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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Simplicity Parenting

Do you remember the first time you saw Christmas decorations this year? None of my October magazine issues had any holiday ads, and I haven't heard any jingle bells coming out of my radio. 

However, Halloween week I had to make a trip to the local hardware store. My furnace guy was not happy with the state of my air filters. (I pleaded ignorance, as this is my first home). I really enjoy this particular hardware store because it is geared toward the shopper who likes to browse, and understands that "hardware" can also mean amazing gardening hats and particularly cute trash cans. 

I loaded my daughter into the cart and prepared to get her the complimentary bag of popcorn, conveniently located by the front door, when what to my wandering eye should appear? Yes, a Christmas tree and tiny reindeer. I averted my eyes and walked to the back of the store, not to be surprised by errant holiday decor again.

Every year, I hear this topic discussed through various forums and mediums: that Christmas comes earlier each year. Back when your grandfather walked uphill through snow both ways to school, Christmas was strictly post-Thanksgiving, perhaps even the few days before and the 12 after. Now, we have shopping on the brain as we scarf down our kids' mini-Snickers bars, hoping the hair dye doesn't stain the pillows this year. At least Starbucks has the decency to wait until Nov. 1 to bring out the holiday cups (although peppermint hot chocolate is extra appealing in red).

It is with these thoughts in mind that I picked up a book that has been at the recesses of a moving box for several months. When my son started preschool, it was the book given to our family by the school to help us understand the philosophy. "Simplicity Parenting," by Kim John Payne, is a book that gives parents a road map toward reducing the amount of clutter in our children's lives, both physical and emotional. 

After quite a lengthy intro, the author gives 10 steps toward decluttering your child's environment. (It kind of makes me want to stand up and introduce myself, and admit to being a "clutterer"). As I reviewed the steps, I knew I was ahead of the game. I forbid toys in my house that make electronic noise or require batteries. Not only do I not like the noise, but it doesn't make sense that a child will enjoy a toy if it is not designed for interaction and imagination. (You can really only imagine a ball being shot up out of a hole and rolling down again one way, right?) Check, no loud or obnoxious toys. 

But how about Step 10: Toy Multiples? Oh, how I am guilty of this! We have about 100 Matchbox cars. We don't even know 100 kids, and my son can only possibly play with a few at a time. But every trip that dad made or extra-good behavior was reason for another one to make its way into our home. 

Or the 600 train pieces? A 4 year old can't build the NYC subway system. He's doing well to make the circle match up so the train doesn't run off the track. Check, cut down on multiples. 

Step 8: Toys you are pressured into buying. I think this will happen perhaps a gazillion times this season. Child sees new X (fill in the blank) on TV. Child must have the toy, as it is better than last season's toy X or goes with the set that is collecting dust on the shelves. 

The author continues and addresses media time, outdoor play, schedules, household rhythms, sleep, etc., and there is plenty to take away from it. However, my takeaway for the holiday season is my son doesn’t need more stuff. Between the blocks, books, trains, Play-Doh, and a kitchen set, he could likely stay busy until the teenage years. So this year, I will try extra hard to focus on Christmas, not as a chance to get a pile of presents, but as a time to spend together, doing what he wants to. Whether it's baking cookies, riding bikes, or building trains, the best gift I can give is myself — and maybe a peppermint hot chocolate with extra whipped cream.

Post submitted by Katie from The Mommies Network's Content Team

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