate sleep and hygiene, we have got to demonstrate to our children what a healthy lifestyle looks like.

Action item:

When selecting beverages, opt for water instead of soda. Involve your children in making healthy choices at the grocery store; instead of chips, get hummus and carrots! Opt for a family walk over a family movie. Demonstrate proper (and thorough) hand washing. 


Do you pray in front of your children or do you reserve prayer for meal time and before bed? Our children need to see their parents praising God and thanking Him for His blessings.

Action item:

Pray regularly in front of your children. If something comes up (i.e. they mention a friend has a cold) offer to pray with them. 

Doing the things they love.

Do you have a hobby? How often do you reserve that hobby for a time when the children are involved in other activities or after they’re in bed? Wouldn’t it be neat if your child got to see your enthusiasm for building model train sets? Wouldn’t it fascinate them to see how much you enjoy something?

Action item:

Plan your hobby times so that your children have an opportunity to see you doing something that you enjoy. If they ask questions, tell them about your activity. Maybe they would like to try it, too!


I struggle with playing. Quite often, I feel like there are many other things I can and should be doing. Yet, I always make time to play.

Children benefit from seeing their parents engaged in play. It’s an incredible opportunity to role-model conscientious and courteous play attitudes.

Action items:

Look for opportunities to play. If you’re having troubles connecting with your inner child, then check out this post for inspiration –> How to Connect With Your Inner Child.

Schedule times to play, even if it’s just 20 minutes per day! 

Planning and goal setting.

I am a planner. This is an easy one for me to demonstrate. My daily routine involves planning and setting goals for the day. This skill is vital to our children’s future! They need opportunities to schedule their time, plan their days, and set goals. The greatest lessons will not necessarily come from achieving objectives but by having unmet goals or days that don’t go as planned.

Action item:

Give your child an agenda like this one. Once a week, spend some time together writing in your agendas and setting goals for the week. Encourage your child to look at and assess their previous week before they start planning a new week. 

Being conscientious with money.

All children grow up to be adults who buy, sell, and invest. Children need opportunities to observe their parents being practical and wise with money.

Action item:

When shopping, allow your child to hear your decision making process (i.e. I won’t get this but I’m going to watch for a sale). It’s also beneficial to demonstrate how you purchase based on needs rather than wants. You could also start a family savings jar for a special purchase or activity. 

Enjoying nature.

From rivers to mountains, to grass and trees, this world contains much beauty. In the documentary Play Again, they shared that environmental degradation is directly related to our detachment from nature. Why care for something we have no connection to? Why care for the environment or the planet if we rarely connect with the beauty and wonder that nature presents? It’s critical that our children see us enjoying and appreciating nature.

Action item:

Take your children on nature walks. Frequently pause to enjoy the scenery. Involve your children in planting a garden. Whenever possible, choose to be outdoors. 

Our children’s greatest influence is us! Is there anything you would add to this list?


If you liked this post, I invite you to pin it.


Jennifer Bly
Jennifer Bly
Author of My Kitchen, My Classroom: An Introduction to Homeschool, creator of The Deliberate Mom, Deliberate Homeschooling and regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Jennifer writes about parenting, her faith, and life with her husband and two girls. Jennifer has a Bachelor of Applied Human Service Administration Degree with a specialization in Early Learning in Child Care.

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47 thoughts on “10 Things Children Need to See Their Parents Doing

  • Janine Huldie

    Great list and I do agree that all of the above need to be modeled by us to our kids, because we are the first that they will see doing so much of the above indeed and look up to no matter what. So modeling the appropriate behaviors is so essential. Thank you for sharing and wishing you a wonderful week ahead now!! xoxo :)

  • Amanda || Growing Up Madison

    Those are all really great things and I read a lot and now I know why Madison just loves reading. I try and do as much as you mentioned above. While I don’t do them all the time I do try as much as possible. I always consider myself as my child’s role model and they are pretty good at mimicking from a very young age so you put on your best front. Thank you for sharing this today.

  • Bonnie

    What a great list Jennifer! I also struggle with play and being a positive role model with the healthy eating. I love pizza and chips. Reading and enjoying nature are probably the area where my husband and i are ok at. In the summer anyways, I definitely need to work on the enjoying the whole embrace winter feeling they are trying to promote here in Edmonton. I dislike being cold. Pinned your post!

