Thursday, March 2, 2017

Fewer Toys = More Play

From my inbox today of Day 1 of the "7 Day Simplifying Childhood Challenge"


The Fewer Toys Children Have the More They Play

“As you decrease the quantity of your child’s toys and clutter, you increase their attention and their capacity for deep play.” Kim John Payne 

Does your child have a room full of toys, but only plays with a handful of them? Is constantly tidying toys and clutter stealing your sanity? Or time you could be spending with your child? You’re not alone. The average western child has 150 toys and receives an extra 70 each year. Our homes are being inundated with toys that aren’t necessarily serving our children well.

One Raised Good reader commented: “When my kids were young, my husband read an article about children having 10 toys and no more. We walked into their play room, he scooped up all their toys and told me to get rid of them. I was extremely hesitant. I thought they’d be at my feet with so ‘few’ toys. But no, they played better with 10 toys than with 40.”

This experience is backed by research that shows that children, especially those under five, are overwhelmed and actually play more when they have fewer toys. Kathy Sylva, professor of educational psychology at Oxford University, says that “when they [children] have a large number of toys there seems to be a distraction element, and when children are distracted they do not learn or play well." Her research shows that children with fewer toys whose parents spend more time reading, singing or playing with them surpass youngsters from even more affluent backgrounds.

Fewer toys gives kids the freedom to immerse themselves deeply in imaginative rather than superficial play. With fewer toys children become more creative using household items to invent their own games. You’d be hard pressed to find a parent who hasn’t said, at one point, that their child loved playing with the cardboard box a toy came in more than the toy itself. With fewer toys children have the opportunity to truly value what they have and learn to take greater care of their things. They become less self-centred as they learn they can’t have everything they want. We send the message that they don’t need to look to external sources of materialism to bring them fleeting happiness.

But the problem doesn’t lie solely with our children; we need to look at our own habits too. For many of us, gift giving is a love language. The theory of love languages is that each of us give and receive love in different ways. The five love languages are words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. Most of us experience love through all of these languages but often one or two are dominant. Giving and receiving gifts can be a wonderful expression of love but I wonder if our consumer driven society is predisposing us to allow one love language to monopolize our relationships. We can show our love for our children in other ways. Spending quality one on one time with our kids. Going for an ice cream together. Wrestling with our two year old on the bed. Hugs, hugs and more hugs.

So, we know we need to eradicate the clutter but how do we do it? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Create four piles: keep, remove, donate, and rotate (by creating a toy library - we’ll get to that soon) 
  • Remove all broken toys 
  • Remove all toys with missing parts 
  • Remove any toys that limit a child’s 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 Always keep favourite toys that are often simple and classic toys 
  • Donate toys to a local Salvation Army, a child’s hospital or a play centre. If your children are old enough to understand the concept (my son isn’t just yet!), involve them in the process and they’ll feel good about helping other children and giving their old toys a new home. 
If you have young children, I recommend completing this process without them. We typically “tidy” our son’s room and clear the house of toys when he’s sleeping, otherwise it is a complete disaster. The following day he doesn’t seem to notice missing toys AND he plays with the toys he has left with renewed enthusiasm and energy. After you remove and donate excess toys your child may still have too many toys available to play with at any one time. We created a toy library and it has been a massive success. We keep six clear plastic containers in a cupboard downstairs and every few weeks we bring the “old” toys out and our son plays with them as if they were brand new. We either return them to the cupboard downstairs or swap out “old” toys for “new” toys that are in his bedroom.

By no means am I suggesting that toys are evil and that they must be eradicated. Toys are wonderful and add such joy to childhood - it's just that our society has taken it to the extreme. In tomorrow's lesson I'll give some tips on how to choose toys (and a few of my favourites) to help maintain simplicity (and sanity) in your home. Once you start clearing out toys, you may feel the urge to minimise the whole house. And I can almost guarantee it will have positive effects on your life - more on that in a couple of days as we delve into how simplifying our homes can make parents happier and parenting so much easier. For today, enjoy making more space for your children to play by removing excessive toys. Put some music on and make it a positive experience.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Simplifying Childhood

I read this great article last week by Tracy Gillett on her blog "Raised Good" that I just found out about. Quoted below. I signed up for the 7 day simplifying childhood challenge at the end of that post, and will be posting those here also as I read through them, to help myself stay focused on finally clearing out all this excess for good and spending time with my kids reading, singing, and playing in the mud
My kiddos playing in the gutter mud - Aug 2008
Extraordinary Things Happen When We Simplify Childhood
by Tracy Gillett

When my Dad was growing up he had one jumper each winter. One. Total. He remembers how vigilantly he cared for his jumper. If the elbows got holes in them my Grandma patched them back together. If he lost his jumper he’d recount his steps to find it again. He guarded it like the precious gift it was. He had everything he needed and not a lot more. The only rule was to be home by dinner time. My Grandma rarely knew exactly where her kids were. They were off building forts, making bows and arrows, collecting bruises and bloody knees and having the time of their lives. They were immersed in childhood.

But the world has moved on since then. We’ve become more sophisticated. And entered a unique period in which, rather than struggling to provide enough parents are unable to resist providing too much. In doing so, we’re unknowingly creating an environment in which mental health issues flourish. When I read Kim John Payne’s book, Simplicity Parenting one message leapt off the page. Normal personality quirks combined with the stress of “too much” can propel children into the realm of disorder. A child who is systematic may be pushed into obsessive behaviours. A dreamy child may lose the ability to focus. Payne conducted a study in which he simplified the lives of children with attention deficit disorder. Within four short months 68% went from being clinically dysfunctional to clinically functional. The children also displayed a 37% increase in academic and cognitive aptitude, an effect not seen with commonly prescribed drugs like Ritalin.

