30 Best Things You Can Do for Your Kids

By Brittany Burke, REDBOOK

1. Teach through storytelling.

"You have to remember that children are newcomers to the world. They didn't come bringing any information, so they need to learn as much as possible. The best way to do that is by reading so that you know as much as possible. Then make up a story about Europe, the queen of England, a king in Sweden. No matter what it's about, if you make a story exciting enough, they'll be inspired to go out and learn more." -MAYA ANGELOU, poet and author

2. Do not be a couch potato.

"The best way to encourage a love of exercise in your kids is to lead by example. My children know that unless it's raining, they're going outside-and I'm going with them. I'll challenge them to the Oz Olympics, filled with things like obstacle courses and running around the house four times fast. I give them these tough challenges so that sometimes they'll fail, and they'll learn how to get back up again. That kind of resilience is what taking control of your health is all about." -DR. MEHMET OZ, cofounder of HealthCorps

3. Be accepting of everyone.

"I keep remembering those lines from South Pacific: 'You've got to be taught before it's too late. Before you are 6 or 7 or 8, to hate all the people your relatives hate. You've got to be carefully taught.' In these days, with so many different kinds of families and ethnic groups, the best thing you can teach your children is tolerance, acceptance, and compassion. If they learn these qualities--and a parent must be the example-life will be easier and fuller. It is also a good idea not to throw the cat out the window." -BARBARA WALTERS, veteran journalist and cohost of The View

4. Get everyone together for dinner.

"Family dinners are a tradition we've instituted at the White House, and it has made a huge difference. No matter what else is happening, at 6:30 we stop everything and eat together. Even if the President is traveling, his goal is always to get home in time for dinner. We use those dinners to connect with our girls, have conversations, and just spend quality time together as a family. And we've found that our girls aren't as focused on gobbling down their food if they're engaged in a conversation. They taste their food and take their time. That's why I truly believe that the family meal is much more critical than we ever imagined, and that's what the President and I experience every day in our home." -MICHELLE OBAMA, First Lady

5. Skip makeup sometimes, and show them that you're okay with how you look.

"Everyone wants to be pretty. But to be amazing and special is about a lot more than your looks. It takes style, substance, kindness, and confidence. Remember to celebrate the qualities that make you unique. They are what inspire me as a makeup artist, and they should inspire you too. With or without makeup, you are pretty powerful." -BOBBI BROWN, makeup artist

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6. Take them to work.

"I always brought my kids to the sets of my movies so they could see for themselves what it was like to do something you love. They saw a great amount of hard work, as well as passion, a desire to get things done right, and enormous amounts of fun and pride in what we were doing. There was also always a sign on my monitor that said GUT, to remind me to follow my instincts-and my kids still remind me about that!" -NANCY MEYERS, screenwriter and director of It's Complicated, The Holiday, and Something's Gotta Give

7. Have great manners.

"Showing your children how to properly shake a person's hand, look someone in the eye, and be polite to everyone will help them now and later in life. As the old Head and Shoulders commercial goes, 'You never get a second chance to make a first impression,' and I really think that's true!" -KATIE COURIC, ABC News special correspondent; host of Katie, premiering in September; and author of The Best Advice I Ever Got

8. Say no.

"Kids need to learn to delay gratification-life isn't about getting everything you want exactly when you want it. When I say no to something and my kids have a great attitude about it, they end up getting whatever I'm refusing way sooner than they think!" -ANGELA BASSETT, actress, This Means War

9. Be consistent.

"Over my many years of working with horses and their 'people,' I have learned a truth that applies to how we treat our fellow human beings: You can't be a good guy when you leave the barn and a bad guy when you get to the barn." -BUCK BRANNAMAN, horse trainer and inspiration for the movie The Horse Whisperer

10. Give life a soundtrack.

"Music has always been an outlet and a friend I could count on to help me with my feelings, and I'm excited to pass that positive influence on to my son." -JEWEL, singer/songwriter whose new children's album, The Merry Goes 'Round, is in stores now

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11. Don't judge them.

