On Paring Down: Why Minimalism is Powerful for Children

Maybe I’ve lost my mind. Or maybe I’ve found the perfect plan.

On our quest to “Bloom Where We Are Planted” we’ve decided to seriously downsize our apartment in order to move into a neighborhood that we love with fantastic public schools. Call us crazy, but we’re hoping that trading space for amenities will be a move we won’t regret. That being said, we need to do a major overhaul of our “stuff”. Declutter. Refresh. Minimize. That’s my mantra for our next chapter.

I’m actually quite excited to re-home things that we’ve enjoyed and start fresh in a new space. I’ve been holding onto a lot of things, particularly those of our daughter’s. Baby clothing in case another ever comes along. Sentimental baby gear that we just can’t part with. Outgrown toys in hopes of one day running classes for young children. Books because, well, books. We’ve got old favorites on rotation to keep things new and interesting, and our closets are stuffed to the brim. A LOT has to go. While I’m a little sad to part with our things, I’m empowered by a few articles*  I’ve shared in the Peace, Love and Literacy Facebook group that point to major benefits for kids in keeping a minimalist play space.

Benefits of Having a Minimalist Playspace

  1. Develop a longer attention span: When children have less choice, and therefore less distraction, they have fewer demands for their attention. As opposed to jumping from activity to activity, children develop a sense of focus as they immerse themselves in one activity.
  2. Experience greater creativity: Having endless options can keep children from using their imagination. When presented with less, children must invent their own games, for example, and exercise their creativity.
  3. Establish better social skills: Children are able to focus on those around them when presented with less toys. Kids develop conversation skills, engage in play with others (both children and adults), and develop interpersonal relationships.
  4. Learn to appreciate and take care of what they have: Children with few possessions are less likely to take something for granted. They will be more likely to keep track of their things, keep them in good condition, and have an appreciation for what they do have.
  5. Develop an appreciation for literature, art, and experiences:When not buried under a pile of toys, children will be more interested in going outdoors, visiting a museum, enjoying a story, or creating art. These collective experiences will help children to grow in ways that toys cannot provide.
  6. Learn problem solving, patience, and perseverance: If presented with a difficult puzzle, for example, children may lose interest in trying to figure it out, give up, and move onto any other of their endless choices. Problem solving, perseverance, and patience are three skills and values that can be encouraged through a minimalistic toy collection.
  7. Have a cleaner, tidier home:I don’t think I need to tell you that more toys equals more mess. Instill the sense of peace that comes from decluttering, starting with the playroom.

Here are some tips to help you find your toy zen:

  • Rotate toys and books in and out of storage so that no one toy becomes boring, and old favorites seem fresh and new.
  • You know the system: sort through your things and make 3 piles: keep, donate, throw away. Hang on to favorites, of course, and any toys you have yet to explore. There’s no better life lesson for children than to give to others in need, and this is the perfect opportunity to do so.
  • Establish a toy and book swap with friends. This keeps your storage streamlined and allows for everyone to enjoy and grow from new things on the cheap. Win, win!
  • Play up your faves. While it’s important to honor your children’s choices and foster independence, it’s also a good idea to use some good old manipulation, and lead your child towards educational toys that will push their thinking. Convey enthusiasm over puzzles and games, imaginative play, and creative activities. Ask your child to “help” you complete a puzzle. This will maximize the use of things you do have and help them to explore brain friendly activities.
  • If you’ve held onto old developmental toys, there might be a way to repurpose them and explore them in anew way that is developmentally appropriate for your child now (I.e. discovering the letters and making words with old alphabet blocks, or sorting stackers by size and color), but if you can’t find a way to make it new again, donate it (see above).
  • Slow down on gift giving: one or two large items, or a few carefully curated gifts, or focusing on activities and experiences will go a long, long way on your minimalist quest.
  • Put the value quality time and activities and experiences together over stuff. Your relationships will thrive and your pocket will thank you.
  • Focus on the positive: Reflect (our loud) on how nice it is to spend time together. Praise children for how tidy their room is without so much stuff to clutter up the space. Point out how pleased you are with their choices to share, to give, or to have displayed so much self control in the toy or book store. A little recognition will go a long way.
  • Practice minimalism yourself! Less choices are sure to bring a little peace!

Will you be keeping a minimalist playspace?

*Resources:

Check out the inspiration for this post here and here.

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