Kristen Bell doesn’t take her life for granted — and she doesn’t let her daughters lose sight of the fact that they live a very blessed life.
“We talk about the fact that we are very lucky to have food on the table and to have jobs and a roof over our heads,” the actress told PEOPLE Saturday at Los Angeles’ annual Baby2Baby Mother’s Day Playdate, sponsored by Tiny Prints.
“We drive in our areas of Hollywood and see people sleeping on the street and in tents, and [daughter Lincoln, 4] talks about that. And she says, ‘Those people sleep in a tent on the street,’ ” continues Bell, 36.
“And I say, ‘Yeah, those people might not have opportunities for work. If you don’t have an opportunity for work, you cannot afford a house.’ ”
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“I work a lot with PATH, which is People Assisting the Homeless, and we do move-ins for families,” she explains. “My kids have come to those. You move a family from a transitional shelter into permanent housing. So we go through our toy box once a month and say, ‘What aren’t we using?’ ”
“It’s difficult for them, don’t get me wrong. It’s not easy — I don’t have Mother Teresa children,” the CHiPs star adds. “But we talk about it, and that’s what’s important. And we say, ‘Are we really using these dolls anymore? Because there are kids that don’t have dolls. Should we clean them up and see if someone else wants them?’ And six times out of 10, their answer is yes.”
It has gotten to the point where Lincoln now comes up with items to give away on her own when she knows that she doesn’t use them as much.
“Once, she came to me and said, ‘Mom, I’m not using this truck anymore. I want to give it to a kid who doesn’t have a truck,’ and I said, ‘That’s great. Put it by the front door and we’ll take it,’ ” the actress shares, adding that her daughter had one more request.
“Then she said, ‘No. I need to wrap it first.’ And she went and wrapped it,” Bell says. “I was so impressed that she understood that we don’t give people junk. We give people good items that we need.”
Adds the mother of two, “And that’s why I love Baby2Baby, because they really help delineate, what’s going to help people? This isn’t about giving people junk. It’s about giving people support.”
At home, Bell’s children are learning how to ride bikes. “[We] just popped some training wheels off,” she says of Lincoln’s newest skill. “At 3½, she started riding without training wheels, which my husband is thrilled about because he’s a motorcycle enthusiast. He says, ‘I’m going to get her a dirt bike!’ ”
The main focus in the house is communication, though — especially considering that two kids under 5 can have conflicting (or even too similar) needs.
“[There’s] a lot of conflict resolution in our house, because [at] 2 and 4, they want to play with the same things,” Bell says. “They want attention at the same times. So we just work a lot on communication.”
“Their school is really good at conflict resolution and personal space,” she explains. “My 2-year-old said to me this morning, ‘Mom, can I touch your body?’ And I said, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ And she brushed me on the shoulder. [Because] at school, you have to say that to other kids: ‘Can I touch your body?’ ”
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Bell and Shepard, 42, enjoy working on their family and own relationship goals. One of the ways they strike a balance is by calling for help when they need it.
“We have an incredible support system. We don’t do it on our own,” Bell admits. “My sister-in-law helps us with the kids. We have a little mini production team that helps us with everything. A lot of support from our family. We are not super people at all. We reach out at times that we need it.”
Like most parents, they don’t agree on everything as a couple, either. But that’s part of what allows them to grow together. “We disagree on almost everything, every topic on the planet,” the Veronica Mars alum says. “The reason why that’s really healthy for our marriage is because there’s a lot of critical thinking that happens in our household.”
“We don’t tolerate nonsense, alternative facts or not-thought-through arguments,” she continues. “We sometimes swear in front of our kids. We have very specific parenting techniques that some people think are crazy. They’re well-thought-out from our perspective.”
The couple’s fourth wedding anniversary is coming up, but those one-off dates are not the focus for either of them.
“My husband and I never remember [our anniversary],” Bell jokes. “Honestly, neither of us remember the date. We’d have to check a journal. But the great thing is neither of us remember, so nobody has hurt feelings. End of October will be our four-year anniversary.”
And their plans? “Stay at home on the couch. I celebrate being married to him. To me, that’s a lot more important than celebrating a day. I’m like, ‘I don’t want one day. I’d like 365 a year, please.’ “