"My goal is always to listen to my daughter and try to teach her without making her feel any shame." -COURTENEY COX, actress, Cougar Town

12. Get them involved in community service.

"Even at a young age, children respond to the idea of giving back. It's important for you to support and supervise their efforts, but it's essential that you let them do the work. When you teach them to help others with their own hands, you're giving them the beginnings of a joyful lifetime habit, and you're making the world a better place." -ANNA MARIA CHáVEZ, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA

13. Take great care of yourself, so your kids don't have to.

"As a mom, it's hard to put yourself first. I'm in the process of adopting and I'm spending a lot of time with my daughter in Haiti, and I really get that now. But kids know when you're spread too thin and falling apart, emotionally or physically-and it scares the hell out of them. I've seen it firsthand in the families I've worked with on Losing It and The Biggest Loser. A parent's unhappiness or poor health is a tremendous burden. And when you show your kids that you can handle your life, it allows them to feel secure in the fact that you can handle theirs. Prove to them that you will be present in the best possible way: with a healthy mind and body, and for a long, long time." -JILLIAN MICHAELS, health and wellness guru

14. Be their watchdog.

"As parents, sometimes we don't check what's in the products we're taking home for our kids. We assume we can trust what's in the store. You wouldn't jump to the conclusion that there's arsenic in the juice you're buying. You wouldn't think companies are allowed to put carcinogens in laundry detergent. That stuff never crosses our minds, but we're the ones who have to say 'Enough is enough' and demand transparency from the companies we support to keep our children safe." -JESSICA ALBA, actress and founder of The Honest Company, an eco-friendly, nontoxic-baby-supply delivery service

15. Give them the money job in the kitchen.

"Preparing food is one of life's great joys, but a lot of times, parents ask their kids if they want to cook with them and then tell them to go peel a bag of potatoes. That's not cooking - that's working! Kids want to sauté, to cut the pizza, to see how the ingredients come together. If you let them do the fun stuff, they'll develop skills and interests that will stay with them forever." -GUY FIERI, chef and star of the Food Network shows Guy's Big Bite and Diners, Drive-ins and Dives

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16. Watch with them.

"A few months ago we instituted family movie night on Sundays. It's a big deal: We turn off the lights, make popcorn, and watch a film about talking chipmunks or talking cars or talking insects. As a result, my young sons have become little Roger Eberts. In our postmortem discussions, we rate the movies from 1 to 5 stars, point out plot flaws, and pitch our own sequels. Eventually, I want to be there when they watch The Godfather: Part II and M*A*S*H*, and I want to talk about Big Issues like war, loyalty, ethics. I can't wait. But if they give Groundhog Day less than five stars, I'll be crushed." -A.J. JACOBS, author of Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection

17. Break the dress code.

"I teach my daughters never to be afraid of looking foolish if they really believe in something. I love being innovative, and my goal is to inspire my girls to believe in themselves and not worry about what other people think. By teaching them to embrace personal style, they're stretching their strengths and abilities and ultimately gaining confidence." -RACHEL ROY, fashion designer

18. Let them lose.

"I've learned some of my biggest life lessons from failing. It's important for kids to understand disappointment in order to really appreciate winning." -JENNIE FINCH, Olympic gold medalist, softball

19. Make 'em laugh.

"My son, Eli, loves slapstick-like when my 'baby daddy,' John, bops himself in the head with a book and exaggerates falling down, yelling, 'Aggh!' Sometimes it bugs the hell out of me, but we do it to make Eli smile. When a kid is laughing, they're experiencing pure joy. As a parent, I want to provide that as much as possible." -RACHEL DRATCH, comedian and author of Girl Walks Into a Bar...

20. Introduce them to the world of money.

"When I was 12, my dad started taking me with him to the bank and I began sitting at the kitchen table with my mom as she wrote checks for our bills. Being a part of the money-dealing in our family made me think about where money goes, and why, and how. Even if you can do it all online now, you don't want your kids to feel that a bank is a foreign place. If you actually take them there, eventually they won't be as intimidated when they meet face-to-face to sign a mortgage. And make bill-paying a time to explain why you do things like pay off your credit card bill in full. That will instill an awareness that money has its limits, and if you exceed them, it will cost you." -CARMEN WONG ULRICH, president and cofounder of Alta Wealth Management

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21. Learn from them.

