Six tips to simplify children’s lives – and make them happier! Simplicity is a powerful tool that shows our kids unconditional love and strengthens our parent-child connection.
Photos courtesy of Lacey Meyers Photography
“Outside Mama” says my little man, “outside”.
A momentary break in our round-the-clock west coast spring rain reignites my son’s passion for the outdoors. His instincts are telling him life’s better in the fresh air. With my husband away on business I decide to throw our schedule out the window and go with the flow my son is about to create.
We rake the yard. Dig for worms. Study ladybugs. And paint watercolor dinosaurs sitting on the grass.
“Are we done buddy? Inside now?” I ask after being outside for an hour and a half.
“No Mama” he says pointing to the back gate, “Bat and ball”. Off we go. My two-year old son confidently leads the way. We take our time, examining spring bulbs, collecting rocks and looking for “Six Toes”, our neighbor’s cat.
We arrive at our local park and start tracking dinosaurs. Their footprints are scattered all across the gravel pitch and their eggs are resting in a hollowed out tree. We head up to the diamond and play baseball in the fading afternoon light. And we play hide and seek in the adjacent woods with another little boy and his Dad.
The park is quiet as the other kids go home for dinner. The dog walkers come out and we make friends with a rescued black and white collie. The sun sets and my son finally agrees to go home for dinner after I suggest the bears may soon appear.
Our three-and-a-half-hour adventure leaves me feeling calm and peaceful, as if I’ve been meditating. I had no idea how far my little man’s imagination would take us this afternoon. His innocent curiosity and slow pace remind me of the power and beauty of simplicity. It leaves me craving more.
I often find myself feeling as if I need to entertain, stimulate or teach my son. But he’s proven if I hand him the reigns, he’s got this
And what’s more – he’s ready to take me on marvelous adventures. It’s a privilege to be included in his enchanted imaginary world. A simple afternoon where not much happened was exactly what we both needed.
I reflect on how widely a post I wrote about how simplifying our kid’s lives may protect against mental health issues has been read. I’m humbled by the overwhelming support it has received but it’s made me contemplate why. I wonder if it’s because we instinctively know simplifying is vital not only for our kid’s health, but also for our own. Simplicity is a rare gift in modern life. It’s an obvious message and when we hear it, maybe we can’t help but shout YES.
Slowing down feeds our souls and nurtures our families. No matter what parenting style we practice, this topic unites us. Simplicity is a powerful tool that shows our kids unconditional love, strengthens our parent-child connection and makes us happy.
Join the Free 7 Day Simplifying Childhood Challenge to simplify your family life and take back control of your time, freedom and happiness.
Six Tips to Simplify Children’s Lives
- CONQUER THE CLUTTER
Perhaps the most obvious place to start and also a LOT of fun. Fewer toys benefit kids giving them the freedom to immerse themselves deeply in imaginative rather than superficial play.
Here are a few tips to help decide which toys need to find a new home:
- Remove broken toys
- Remove toys with missing parts
- Remove toys which limit kids imagination (toys where you press a button and it lights up or makes a noise are prime candidates)
- Remove toys your child hasn’t played with in over a month
- And then remove some more
- Always keep favorites which are often simple and classic toys
After you remove excess toys your child may still have too many available at any one time. Create a toy library so that you can rotate toys on a regular basis.
- SIMPLIFY INFORMATION
While it’s healthy for children to be aware of the world around them, we need to safeguard them against age inappropriate information which will not “prepare” our kids for the world but will paralyze them.
The National Institute of Mental Health suggests the brain doesn’t fully mature until our mid-late twenties with the frontal lobe, responsible for judgment and decision-making being the last region to complete development. Children simply can’t process adult information.
Exposing them to distressing world news can be the source of genuine uneasiness over a situation they can’t rationalize. Watching traumatic news after the kids go to bed or limiting adult conversations can go a long way to reducing our kid’s anxiety levels.
- KILL THE SCREENS
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that children spend an average of seven hours a day on screens, including television, devices, computers and phones. While you’d be hard pressed to find a parent who is unaware of the potentially harmful effects of screens on brain development, reducing screen time remains one of the most common modern day parenting challenges. So where do you start?
Perhaps the most powerful influence we can have is to model the behavior we’d like to see by reducing our own screen time.
My son recently said to me, “put the phone down mama”. It was a monumental wake up call. Even as adults, it hurts when we spend precious time with loved ones and they allow texts and emails to distract them. The last thing I want is my son feeling like he’s competing with my phone.
So, I’ve started setting rules for myself. I don’t reply to texts immediately unless it’s urgent. Emails can wait. And social media updates will be there later. Out of sight, out of mind works well for me so I hide my phone…from myself. And using flight mode is my new best friend.
They say it takes three weeks to break a habit so set yourself a 21-day challenge. Leave your phone at home when you go out as a family. Have a social media free weekend. Or switch your phone off an hour before bed. It’s only the tip of the screen time iceberg but leading by example will filter down to your kids.
- SIMPLIFY THE RHYTHM OF LIFE
In Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne describes daily life as a song, with both high and low notes. The high notes are school, sports practice, music lessons and birthday parties. The low notes are walking the dog, getting an ice cream with Dad or playing catch in the backyard.
It’s important that we build in regular low notes for our kids to rely on as a release of tension and a break from the pressures of daily life. It’s also a valuable opportunity to strengthen our connection with our kids.
- MINIMISE SCHEDULES
Since I was a child, homework and time spent in structured activities has doubled meaning free time has been cut in half for most children. On top of that kids are being carted from one activity to the next resulting in almost constant stimulation. Payne says, “A child who doesn’t experience leisure – or better yet, boredom – will always be looking for external stimulation, activity, or entertainment”
By prioritizing time for free play over organized activities we foster creativity, self reliance and happiness. As an added benefit, parents who feel like a taxi service enjoy a new sense of calm and a chance to spend more quality time with their kids; one of the simple joys of parenting.
- GET OUTSIDE
Spending time with children outside is never a mistake. Nature provides endless possibilities for healthy stimulation, creativity and confidence building. In his compelling book Last Child in The Woods, Richard Louv, exposes the growing divide between children and nature. He suggests “nature-deficit disorder” is directly linked to conditions such as obesity, attention disorders, and depression in today’s wired generation.
Whether it’s going for a hike come sunshine or rain, playing at the park, swimming in the ocean or exploring your own backyard getting your kids outside as often as possible will always lead to good things.
RISE TO THE CHALLENGE
Without a doubt, parenthood has brought unprecedented levels of complexity to my life. But when I immerse myself fully in my son’s magical world I am struck by the sense of peace it brings. He is my tiny, two-feet-tall Zen Master. At times I’m sure he was sent to slow me down. To make me appreciate spring bulbs, ladybugs and dinosaur tracks.
If we all lived in wild places, in log cabins, growing veggies and tending to our money trees simplicity would come naturally. But until that time, if we want to revel in the treasures it promises we need to intentionally make space in our lives and invite it into our modern homes. Let’s support each other to have the courage to trust our instincts, be the odd parent out and let our kids be silly, fun-loving, game-playing, dinosaur-chasing kids for as long as they can.
If you resonated with this post join the Free 7 Day Simplifying Childhood Challenge to simplify your family life and take back control of your time, freedom and happiness.
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