Helping Kids Simplify

Welcome to the July edition of the Simply Living Blog Carnival - With Kids cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. This month, we write about keeping things simple with our kids. Please check out the links to posts by our other participants at the end of this post.

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I considered writing about many different aspects for this post, but one of the main questions I hear from parents is about how to get kids to let go of things. This isn’t what they really want to know, but feeling overwhelmed, this is what comes out. What they really want to know is how to raise kids who want to live a more simplified life free from a need to hoard material objects. They want to know how to help their kids from drowning in stuff. To some extent, they want to know how to help their children, and their families, to not turn to items and let stuff rule their lives.

Is it even possible to raise children who are not obsessed with stuff in a society which revolves around the acquisition of the latest and greatest new toy, whether that is a talking doll or a smartphone? Yes. The world may have changed, but children haven’t. Children are born full of love and acceptance, and learning from the most important people in their lives – you! The most important way to help your children keep things simple is to be there along the way.

  • Embrace simplicity. So many parents complain about how their kids keep everything under the sun, but a lot of those same parents are modelling just that. Learn how to hang onto what is important and let go of what isn’t. Model it. Talk about it. And if you are one of those minimalist parents who is feeling overwhelmed by your child’s desire for stuff, remember, he is a child. You have a had a long time to reach the place you are. He is just learning and figuring things out. Look to help and guide rather than force. And then, to some extent, you may just have to let go.
  • Listen. It isn’t bad to want things. It’s okay for your children to look at an item and think it is really cool or mention how they would like to have it. In fact, it is healthy to feel that you are worth something. Talk to a child who thinks she doesn’t deserve anything because her life holds no value, and you will see exactly what I mean. That doesn’t mean you need to buy everything your child wants, but you can acknowledge her feelings. An item may really be cool, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it fits within your budget, your home, or with your goals. You can still wish, and if something is really important to your child, it will probably come up multiple times. You might even suggest that she add it to her wishlist or that she save up for it.
  • Explain. We know the reasons why we don’t purchase items or even bring home a bunch of free items, but does your child? If you don’t  talk about your reasoning, don’ t assume he understands. Listening to others’ thought processes can help us develop our own reasoning skills. The next time you are faced with a potential purchase, getting rid of items, or some other decision about stuff, say your reasons out loud.
  • Be there. To this day, my children do much better at tasks such as cleaning out their special shelves in their closet if I am there. My involvement may only be holding items up while they make decisions, but having me there seems to help. They feel less overwhelmed about going through items, and sometimes they need to not touch the items. A friend, when listening to me explain this, pointed out an article which she read that claimed that it was easier for people to get rid of things if they didn’t touch them. Once the individuals touched the items, there were more likely to become sentimental and keep the items in question. From my experience, that seems to be true.
  • Fit the space. We have a certain amount of space in our home, and if our stuff is overflowing, we know that it is time to declutter. When we rotate toys, we gather up all of the toys together and my children go through them, deciding what they really want out to play with for now, what they want to pack away for the time being, and what they are willing to let go of, whether it is to the garbage bin or to someone else who can use the item.
  • Keep it manageable. While we have always been good about keeping toys manageable, I admit that I didn’t always do as good of a job with the art supplies. I wanted the kids to have access to everything so as not to stunt their creativity. By having to much stuff out, I was stunting their artistic inclinations. I have since recognized what I was doing and now we have a pretty good system set up. We have staple items available at all times, with some items up higher where older kids can access them but younger kids need help. Other items are brought out and rotated so they are new and exciting, inspiring new creativity, and others are up out of reach but visible and can be brought out at any time by request.
  • Don’t bring it in. As much as parents complain about how much stuff their kids have, if your children are young, it didn’t just magically appear. Most likely, some adult made that purchase. If this is the case, there is a simple solution: STOP! Don’t do it. When well-meaning adults ask for gift suggestions, give other ideas. Memberships make great gifts, as do magazine subscriptions, time with the said adults, consumable products such as art supplies, or quality books for your home library (still stuff….but hey, I’m a bibliophile).
  • Give them your presence. You have probably heard the saying that children want your presence and not your presents. It’s true. You are the most important people to your kids. Be there for them to help navigate life. Explain and model. Teach by example, and talk about your values.
  • Let go. At the end of the day, your child is her own person. While minimalism may be your ideal, you can’t force that on someone else. Give your child a space that is hers and let her keep her stuff there. Don’t throw away someone else’s stuff. That is bound to backfire on you with your child trying to keep control by keeping even more items. Recognize that different people do things differently and work together to meet everyone’s needs. Remember, it is not about stuff.