"I consider my kids wiser than I am, because they are completely uncorrupted. I try to always hold them in the highest regard so they'll know their worth." -THANDIE NEWTON, actress, Good Deeds, and Olay spokeswoman

22. Be modest.

"When it comes to our own achievements, we should be proud, but constantly talking about ourselves is excessive. A friend once told me, 'You don't have to tell everything that you know.' Indeed, one of the best ways to be a good person is restraint-accentuating the positive in others and letting others notice our achievements. Understanding the pleasures of quiet is one of the best traits in a person, and ironically, it has exactly the effect of making others want to know more about your success. Gradually, kids come to see that bragging is a form of insecurity. We speak loudest when we simply shine." -JACQUELYN MITCHARD, author of The Deep End of the Ocean

23. Please, don't smoke. And if it's too late for that, quit.

"Kids with parents who smoke have a higher risk for asthma, ear infections, and behavioral problems, not to mention the fact that they're more likely to smoke someday themselves. Avoiding cigarettes is the best way for you to live a healthy life." -ELYSE PARK, M.D., director of Behavioral Health Research at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School

24. Tell them about the first time you got your heart broken.

"A heartbreak is like an inoculation: It hurts, but it's good for you. When my post-college boyfriend cheated on me, I felt shattered. But getting my heart broken made me more resilient. Now I make a point to tell my daughter about those hard moments, and teach her not to be stingy or too cautious, but to love big, give her whole heart, and understand that no matter what comes, she will survive it all. Loving well sets you up for an emotional intelligence and depth that you will need to survive the long-haul relationships to come." -LEE WOODRUFF, whose husband, Bob, was seriously injured while covering the war in Iraq for ABC News; her novel, Those We Love Most, comes out this fall

25. When you're home, unplug.

"Turn off the computer, BlackBerry, iPhone-everything. Kids can feel it when you're not 100 percent listening, so be completely present." -ALI WENTWORTH, actress, host of the web series "Daily Shot With Ali Wentworth," and author of Ali in Wonderland

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26. Have some faith.

"From their very first years, I instilled in my kids the importance of having a loving relationship with God. Not as some remote, impersonal 'pie in the sky' deity, but as their friend, who would be with them long after their mother and father are gone." -KATHIE LEE GIFFORD, cohost of the Today show

27. Talk to them about sex.

"People used to ask me why I said vagina so much, but it wasn't about saying the word-it was about breaking the silence and making everything about vaginas less taboo. We should teach our kids what sex is, what pleasure is, and how wonderful it is. Sure, enlightening them about healthy sexuality is going to be awkward. So what? What's the big deal with that? The more you talk about anything, the less awkward it becomes." -EVE ENSLER, founder of V-Day and author of The Vagina Monologues

28. Celebrate their inner beauty.

"I have always stressed to my girls that outer beauty fades but inner beauty lasts forever. Simple things like smiling and looking people in the eye could change someone's bad day into a good one. My mom always said that beauty is as beauty does, and I'm sure it will pass along to all the future generations of our family." -TINA KNOWLES, designer and mom to Beyoncé and Solange Knowles

29. Read together so they will learn to love books.

"As a child, I loved listening to my mother read to me. Little did I know she was doing much more than providing comfort and entertainment; she was paving the way for my learning and success at school. George and I later discovered what my mother already knew: that some of our sweetest memories came from reading together as a family." -LAURA BUSH, former First Lady

30. Encourage them to take risks.

"One of the greatest gifts we can give, as parents, is supporting our children in their dreams, whatever they may be. For me, this means doing my best each day to follow the example set by my own mother, who brought me up to believe there was nothing I should be afraid to try, while making it clear that she would not love me one iota less if I failed." -ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group

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