Simplifying the Playroom

My mom, Lily and I were in Target a few weeks before Valentine's Day leisurely shopping.  I say leisurely because two adults to one child is like a vacation.  We were perusing the seasonal aisles full of hearts and candy and champagne and valentines.  I was just thinking how great my vanilla latte tasted when Lily does her little shreak thing and lays out for the biggest stuffed bear on the shelf.  My mom thought it was the cutest thing in the world.  She was going to buy it for her, for Valentine's Day, of course.  How could she not?  (insert eye roll...love you mom!)  I tried to compromise with a smaller stuffed bear and thought the problem was solved.  As we started to leave the hearts and lace and stuff, Lily let. it. out.  That shrill of a scream that came from her lungs was heard at the registers.  People were staring, some averted their eyes when I made eye contact while others just smiled and shrugged.  She was having a monster meltdown, maybe the biggest one I have witnessed from her.  I wish I could tell you I stood strong and said no and walked right out Target's doors with no bear for Lily.  But, I didn't.  I caved.  My mom came around the corner with that big, pink stuffed bear and all was well.  You could hear everyone (me included) let out a huge sigh of relief as Lily snatched the bear from my mom.

It looked something like this...how can this girl still be cute when she is melting down??!

I am on my second read of Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne.  It's so good Mommas.  Payne, a consultant and trainer to more than sixty U.S. independent and public schools, discusses taking away the noise, the clutter, the stuff in our kid's life so they are free to play and explore their world.  He discusses paring down toys, clothes, even books (I know, this is a hard one for me!) and letting their world be more about experiences than stuff.  Hence, less stuffed animals from Target and more time outside in the mud.

I am in the first stage of implementing Payne's strategy, with my own spin on it.  First things first...paring down our toys, clothes, books...all the stuff.  This isn't hard for me to do, I actually enjoy it.  I have a problem with getting rid of too much stuff.  For example, I donate all of my son's winter hats in the summertime and then realize in December I have nothing to cover his ears.  Brilliant.  I'm sure some of you don't have this problem.  But, the point here is transforming a house into a place that has as little clutter as possible while still feeling safe with few distractions and not too many choices.

Not coincidently, before starting Simplicity Parenting, I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which is also about simplifying.  Needless to say, I have been purging like it's my job.  But, like I said earlier, I weirdly enjoy it.  I literally just got done purging our house, but haven't really thought much about the kids' toys, clothes, and books.  Simplicity Parenting gave me some help in this area and, although I am not implementing everything Payne suggests, this is what I have come up with that works for us.  I have been going through all our toys, all our books, all our clothes and getting rid of...

#1: things that don't 'spark joy'

#2 things that are sensory overloaded (cue battery operated everything)

and #3 things that are broken, stained or physically/developmentally inappropriate.

1.  Plastic Blocks. These were from my teaching days.  We also have these we rotate out.
2.  Curious George Jack in the Box.  The kids love this thing.  
3.  Melissa & Doug Standard Unit Blocks.  There are many more of these, but we just fill the basic and leave the rest in the closet.
4.  Melissa & Doug Band in a Box.  There are also some homemade shakers in there.  Luke and Lily love music.
5.  Melissa & Doug Beginner Pattern Blocks.  Luke has been really into these lately.  He is really into puzzles.  We rotate this out with other puzzles.
5.  Plastic Eggs.  Since it is the Easter season, these have been out.  I'm honestly not sure how much they get played with...they are mostly used in the kitchen.
6.  Nesting cups and shape sorter.  We are borrowing this from a friend, but I really like this one.

It has been a process and I'm not sure the purging is over, yet.  I have a semi-organized toy closet that I rotate toys out of.  Luke has caught onto this and actually asks to have some new toys put out.  One toy out of the toy closet means one toy goes in the toy closet.  Same with books.  Obviously clothes are different. 

The closet.  Forgive the low quality picture...both my kids were sleeping a few doors down.  Like I said...semi-organized.
We are planning on having more children one day, so all of the developmentally inappropriate toys are stored in the closet until needed.  A few things that stay out all the time: the easel, the kitchen, the ride-on toys, the shopping cart, and Luke's train table.  These are things that are used on a daily basis and Luke and Lily don't get tired of them.

Okay, now onto the results.  Have I noticed a difference?  Yes and no.  My kids still fight over toys and disagree about who gets to play with the shopping cart...every. single. day.  I would get rid of it if it weren't such a hot item.  Lily still cries when Luke gets to the ride-on car first and locks her out when he gets out of it (smart little stinker).  But, I have noticed some good stuff.  Luke is imagining more, so is Lily.  They play with one thing for longer than ten seconds.  I can see their attention span growing and that is priceless.  In an age where bigger and more is better, my hope for my littles is that they understand that bigger and more is not always better and not everything.  

Regardless of whether a person believes in simplification, we can all benefit from taking a step back to reflect on what we want our kids’ childhoods to look like.  Intentionality; much more than a $10 word.

This is working for us, right now.  My kids aren't missing the toys that are gone forever nor are they begging to have all their toys out at once.  I understand this will not work for every family.  I don't like having a 'lot of stuff' around anyway, so I appreciate reading books and adopting strategies like this for my family and my life.

For all of you wondering, the giant stuffed bear did not get purged.  Lily is pretty attached to it and I'm alright with that.  But, lesson learned...never, never, never take my sweet sixteen month old by a shelf with giant stuffed bears or any stuffed animals, for that matter.  We now avoid it like political phone calls.  

You're welcome customers of Target.

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