“Many of today’s behavioral issues come from children having too much stuff and living a life that is too fast.”
– Kim John Payne, Author of Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids
Some homes have an area that is slightly troubled or let’s say, going through a difficult time. Do you have a room like this? Honestly, even though I am the decluttering queen, clutter has its way of sneaking back in. Most often this the playroom or perhaps the child’s bedroom. They’ve been bombarded with an insane amount of stuff, a lot of stuff!! Many toys of all different types spread across the floor, that bring very little joy to our children. This happens to the best of us because we live in a very challenging time in terms of toys. If this sounds like your world, make sure to check out Decluttering With A baby. It will go over step-by-step how to minimize the toys that are no longer serving your children so they can be more engaged with more meaningful toys.
Specifically, I am going to highlight what is play and why simplifying is so important. This is for the parents that can’t seem to stop buying their children toys or the parents who are in the constant battle with their child who wants more. If you are this parent, this article is for you.
So what is a child’s play?
A play is the child’s work. Play, just like you and I have our work, is the child’s work. And that is where research shows again and again children develop key skills. It affects numerous aspect of their health, their emotional health, academic health (intelligence), their ability to problem solve and even to create social skills and connections. So many of those skills are practiced and developed through play, so if we want our children to be emotionally and intellectiually stable humans in this world, we have to take our role more seriously.
Visualize, right now, where your child spends most of his/her time. Is it cluttered? Tons of toys? Safe? Is it overwhelming?
For a second, let’s take a metaphor and imagine where you work. Let’s say you get back from your lunch break and instead of just having your laptop and maybe your phone, you now have seven laptops, and three iPads, and five phones, and two scanners, and a desktop computer, a bunch of cameras, and all sorts of different gadgets in your workspace. And you’re expected to sit down and do your work. It might be very distracting and overwhelming right?
This is, what I call, choice paralysis.
There are now several books and magazines devoted to what is called the “voluntary simplicity” movement. Its core idea is that we have too many choices, too many decisions, too little time to do what is really important…
In your overwhelming new workspace, there might be too many choices for you to decide which device and app might best serve you. Where it might not be a problem with the actual devices, but rather the number of choices. Same goes for your child. If a child is expected to play in an environment where they have so many options, choice paralysis might hinder them from doing their best work: play. This is why toy rotation is such a genius idea. If we take that comparison which has its flaws, granted, it gives you a great visual of what it means to be in an overstimulated playroom.
“Children need time to become themselves–through play and social interaction. If you overwhelm a child with stuff–with choices and pseudochoices–before they are ready, they will only know one emotional gesture: More!” – Payne
Why simplifying your child’s play is so important
I don’t think in the history of the world there has been a generation more bombarded with advertising messages directed at our children. Bright shiny toys are at eye level to children at supermarkets and children are taught by their environment that more is better.
Have you ever been there or witnessed it happening? The child pesters, kicks and screams at the adult for them to buy them something. Its as if they think they won’t survive without it. You might think, “Oh my kid would never have a tantrum like that.” That is until they do. It’s inevitable but we can set up our environment to limit those occurrences.
Us parents are even subject to these advertising messages. Some toys are touted to help develop your child. That with this toy your child will learn to read, speak Spanish, or whatever it is that it’s going to teach them to do.
We have all been taught through marketing the messages that, the notion that the more the better and if you don’t give your child this toy you’re somehow depriving them. And if a child has more toys, they’ll play for longer and somehow suddenly they’ll magically be disappearing for hours on end, playing in some wonderfully educational game whilst you can have a bath and cook and clean, and go on vacation. All of this is to say that these toys are slightly oversold and overpromised, to say the least. And sometimes they’re even downright harmful to a child’s focus and attention, and the ability to play.
Clear out some of the clutter.
- Focus on keeping a mix of toys that your kids consistently enjoy and that keep them entertained for long periods of time. Often, kids’ favorite toys are simple, classic toys without lots of bells and whistles
- Whittle down books to a handful of favorites that can be savored
Rest, recharge, & prioritize downtime.
Some of my favorite moments with Grant are when we are in the bath with no music, no toys, just him and I in the water. He splashes, interacts with the water, and leans back and nurses in sheer bliss. It recharges him as it does me.
- Simplify your family’s schedule to reduce the frantic feeling of always being on the go
- Encourage free time where your child can explore and imagine
- Limit screen time (If this is something you are interested in, you will love this Screen Time post)
“Rest nurtures creativity, which nurtures activity. Activity nurtures rest, which sustains creativity” – Payne
Simplification is an ongoing process, not something that can be completed in an afternoon or weekend. Don’t beat yourself up if you went a little “overboard” with gifts for your child. You love them and have the best of intentions. Simplifying our child’s play takes time not only to reduce possessions but to also change habits and develop new rhythms. It’s not easy to change directions when your whole family is moving at the speed of light and the chaos always feels like it’s creeping in. Clutter happens, even as I write this there are dozens of toys spread across our living room. Begin slowly mamma, with small changes and an eye toward what you want your family life to look like.