 

photo credit: Shagamaroo via photopin cc

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Thank you for visiting the Simply Living Blog Carnival cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. Read about how others are incorporating simple living and parenthood. We hope you will join us next month when we discuss celebrations!

 

 

Simply Living Blog Carnival July 2013 Call for Submissions: With Kids

Welcome to the Simply Living Blog Carnival cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. We hope that you will join us on the third Tuesday of each month as we share posts about simple living in our lives. Submission deadline will be the second Tuesday of each month.

With Kids Despite what the media may have us believe, many families are finding that simplifying their lives is very important to keeping life with kids running smoothly. Many families are cutting back on the number of activities. Others are cutting back on the number of possessions. Still others are insanely organized. What does your family do in order to simplify your life with kids? 

To submit an article to the blog carnival, please e-mail your submission to mandy{at}livingpeacefullywithchildren{dot}com anddelilahfineandfair{at}gmail{dot}com, and fill out the webform by July 9. Please write a new, unpublished piece for the carnival. We will e-mail you with instructions before the carnival date. We ask that you publish your post on July 16.

We want you to use creativity and to express yourself as you see fit. To that end, you are welcome to post at your discretion with a few guidelines in mind. Please be respectful in your posts. Avoid excessive profanity and poor grammar or spelling. As the co-hosts of the carnival are all advocates of peaceful living and gentle parenting, we ask that you not post about non-gentle practices or violence toward others. While we will not be editing your articles, we do reserve the right to not add your post to the carnival if it is not on topic, is poorly written, or goes against the guidelines which have been set forth.

Blog carnivals are a great way to generate blog traffic and build a supportive community. Your blog will receive links from many other blogs and you and your readers will have the opportunity to discover other blogs with similar goals in mind. Please join us as we embrace Simply Living through Simple Living! We hope you will consider joining us every month as we discuss ways we simplify our lives.

Does My Child Have a Speech Problem?

Does My Child Have a Speech Problem by Katherine L. Martin: Book Cover

Learning language is a natural process for children. However, the rate at which that process is mastered varies with each individual. In a society which is increasingly focused on end products, parents often feel pressured to push their children to attend speech therapy. While such programs may be beneficial for some children, it seems odd that an entire society suddenly needs help in order to accomplish what was once a naturally occurring learning process. People have disassociated from an integrated society to the extent that we no longer recognize what is developmentally appropriate for children any longer.

That is where certified speech-language pathologist Katherine L. Martin’s book, Does My Child Have a Speech Problem?, can help. Martin answers parents’ 50 top questions concerning speech issues and language development. By understanding what is developmentally appropriate, parents and educators can better assess whether or not there is a true need for speech help. Helpfully indexed, the book not only covers normal language development and speech issues, but provides greater information about when and where to seek help, and gives fun exercises to incorporate into daily life when needed. This quick read will give assurance to the many parents whose children are developing normally while helping others to find the help their children may need.

Family Soccer Kick Around

Welcome to the August Carnival of Natural Parenting: Creating With Kids

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how they make messes and masterpieces with children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Photo by Elvert Barnes

As a mom, I want my children to have opportunities – opportunities to learn, to laugh, to explore, and to grow. To that end, I often find myself organizing events and activities in order to give them the opportunities they desire, whether in order for the activity to exist, to make it fit our family better, or to work around a limited budget. I organize the majority of field trips we go on. I’ve helped organize nonconventional coops for several years now.  The most recent request was soccer.

