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20 December 2016

Giving Kids Are Happy Kids

Keywords: Christmas, experiment, happiness, North America, preschoolers,

All over the world, it is a famous Christmas tradition that parents indulge their kids with gifts on Christmas day. Toddlers too are provided with Furbies, M&Ms, Lego sets, and Barbies during this festive time of year. While most parents give these gifts to make their children happy, a study in PloS ONE shows that toddlers are actually happier when giving gifts themselves.

Take aways

  • Giving to others makes toddlers happier than receiving gifts themselves.
  • Toddlers even prefer to give gifts at their personal costs when compared to giving gifts for which they did not have to use their own resources.
  • For parents, it is important to know that their children will be happier when giving gifts than when receiving them. On Christmas day, parents might try to let their children share some of their own possession with others instead of only giving gifts to them.

Study information

  • The question?

    1. Are toddlers happier when giving treats to others than when receiving treats themselves?
    2. Are toddlers happier when engaging in costly giving than when giving the same treat at no personal cost?
  • Who?

    Twenty toddlers (mean age = 22 months and 26 days; 55% boys)

  • Where?

    Vancouver, Canada

  • How?

    Before the experiment, each toddler was introduced to puppets who liked treats (cookies), by showing the puppets eating the treats and making “yum” eating sounds. In the real experiment, toddlers were introduced to a new puppet (“Monkey”) and were told that it liked treats. They were also told that “both you and the monkey have no treats right now”. Then first, the experimenter found 8 treats, and gave them all to the toddler. Second, the experimenter found 1 treat and gave it to Monkey. Third, the experimenter found another treat and asked the toddler to give it to the puppet. Fourth and last, the experimenter asked the toddler to give Monkey one of his or her own treats. Toddlers’ happiness during each of these four phases was coded on a scale from 1 (not at all happy) to 7 (very happy), by observing toddlers’ facial expressions.

Facts and findings

  • Toddlers were happier when giving treats (bars 1 and 2; Figure 1) than when receiving treats themselves (bar 3 and 4; Figure 1).
  • Moreover, toddlers were also happier when giving away their own treat (bar 4; Figure 1) than when giving away the “found” treat (bar 3; Figure 1).