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3 Secrets to a Happy Kid

Here's a bug you'll want your kid to catch: happiness! New research suggests that if a child's parents (that's you!) are happy, if her classmates are cheery, if her neighborhood pals are smiley -- well, she's more likely to be sunny, too. Some ways to keep her in the happy-go-lucky loop:

Stay well connected. Happiness is like the flu, says James Fowler, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of California, San Diego, and the study's coauthor. The more peppy people you come in contact with, the more likely you are to pick up their good humor. So to make sure your child is fully exposed, join a playgroup, schedule playdates, try to hit the playground when you know there'll be plenty of other kids there.

Stress laughter (not achievement). The fundamental point of human existence has more to do with experiencing happiness than success, says Fowler. Of course, when your kid is older, you'll want to make sure she's getting the best education possible, but for now, opt for fun activities and toys over "brain-boosting" ones. And if you're in the market for daycare or you're ready to check out preschools, consider ones that emphasize social skills and play over drilling the ABC's.

Go to your own happy place. This doesn't mean forcing a smile through gritted teeth while you rifle through that stack of bills on the kitchen table. It means doing something that you know will push your bliss buttons -- crank up some music you really love or take your tot out for ice cream. There's nothing like a chocolate-smeared grin on a little kid's face to instantly perk you up.

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