What to Do – & What Not to Do – to Create a Haven for Kids

All children long for a haven, even though they don’t know it. Surprisingly, creating a haven for kids might look a lot different than you may imagine.

Children are resilient. They have an amazing ability to bounce back from unthinkable situations.

But even though they can, I think most parents would prefer their children to not have to live through hardships. Whether it’s poverty or war or a family crisis, most parents long for a safe place for their children.

And a lot of parents work hard at trying to shape the best childhoods for their sons and daughters. Remember the 1997 film “Life Is Beautiful”? Roberto Benigni creatively tried to shield his son from the horrors of World War II and a Nazi concentration camp by acting like it’s all a game.

Nurturing children can be hard in the middle of relational or financial strains. But it’s still a goal … and an excellent one. A 2012 study showed that a child’s brain benefits from having a loving, nurturing mother. (Source)

Mother and daughter cuddle and read a story

While loving through nurturing and encouragement and support is vital, having a safe and comfortable home also helps children immensely.

Your home doesn’t have to be lavish. And it doesn’t have to be filled to the rafters with kids’ stuff. But the safe, comfortable environment, found both in a close relationship and in a home, can be considered a haven.

What is a haven?

Stop for a moment and think about what a haven actually is.

A haven is a safe place. It’s a place where people feel loved, accepted, and wanted.

Truly, that is all any child wants. Forget about all the toys. Forget about all the technology. Forget about all the stuff. Feeling loved, accepted, and wanted is all that any child longs for.

Of course, your son or daughter will never say that. Because they don’t realize it and can’t verbalize it.

Instead, they may ask for every toy, gadget, or belonging that catches their attention.

But stuff is not what they truly need. It’s you. It’s your love and attention. It’s your acceptance and time.

Stuff may keep them occupied for a very short time, but it will never give lasting satisfaction. And stuff will never fill the void that relationships can – especially a healthy relationship with parents.

Dad and mom roughhouse their two sons - for fun - while the family dog looks on

What belongs in a child’s haven?

Since a child’s haven doesn’t require stuff (hallelujah!), what does it actually look like in your home?

A child’s haven is based on relationships, so you have the freedom to decorate your home the way you would prefer.

If you have young children, you’ll want to pack away any breakable belongings for a while. And you’ll need to expect a mess – and figure in extra time picking up until your children are old enough to start learning how to help around the house.

But beyond a messier, child-proofed home, you have a lot of freedom.

Personally, I suggest lots of books around to encourage a love of reading. Research shows the more actual, physical books you have around your home, the more your child’s education will benefit.

Little girl sits on a couch reading a book

Along with books, setting aside at least one family meal time a day will help nurture your children. Research also shows that family meals together help your children dramatically.

Turn off all screens and devices and spend the time eating together and talking together. By unplugging for a mealtime, you’ll be able to focus on each other. Instead of nit-picking at the way your children are eating, use the time to talk to each other. Help your children learn basic conversational and social skills by visiting together.

Since children need relationships, I’m also a huge advocate for limiting screen time. Less screen time is proven to help children. Granted, less screen time means you’ll need to spend time figuring out other ways to fill your children’s time. And for busy parents this can be a huge challenge. That’s parenting, though!

"Forget about all the toys. Forget about all the technology. Forget about all the stuff. Feeling loved, accepted, and wanted is all that any child longs for." - Hilary Bernstein, HomeToAHaven.com

In my home, I love to stick to creative basics like art, building blocks (hello, LEGO!), costumes, or reading. These activities will keep your children occupied while helping them learn and develop their imagination and creativity.

Family game nights are another way to have fun and build into your relationships. It doesn’t need to be a weekly routine, but simply picking one game to play after dinner can be a fun way to spend time together.

Toys don’t have to be completely forgotten – if your children enjoy playing with them, by all means let them play! Your children will grow up quickly enough and phase out of toys on their own. While they’re young, encourage them to play.

But toys don’t have to fill every room of your home. In fact, by limiting toys to just a few spaces will help you manage the mess and encourage your kids to use certain spaces to play.

As your children are nurtured by you, learn basic relational skills, and are encouraged to use their creativity, your home can become the safe, comfortable haven that will help them learn and grow.
Father snuggles his daughter on the couch while the mother sits next to them and reads

If you’re a parent, what do you do when you’re creating a haven for children?

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All images courtesy of Unsplash.

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