My children are interested in playing soccer, but playing in leagues wasn’t the best fit for us. Registration alone costs anywhere from $55-$90 per child. Add in equipment, and you are well over $100 per child. Then you have weekly practices in addition to games. You have no idea when those practices or games will be when you sign up, and with four children, chances are that my husband and I would be playing soccer shuffle rather than enjoying watching our children. Most leagues are competitive, and even those that aren’t have to write out parental behavior expectations in order to curb the competitive nature of the parents. Overall, this was not the situation we wanted for our family.
We just wanted to meet up with other families to have some family soccer fun. So, I organized it. I sent the following information out to several lists, including a link for families to sign up:
Family Soccer Kick Around is intended for families of all ages to get together and have fun with soccer. This is a no cost, relaxed atmosphere for families looking for an affordable, non-competitive soccer experience. While there will be no formal instruction or games planned, it is our hope that we can have a community atmosphere with more experienced players helping out those with less or no experience in the form of helpful tips and techniques. Whether you choose to practice, set up an impromptu game, or just pass the ball around, meet up with other families looking to kick around a soccer ball. This is not a drop off activity, and adults are expected to participate as part of this all age family activity. We ask that all participants treat each other with respect.
Dates for Fall 2011 will include August 21 and 28 and September 4, 11, 18, and 25. We will meet at 6:30 PM at the soccer fields at [insert location]. Use of equipment is at your discretion.

Bring a ball. Bring your family. Have some fun.

Our first meet up will be this Sunday and we are all looking forward to having some fun family soccer. We’ve found that our family can find a way to do just about anything we want. Sometimes we just have to get a little creative.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Family Draw Time Art ShowKate Wicker shares art (and inspiration!) from her family’s cherished tradition of family draw time.
  • The Rules of Creativity: Learning to Create with the “Non-Creative” — Zoe at Give an Earthly shares how she learned to accept her “non-creative” child and claims that anyone, child or adult, can be creative given the right handling and environment.
  • Creating With Kids: 4 Ways That Work For Us — See how Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings nurtures creativity with her kids through craft projects, outdoor creative play, celebrating the creative process, and setting up “little spaces of beauty.”
  • Creating memories, not things — Mrs. Green from Little Green Blog reflects on life with a ten year old and how ‘creating together’ has evolved from ‘things’ to memories.
  • The Gift of Creation — It may be hot, but Kellie at Our Mindful Life is already thinking about winter.
  • Hidden Talents — Sylvia at MaMammalia describes how providing the opportunity for creativity sometimes means learning to look for hidden talents in unusual places.
  • Creating Joy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she and her one year-old son create joy for their community.
  • How to do Crafts with Kids — Gaby from Tmuffin guest posts at Natural Parents Network and describes how to keep things simple when doing crafts with kids for magical (easy-to-clean, and tantrum-free) results.
  • Sugar & Spice & Baking on the Kitchen Floor — Carrie at Love Notes Mama enjoys making a mess in the kitchen with her daughter.
  • Young Scientist Makes Purple Potion — Hannah at Wild Parenting loves being a lab assistant for the young scientist in her life.
  • Making a butterfly house — Lauren at Hobo Mama demonstrates the proper way to build a wooden butterfly house with a preschooler.
  • Nurturing Creativity — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares the enjoyment she feels in nurturing the creativity of her children.
  • Home School Music – Sparking A New Generation Of Musicians — Based on her musical background, Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey talks about how she creates with and teaches music to her children.
  • Creating (im)perfectly TogetherMudpiemama shares some of the highlights of a summer spent building everything from ships to hoops but most of a lesson on letting go of perfection.
  • Family Soccer Kick Around — When her children wanted to play soccer, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children helped organize something that would work for her family.
  • Creating Memories Together on Skype — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how you can create memories online with adult children or anyone who lives in another city or country.

Easy Sun Wreath

Today’s activity on our Solstice Calendar was to make a wreath for our front door. I had originally planned something a bit more modern, but budget and time constraints, along with the fact that our steel door can get very hot in the sun (my original plan was edible), dictated some changes.

I cut a simple wreath shape out of a cardboard box that was in our recycling bin. You could purchase an actual wreath form at the store, but cardboard is free and reusing items is always good for our planet. Strips of fabric were cut from my stash. This is actually a good project to use up some of a fabric stash that has been sitting around for a while.

