How fewer toys could make for a hap­pier home

DENAYE BARAHONA SAYS FOL­LOW­ING FIVE SIM­PLE STEPS TO CRE­ATE AN UN­CLUT­TERED PLAYROOM IS A “GIFT FOR YOUR EN­TIRE FAM­ILY”.

Llanelli Star - - FAMILY MATTERS - LISA SALMON RE­PORTS

MODERN fam­ily life can be com­plex, chaotic and stress­ful – but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Ac­cord­ing to child de­vel­op­ment ex­pert Denaye Barahona, if par­ents try to live ac­cord­ing to the ba­sic ‘roadmap’ of buy less, fear less, ref­eree less, hurry less and en­ter­tain less, life will be a whole lot sim­pler, and thus less stress­ful.

The sim­pler life ex­tends to the kids too, who will ben­e­fit from hav­ing fewer toys in a clut­ter-free space.

Mother-of-two Denaye, who’s just writ­ten Sim­ple Happy Par­ent­ing (White Lion, £14.99, avail­able now), ex­plains: “I spent the early days of moth­er­hood hur­ry­ing, hus­tling and stress­ing. Un­til I re­alised that liv­ing life like you are on fire will in fact leave you burned out.”

She rec­om­mends par­ents start their ‘jour­ney to sim­ple’ by em­brac­ing a lighter way of life in the home, through mea­sures like hav­ing a smaller, care­fully se­lected wardrobe, cre­at­ing a sim­ple play space for the chil­dren with fewer toys, pre­par­ing struc­tured, nour­ish­ing fam­ily meals, and hav­ing more un­sched­uled time on the fam­ily cal­en­dar.

“When we slow down and fo­cus on the re­la­tion­ships we have with one an­other, we can ap­pre­ci­ate an evening or week­end with noth­ing planned,” she says.

“Noth­ing on the cal­en­dar means more time to in­ti­mately con­nect with each other, and in the busy, chaotic lives we lead to­day, con­nec­tion is one of the things our chil­dren are crav­ing the most.”

Giv­ing your chil­dren fewer toys in a sim­pli­fied playroom may sound a chal­leng­ing idea, but stud­ies show chil­dren play more cre­atively with fewer toys, and fo­cus bet­ter in clut­ter-free spa­ces.

To cre­ate a sim­pler chil­dren’s playroom Denaye, who’s be­hind the Sim­ple Fam­i­lies blog and pod­casts, sug­gests th­ese five steps:

1TAKE A WEEK TO OB­SERVE

SPEND at least a week watch­ing your chil­dren play, and take notes. Pay at­ten­tion to what they grav­i­tate to­wards. Some chil­dren like to be cook­ing with us in the kitchen and oth­ers like to dis­ap­pear into a world of pre­tend play.

How do your chil­dren choose to spend their time?

2 RE­FLECT AND SET GOALS

YOU should only have as many toys as you can fit com­fort­ably in your space.

There’s no magic num­ber, but when you strike the right bal­ance you’ll know be­cause it’ll be easy for your kids to clean up and it’ll no longer feel clut­tered to you.

Set a goal for re­duc­tion – you might need to get rid of more than half the toys to find the right num­ber that fit into your space.

You’ll know you’ve found the right num­ber when the space feels light and clut­ter-free.

3 AR­RANGE WITH IN­TEN­TION

WHEN you use large bins and toy boxes, the items in­side tend to

dis­ap­pear and fall to­wards the bot­tom. If the toys are un­seen, they can’t be used un­less the child dumps the whole bin out.

In­stead, set the toys out on open shelves. If the toys are out and ac­ces­si­ble, they’ll be used more often and the chil­dren will know ex­actly where to put them back at clean-up time.

Why is clean up so im­por­tant? Aside from our own men­tal health, when we give each toy a ded­i­cated space we’re show­ing our chil­dren how to take care of things they value.

4 SE­LECT THE KEEP­ERS

IF YOUR chil­dren are un­der four years old, you can usu­ally fol­low your own in­stincts and ob­ser­va­tions about what toys to keep for them.

If they are older, you can in­volve them in the process, but be sure you’re steer­ing the ship.

Choose a num­ber of toys for them to keep so they have a goal to aim for.

Be sure to of­fer sup­port and as­sis­tance along the way. Re­mem­ber, this is a pos­i­tive change. This isn’t a pun­ish­ment.

Your chil­dren aren’t in trou­ble for fail­ing to clean up. This is an ex­cit­ing move to­wards a sim­ple, happy fam­ily.

5 DETOX

WHAT if your chil­dren seem bored at first? Hold out be­fore of­fer­ing them ex­tra screen time.

When you scale back on the toys, there’s often a short detox that takes place. Bore­dom in­spires cre­ativ­ity. Once they work their way through the bore­dom, they will get back to the ba­sics of play. You may want to put the toys into a back cup­board for a short time to ob­serve how the play changes.

You might find your chil­dren don’t even no­tice the miss­ing toys, or you may find you want to swap a few out be­fore mak­ing a trip to the char­ity shop. Re­mind your­self that this is a move in the right di­rec­tion for your chil­dren. Al­though they may not com­pletely un­der­stand the ben­e­fits right away, you’ll see the pos­i­tive changes in their play and be­hav­iours. With fewer toys they’ll be­gin to cre­ate and in­no­vate more often.

They’ll have am­ple prac­tice prob­lem solv­ing and shar­ing with their sib­lings and friends. Al­though it might un­wrap it­self slowly, sim­pli­fy­ing your home is a gift for your en­tire fam­ily.

Denaye Barahona

Open shelves make clean-up time eas­ier

A sim­ple playroom could help un­leash your child’s cre­ativ­ity

Denaye’s new book

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