    • Jennifer Bly

      I hear you on the Edmonton winter thing! Although we’ve been blessed with great weather so far this year (especially lately)! On my other blog (Deliberate Homeschooling) I shared a post all about winter activities to do with homeschoolers – I pretty much wrote it for my benefit because I needed some motivation to get outside and enjoy winter.

      I love pizza and chips too. Chips are my downfall when it comes to making healthy choices.

      Thanks for pinning – I truly appreciate it.

  • Abi

    Yes to all! These are definitely things I want my kids to see and pick up from me. I have trouble playing too – guess I should pick that one up from them. :)

  • Miranda

    I agree so much with all of these. I think a big reason why 2 of my children are such big readers is because they see me reading so often. Of course, 2 aren’t as big of readers, but there are always differing personalities–yet these 2 will still sit and listen to me read to them.

    I also agree with hobbies. Our children should see us passionate about doing something and working.

    As for giving, my children see my husband and I regularly buy food for homeless, and I know that my children are paying attention as last November when I was taking my 6 year old shopping for her birthday she wanted to spend some of her birthday money to buy a homeless lady a hot meal.

    The only 2 I struggle with are playing and finances. But that is because I need a lot of help myself with finances, although I am getting better. And I always use their play time to work on my blog or clean. But it is one of my goals this year to play more!!!

    Thanks for this great and thorough list.

    • Jennifer Bly

      I know I need to get away from reading on devices and do more reading of actual books.

      Playing is tough for me too. It’s something that I’m continually working on (which is one of the reasons why I frequently set up new play spaces for the girls – I think it’s more to get me playing than for their benefit). lol

      I’m delighted you enjoyed this list Miranda – thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.

  • Tamara

    This is very cool. I read all the time and I love that my kids see it. Same with eating fruits and vegetables, although unfortunately, they do see me eat chocolate and doughnuts too. Not as often, luckily.
    I love them seeing us help the less fortunate, but lately, I love watching Scarlet do things on her own in that regard. It’s magical!
    And one strange thing I once heard but sort of agree with, is that it’s important for your kids to see you argue with your spouse or get frustrated in general. AND THEN, to work it out in a healthy manner.

    • Jennifer Bly

      My vice is chips – ugh – I should never have them in the house.

      I like your thoughts on the healthy disagreements and conflict resolution – awesome point and I agree that’s something that is important for our kids to see as well.

  • Rebekah

    This is great Jen! It’s so easy to tell our kids what they need to be doing without modeling it ourselves. As they watch us they imitate us whether we like it or not. It’s so easy for us to say” Do what I say not what I do” but in reality that never works. I love reading with my
    kids and on my on my own. I do however have a hard time playing with them but I do it anyway because I know it means so much to them and when I do join in I am so happy I did!!! Love this!!

    • Jennifer Bly

      I’m delighted you enjoyed this Rebekah. Sometimes we just need that nudge to do things a little differently. One of the reasons why I set up new play spaces for my children is because it excites ME more about playing lol.

    • Jennifer Bly

      I love your goal for lent. I often feel lent shouldn’t be about what we’re giving up but rather about what we’re going to do. The sacrifice was already done at the cross… what we need to do is take action. So I must say I think it’s an awesome goal to pray daily – especially with our kiddos. I’m trying to make it more of a practice to pray over even the “little” things.

      So glad you enjoyed this!

  • Elizabeth Spencer

    Jennifer, I saw–and loved!–this earlier when I was looking for the blog hop. Yes and amen to all, sister. I especially echo saying please and thank you. I drilled this into my girls when they were younger, and I cannot tell you how often people remark now that they notice my girls’ manners now that they are t(w)eens. This is not to brag on what a great mom I am (please…are you kidding?) but to say that manners matter. They convey respect and appreciation…two things that make life in this messy world better. Thanks for the lovely list…and for being such a gracious party hostess!

    • Jennifer Bly

      I’m delighted you enjoyed this Elizabeth! Manners are so important to me and while I’ve heard from individuals that it’s an “unnecessary” thing to focus on – I agree with your sentiment that it makes life a little better/easier in this world.

  • Jen

    Jennifer this is spot on. Our children learn so much through what they see us doing. We are their prime example of positive modeling. Thank you for sharing this great post. I just pinned it!

  • Emily

    This list is perfect! I am trying to get better about reading an actual book around my children, instead of my kindle or especially my phone.