The kids debated about what colors to use. Traditional Yule colors of red, green, and gold were suggested, along with cheers for blues, a suggestion of a rainbow wreath, and others. They eventually settled on the colors of the sun – oranges and yellows, which fit in beautifully with our discussion.

Strips of roughly cut fabric are tied onto the form. The only caveat with this wreath is that you probably don’t want any cardboard showing. We opted to just tie on a lot of fabric. However, if I hadn’t had any children older than preschool age, I think I may have first wrapped the cardboard in fabric and then had them tie their pieces on. Scrunching the fabric together to hide the cardboard meant a lot more time spent on the wreath.

When we finished the wreath (I helped tie at the end), we were able to discuss the symbolism involved.

  • the sun wreath represents our celebration of the return of the sun, and longer days
  • the circular form represents the rotation of the planet, ofthe ever turning cycle of life and seasons
  • the multiple fabrics are both different and similar, representing our world is made of different peoples and cultures but that we are still all people
  • the ends of the fabric are the sun’s rays, radiating out and helping living things. Our actions not only affect ourselves but also affect others. When we do acts of kindness for others, theose people are more likely to have a good day and spread more kindness.

framed wall art…

When my daughter was two years old, she drew on the wall with a pencil. It was actually a pretty cool drawing. We took a picture of it before she helped me wash the wall off.

There is something appealing about drawing on the wall, though. It’s a different experience drawing on a vertical surface as opposed to a horizontal one. That’s when I occassionally began taping up big pieces of paper on the wall for a creative outlet. The kids get to draw on the walls without actually drawing on the walls.

A couple of months ago, as I was taping up a big piece of paper, I decided to try something different. I drew frames of all different sizes and styles on the paper. My daughter walked in while I was doing it and sat watching. Then she raced off to get her brothers. The kids ran in, excited to fill in the frames.

They each seemed to like a different type of frame. My three year old began drawing on the medium sized frames, carefully picking cooridanting colors from his drawings to go on the frames. My daughter was drawn to the very small frames, experiemneting with pictures in different colors. However, my oldest surprised me the most. He wasn’t very interested in arts or crafts when he was younger. It has only been in the last two to three years that has has started to do them at all. He picked out each frame, contemplating what would go best. He actually spent the most time, drawing various landscapes and portraits, and of course, naming and signing each one.

today’s kids…

Photo by Annette K

Gone are the days of silent children standing still in a line at school. They no longer blindy accept just any order from adults. They have opinions and a voice. I often hear parents, or grandparents, or the gentleman at the grocery store complaining that kids today aren’t the same. Back in their day, kids did what they were told without question.

It’s not that children have changed. Society has changed, and frankly, that is a very good thing. Growing up, my house was silent. My father believed that children should not be heard and we tiptoed around silently until he would leave. Then everyone, kids and mother included, would run around to practice piano or listen to some music. My mother refused to tell anyone, especially my father, for whom she voted because she remembered a time when a woman’s vote was controlled by her husband. My grandmother rarely voted because that was a man’s job. Other families recall stories of not being able to ride at the front of the bus or drink from the same water fountains or pursue the same jobs or education. Abuse from those in control was accepted and not spoken of.

The “good old days” were only good for those who held the control. Children were subservient because subservience was modeled. Wives deferred to their husbands, who deferred to their bosses. Only a small portion of the population had rights and everyone else was kept in line. The paternal hierarchy was held in place and the rest of society amounted to little more than property.

We no longer see legal slavery in our country. All adults now have the legal right to vote. People are supposedly equal to one another and we are seeing minorities step up and expect to be treated as equals. While discrimination still exists, on the surface no one questions an adult who expects to be treated as a person.

Children haven’t changed. Society has changed for the better. Fewer people live their lives in fear and submission. While society hasn’t yet reached the point where children, the very future of our civilization and species, are treated as people, we are closer. I am happy to listen to my children’s thoughts, to work together with them to solve problems, and to share our journeys together.

Check out the Carnival of Feminist Parenting at: