“By simplifying, we protect the environment for childhood's slow, essential unfolding of self.”
Every day I strive to simplify and to create rhythm with our family. Honestly, most days I fail but the effort is there. I have accepted this journey will be lifelong, at least for this Mama. Today I started reading a book I picked up from my younger son's co-op. I am fairly certain that it will inspire me and change me. So I want to share a few thoughts with you and highly recommend the read.
The premise is that one of the biggest negatives to living in such a high pace, over stimulating, information driven society (which, for most of us is an every day reality) is that we are doing our children a disservice. Without giving them the space they need to develop, they are at great risk of not only being anxious adults but anxious children. The idea is that if we can simplify, find calm and rhythm in our daily family lives, our children will have the room they need to focus and concentrate on ideas and concepts in depth (therefore the “knowledge” will be greater and last!). To quote the author: “If you give a child less and less complexity, they become more interested, and this cultivates true powers of attention.”
I could go on and on but do yourself a favor and check this book out of your local library or order Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raiser Calmer, Happier and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne.
One of the first steps Mr. Payne suggests is changing the environment beginning with your child's “playthings”. He offers a ten point approach to simplifying via the “Discard Pile” of “Toys Without Staying Power”:
- Broken Toys – If broken, not matter how new or how expensive, throw it away.
- Developmentally Inappropriate Toys – Most of us are guilty of bringing in materials suited for children developmentally older than our child's readiness believing that 1) our child is ready (i.e. advanced) and/or 2) our child will “grow into” the material. Store these materials away for future use. For materials that your child has outgrown, toss them or give them away.
- Conceptually “Fixed” Toys – I struggle with this one because my son is obsessed with Thomas the Train. The idea is that your child's mind is the one who should be doing the creating and the imagining, not a commercialized character. I get it. Tough one to truly implement, though. Give them away or consign these toys. The resale value is high.
- Toys that “Do Too Much” and Break Too Easily – A highly mechanical toy is likely to functionally fail a lot. Furthermore these types of materials tend to be “fixed” or have a “rigid concept” in the sense that turning a super detailed rocket ship that bursts into the air, for example, into anything else is highly unlikely. So, instead of inviting a child to be imaginative, you're delivering the imagination to him. The imagining has already been done by the material. Toss them.
- Very High Stimulation Toys – Pretty straight forward.Toss them or give them away.
- Annoying or Offensive Toys – These toys make awful sounds and are typically ugly. Throw them away.
- Toys that Claim to Give Your Child a Developmental Edge – Expensive and “derails play”
- Toys You Are Pressured to Buy – The pressure comes from your child. I am guilty of this one big time. A parent can only handle being asked 49 times. I am sure of that one. In any event, get rid of these toys.
- Toys that Inspire Corrosive Play – I feel fortunate given that we have two boys that we have not entered this phase or, maybe, don't have boys incline to want these toys. Pretty straightforward. Weapons and guns should go, my friends.
- Toy Multiples – Having two boys so close in age, I am so guilty of this one. Having multiple toys and keeping them is a band-aid to a larger problem. Plus it clutters and takes from your child's ability to learn how to share and to respect the work, the space and the other child playing with the material. Montessori classrooms are very neat, orderly and simple. There is only one of each material ever placed on the shelf at any time. This approach is deliberate and done for the benefit of the child (and for the environment, generally).
I hope you enjoyed this post. Thanks for reading. I look forward to finishing up this book and sharing more with you.