    I completely agree about being conscientious with money. I know that my parents did a wonderful job with that when I was growing up. My siblings and I learned so much about being responsible with money from them!

    Praying (and reading His Word) are also incredibly valuable.

    Pinning & stumbling. :)

    • Jennifer Bly

      I read my kindle/phone often too – and I’ve wondering if that skews my children’s perception of me “reading”.

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this Emily (and for sharing it too).

  • Amanda

    Great list! My two older kids used to see me read books of my own all the time but after adding the third, I still read but only after they’re in bed. The littlest one is so prone to getting into trouble (trying to climb baby gate at stairs and kitchen table chairs) I dare not get into a book! I do let them see me blogging and even let them get involved in taking the pictures and picking activities. My oldest learned how to use PicMonkey because of it! Pinned this to Grand Parenting board and will be sharing it around!

    • Jennifer Bly

      That’s kind of cool that you let them help/see you blogging. I like that!

      Yes, little ones definitely require much attention. Soon enough you’ll get your reading time back to what it used to be :)

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Amanda!

  • Jessie, FlusteredMom

    I love these Jennifer! Right on! I learned early on that kids absorb everything. When my 2 yo daughter dropped something and said, “damn it.” It sounded as if it had come out of my mouth, same tone. Ooops. I LOVE that you point out planning and goal setting. That’s huge to teach!

    • Jennifer Bly

      I’m delighted you enjoyed these points Jessie! Your story reminded me of a time I was driving with my oldest daughter and while at a 4-way stop, she barked out, “stupid idiot!” She was two – and she sounded exactly like her daddy. Now he says, “ignorant drivers” and it’s hilarious to hear that come out of a little kid’s mouth. My youngest likes to yell, “Hey buddy, slow down” (she got that from her mama) lol. Can you tell we live in a city of poor drivers?!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the 10 things children need to see their parents doing.

  • Maria

    I love that you included reading and playing in this. They are important skills that are sometimes seen as just exclusively for kids. When in reality, I think children learn more from us and our habits than they do from watching their own peers. So why not behave the way we want them to behave and emulate the same mannerisms and habits we want to instill in them? Thank you for sharing such an inspiring and useful piece, Jennifer! I always love reading your insights in parenting.

    • Jennifer Bly

      Reading is so important… especially in this day and age of digital. I need to be especially mindful that I’m role modelling reading with an ACTUAL book and not on a tablet.

      I’m delighted you enjoyed this and thanks for sharing your thoughts on the things children should see their parents doing.

  • Robin Kramer

    I’m impressed that you have the ability to read and ride your stationary bike at the same time. I’ve tried to read while jogging on the treadmill, but there’s so much bouncing that I’d only catch every third line. :)

    I struggle with playing, too! Such a good reminder…. play is important!

    • Jennifer Bly

      Well, maybe it’s because my bike rides aren’t super intense… lol.

      Playing is important, yet for some reason, I have to FORCE myself to do it.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these ten things children should see their parents doing.

  • Tabitha Blue

    This is so good Jennifer!!! Just the reminder I needed. Playing is probably the one that is the hardest for me… like you I can always think of something I “need” to do, but my kids love it when I play with them! :)

    • Jennifer Bly

      I hear from so many parents how play is hard for them. Maybe it’s because of what you said… there are so many other things that “need” our attention and play seems like a low priority but our children ALWAYS love it when we play with them.

  • Caryn

    I love love love this post. You are right about all of them. I need to do more reading (outside of my favorite online newspapers, trade publications and blogs.) I also need to play a little more. I believe making this all a family affair is really key to a happy and healthy family.

    • Jennifer Bly

      I do a lot of online and digital reading and sometimes I wonder what message that sends to my kiddos… so I’ve been working at having a book in hand instead of a tablet.

      I’m delighted you enjoyed these points Caryn and thanks for sharing your thoughts on ten things children should see their parents doing.

  • Emily

    I am reading the book The Legacy Journey by Dave Ramsey, and one of the things he says is that with children more is caught than taught. This is such a great list to be mindful of. I have noticed that my son likes to mimic a lot of what I do, by pulling out the broom and “sweeping” or getting a small towel and wiping things down! We just started praying more with our son, so it was good to see that on your list!

    • Jennifer Bly

      I’ve never read that book – sounds intriguing… and I love Dave Ramsey’s work, so I’ll have to check it out.

      Praying with our kids is so important – they need to see our faith in action.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Emily.