Life Simplified – Part 1

Simplification is a topic I have been thinking about a lot the past couple of years.  Simplifying food, simplifying toys, time commitments, you name it.  Life is so busy.  There are certainly unavoidable events that come up like doctor appointments, phone calls to bill companies, running errands, etc.  Those things take up time and are out of my control, so I try and focus on what I can control.

When my daughter was one, I attended a parenting class at a local baby boutique and came away with some valuable information.  The workshop, put on by two therapists, focused on discipline and becoming minimalistic as far as toys and activities, as to not overwhelm our children’s play space and time.  The book they recommended to support this concept was Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids.

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As a new parent, reading that book brought such relief to me that I didn’t have to “do it all.”  My child did not have to be in activities from a young age and learn about letters and numbers at age 2!  She just needed to be a kid and play and explore her world.  The book also focuses on establishing a healthy rhythm and creating traditions.  Things like fostering a sacred space at dinner time by lighting a candle and discussing the highs and lows of the day.  Or a family walk at the same time each day.

Or intentionally scaling back on toys, keeping no more than 15 or so toys (or sets of toys) out at any one time.  The author used the analogy of your desk at your office – if it’s covered in books and papers and clutter, how are you going to work?  Will you feel calm or stressed and overwhelmed, not knowing where anything is?  Chances are, you’ll feel scattered and unable to focus on any one task for a long period of time.  Same goes for kids and toys.  When you minimize their options, they play longer with the toys that are out.  I try to do a “sweep” of the toys we have out every few months.  I inevitably end up donating some, pitching the mismatched knick knacks lying around and then I rotate in some new ones and put some others away.

Also, I try to follow Simplicity Parenting’s suggestion of toys that are open-ended, meaning they’ll stimulate creativity and pretend play.  Some of those include an art table and art supplies, a play kitchen, cars, a baby doll, blocks, legos, books, and of course, we have bikes, scooters and chalk outside.  We don’t have too many “noise-maker” toys (thank God!) and I try to keep everything in baskets or on shelves that are somewhat uncluttered so the toys are easily seen.

The book also recommends limiting your child’s extracurricular activities to avoid overcommitment – and so that the family keeps their sanity.  We are trying to practice that in our house.  My daughter did a gymnastics class that ended in the Spring and then we picked up swimming in the summer.  Now that swim is done, we are taking a break and will maybe try dance at some point.  I enjoy the freedom that comes with open schedules where we can explore parks and meet friends and play.  Even when there is just one activity, that feels hectic to me.  I can’t imagine having multiple activities to attend each week!  I feel like there is plenty of time for that in the future, and even then, I want to keep the activities to a minimum if possible.

Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting, makes a compelling case for limited activities and sports at a young age:

Contrary to popular belief, starting sports earlier and with more intensity is not even going to result in a college scholarship, much less a professional athlete.  According to the Journal of Sports Behavior, “By tenth grade, more than 90 percent of high school sophomores had dropped out of an organized sport they’d started.”  Payne attests, “Many kids are quitting as they approach adolescence, just when the structure and rigors of organized sports and martial arts have so much to offer them in their quest for individuality, in dependence, and maturity.”  The reality is that “A child’s love of an activity is not enough to protect him or her from the effects of pursuing it too much, and too soon.”

 {source: Richmond Family Magazine}

I am so glad I came across Simplicity Parenting – it is one of those books that will always be on my shelf to refer to throughout the years.  I love the ‘less is more’ concept and will share more on that with regards to other areas of life soon!

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