As a new parent I find this both empowering and terrifying. We officially have a massive opportunity and responsibility to provide an environment in which our children can thrive physically, emotionally and mentally. So, what are we getting wrong and how can we fix it?


Early in his career, Payne volunteered in refugee camps in Jakarta, where children were dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. He describes them as, “jumpy, nervous, and hyper-vigilant, wary of anything novel or new.” Years later Payne ran a private practice in England, where he recognized many affluent English children were displaying the same behavioural tendencies as the children living in war zones half a world away. Why would these children living perfectly safe lives show similar symptoms? Payne explains that although they were physically safe, mentally they were also living in a war zone of sorts, “Privy to their parents’ fears, drives, ambitions, and the very fast pace of their lives, the children were busy trying to construct their own boundaries, their own level of safety in behaviours that weren’t ultimately helpful.” Suffering with a “cumulative stress reaction” as a result of the snowballing effect of too much, children develop their own coping strategies to feel safe.

Parents and society are conscious of the need to protect our children physically. We legislate car seats, bike helmets and hover in playgrounds. But protecting mental health is more obscure. But, sadly, we are messing up. Modern day children are exposed to a constant flood of information which they can’t process or rationalise. They’re growing up faster as we put them into adult roles and increase our expectations of them. So, they look for other aspects of their life they can control.


Naturally as parents we want to provide our kids with the best start in life. If a little is good, we think more is better, or is it? We enrol them in endless activities. Soccer. Music. Martial arts. Gymnastics. Ballet. We schedule play dates with precision. And we fill every space in their rooms with educational books, devices and toys. The average western child has in excess of 150 toys each and receives an additional 70 toys per year. With so much stuff children become blinded and overwhelmed with choice. They play superficially rather than becoming immersed deeply and lost in their wild imaginations. Simplicity Parenting encourages parents to keep fewer toys so children can engage more deeply with the ones they have. Payne describes the four pillars of excess as having too much stuff, too many choices, too much information and too much speed. When children are overwhelmed they lose the precious down time they need to explore, play and release tension. Too many choices erodes happiness, robbing kids of the gift of boredom which encourages creativity and self-directed learning. And most importantly “too much” steals precious time.


Similar to the anecdote of the heat slowly being turned up and boiling the unsuspecting frog, so too has society slowly chipped away at the unique wonder of childhood, redefining it and leaving our kid’s immature brains drowning trying to keep up. Many refer to this as a “war on childhood”. Developmental Psychologist David Elkind reports kids have lost more than 12 hours of free time per week in the last two decades meaning the opportunity for free play is scarce. Even preschools and kindergartens have become more intellectually-oriented. And many schools have eliminated recess so children have more time to learn. The time children spend playing in organized sports has been shown to significantly lower creativity as young adults, whereas time spent playing informal sports was significantly related to more creativity. It’s not the organized sports themselves that destroy creativity but the lack of down time. Even two hours per week of unstructured play boosted children’s creativity to above-average levels.


So, how do we as parents protect our kids in this new “normal” society has created? Simple, we say no. We protect our kids and say no, so we can create space for them to be kids. No, Sam can’t make the birthday party on Saturday. No, Sophie can’t make soccer practice this week. And we recreate regular down time providing a sense of calm and solace in their otherwise chaotic worlds. It provides a release of tension children know they can rely on and allows children to recover and grow, serving a vital purpose in child development. We filter unnecessary busyness and simplify their lives. We don’t talk about global warming at the dinner table with a seven year old. We watch the news after our kids are asleep. We remove excessive toys and games from our toddler’s room when they’re sleeping. We recreate and honour childhood. Our children have their whole lives to be adults and to deal with the complexities of life, but only a fleetingly short time in which they can be kids. Silly, fun loving kids. Childhood serves a very real purpose. It’s not something to “get through”. It’s there to protect and develop young minds so they can grow into healthy and happy adults. When society messes too much with childhood, young brains react. By providing a sense of balance and actively protecting childhood we’re giving our children the greatest gift they’ll ever receive.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Fresh Towels

Saw this on facebook today - I have towels like this at home (back in the states) so this is for my future reference after we're done with this trip in Brazil.

by Jocelyn Killam

After a while, towels start to have a build up of softeners & laundry soap. This causes them to no longer absorb like they did when you first purchased them. You may even start noticing an odor that is not so pleasant after a while, too. How can you refresh them once this happens?

Simple solution to follow....

Run them through a wash cycle with only hot water & 1 cup of white vinegar. Do not add soaps! Then run them through again. This time using hot water and 1/2 cup baking soda. Again, do not use soaps! This process will strip the residue that has built up and cause them to be fresh and practically new again. You will notice they absorb better as well. Repeat this procedure as needed.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Winter Pennant Banner

I finally made our winter pennant banner. The kids were proud of me. I sewed this one onto a ribbon. The "i" is bugging me a little, so we'll see if I change that for next year, but as for now, we'll call it good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Winter Chandelier

Another place in our house that we decorate for the season is the entryway chandelier. The first time I did it was for this past fall, and we had leaves hanging on jute twine falling from it. For winter, we have snowflakes hanging from silver, blue and white ribbons.
We have more snow inside than we do outside right now. It's been a spring like past couple of weeks.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Iron Thingy & Winter Magnets

We updated our seasonal Iron decoration - I put away the fall leaves last week and then yesterday updated it with some snowflake magnets that we made. Bought the snowflakes at Dollar Tree and Walmart, magnets were just ones I had on hand. Here's the one by the music room - easier to see against the brown walls.
And the one upstairs, a little harder to see the white on white, so I put a few more of the silvers ones upstairs.

They make me happy!