This year it has been my quest to simplify our lives and home. I used to subscribe to the more playgroups the better school of thought; rationalizing my children needed to be among their peers. That has since changed as I feel we are each others peers.
Back when our oldest was born we were sucked into the toy mania bandwagon that proclaimed “Your child is this many months old, these toys are essential for his milestone development.” The instant Mason was bored we were off to the toy store for something new. Our obsession with buying toys was nothing compared to the hordes of toys given to him from relatives with good intentions. I like playing with the toys as much as any kid, but I am not running a toy store here. I am trying to raise a family and in the process I hope to instill in them good core values while having fun in the process. I confess I am a little relieved the majority of the toys were lost in the move. However, it did not take long for our collection to grow and our home to become overrun once again.
Before moving to a more rural area several years ago, we were used to the fast paced life offered by the city. After the birth of our first son, Stephen and I realized the city life was of no importance. We longed to raise our children in a more simplistic environment. We wanted trails to hike, woods to explore and streams to forge all in our own backyard. I had visions of our little family spending our days outdoors playing and working a garden surrounded by a variety of fruit trees. Mostly I wanted a simpler life with a close knit family. Thus the hunt for a more basic creative and simpler life began.
I have wonderful memories (I am sure at the time it was agony) of all my desires and passion set on a particular toy that my mom refused to buy no matter how enormous a tantrum I threw. Moreover, I remember the abundant joy that raced through my blood as the coveted toy was unveiled Christmas Morning. As a parent I relish giving the kids prizes. I also anguish over Mason’s lack of an attachment to even just one toy. The non birthday or holiday toy buying ceased in hopes that my children would come to discover gratitude for the things they already have. Periodically throughout the year when I am in the mood to purge I sort through the stash tossing anything broken or never played with and boxing up the rest to rotate in and out. Still the clutter was unmanageable. Something had to be done. The toys that managed to survive were in great condition but the question remained, did we really need them all?
As my search into simplistic and creative living ensued I stumbled upon the book “The Power of Play” by David Elkind. The book touches on the importance of letting kids play and the types of environments that inhibit and cultivate true unadulterated child’s play. The boxes of toys were chucked; the TV became obsolete as we spent the majority of our day outside exploring. Excited by the find, as the book was right on course in the direction I was headed, I relayed my delight to a friend of mine. At the mention of the words Montessori and Waldorf education, free play, and the subject of toys, my friend was ecstatic. She proceeded to explain her most recent discovery in the realm of creativity and simplicity.
Patty had just begun reading “The Creative Family” written by Amanda Blake Soule, a mother of three, with one on the way. Patty immediately thought of me when she came across an idea called the “Sound Wall”. (Which by the way was immediately instituted and deemed successful) I could not wait until Patty finished her copy of “The Creative Family.” So I went out and bought my own.
In the book The Creative Family, Amanda shares her discoveries as she taps into her own inner creative self. Thought to have zero creative talent, Amanda comes to realize creativity is not limited to the philosophies of art class 101. Inspired by her children’s innate ability to create, Amanda explores ways to connect with her family and foster gratitude for each other and for the wonderful bounties surrounding them. If you are looking for suggestions on how to make the most out of the time you spend with your family I highly recommend this book to steer you in the right direction. I was reminded of several traditions of our own. One such tradition was our holiday tree (in the book it is called a season tree) and game nights.
I came to the realization I need to delve into my creative psyche as much as the children do. Arts and crafts used to be something rare because I thought I had to have a project and I was never prepared. I have learned to use their art time as my preparation time. If there is a project I want to do with the kids, I work on it getting it all together while they are creating their own master pieces. We are all happy and filled. To find out more about Amanda visit her website site at soulemama.com.