A MINIMAL HOME: TOYS AND GIFTING

March 6, 2017

Last week I posted on Instagram that I would be writing more on my blog about keeping a minimal home and asked for some topics you guys would be interested in hearing about. One of the biggest questions I've gotten has been, how do we manage our toys and minimal mindset with gifts from family members? This is a great question! We were very honest with our family members from the very beginning that while we feel so lucky our parents want to gift our children often, we just don't see value in our kids having a lot of toys and that it is not necessary to bring them something each time you see them. They love their grandparents so much and just want to spend time with them. We didn't want them to expect a gift each time they saw their grandparents, so kindly, we had this converstaion with our parents. If you are years into parenting and did not have this conversation during the baby years or during your pregnancy, it is not too late! I know it may be uncomfortable to bring up, but I think if you say you would rather your child spend time with them and that you really love toys that are simple and encourage creativity, they'll be on board. Also, talk about how you are going to be donating a lot of the toys your children no longer use and how you are striving to create a more peaceful environment for them. That may spark some great converstaion as well. I do realize some grandparents will ignore your wishes all together and buy what they want anyways (haha.) I'd give those toys a month or two and then donate. Remember, the toys in your house are in YOUR house. If they are things that just don't align with the lifestyle you are trying to achieve, do not feel guilty about donating them. Having children does not mean you need to have crap all over your house, gifted or not.

If you are wondering where to start with well crafted, more thoughtful toys, some brands we really like are Hape, Plan Toys, Land of Nod, IKEA, and Janod. We also love Montessori 'toys' and I get a lot of our materials from Alison's Montessori. Our parents always ask what the kids want for Christmas and birthday's and we usually send them a couple links to these brands. 

A few suggested 'gift' idea's for family members for the low key holiday or occasion:
-books
-art supplies (crayons, pencils, clay, a sketch pad, water colors, sidewalk chalk)
-fun flashcards or coloring books
-gardening seeds
-subscription to a kids magazine
-experiences (a day to the zoo with grandma! or a lunch date!)

Good luck!

A PARENT FRIENDLY, CHILDREN'S PLAYLIST

February 28, 2017

Music is a huge part of our family's life and there's usually something playing in the background at any given moment of every day. Ruthie, our oldest daughter, loves music and is always requesting 'kiddie music.' One can grow tired of The Wheels On The Bus pretty quickly, so I started searching for children's artists that we could all listen to and love. Below is my playlist filled with favorite songs from our favorite 'kiddie' artists that we have playing throughout our days at home. They're all artists that create a sense of calm with thoughtful and whimsical lyrics, some more silly than others which we love. I would encourage you to listen to the full albums of each artist too. So good! We just love them!

Enjoy our playlist!  (*note, this playlist is available through spotify)

A MINIMAL HOME

February 22, 2017

I recently read an article from Becoming Minimalist called Why Kids Need Minimalism and it really struck a chord with me. I would definitely say we are not true minimalists (whatever that means) but we are pretty close and are always striving to keep a home filled with less stuff and more connection. For me, peaceful days at home are what feels inspiring to me and for our days to feel peaceful we need to keep a clutter free, peaceful home. 
When Nick and I bought our first home 7 years ago, we were lovers of found and collected objects, old vintage knick knacks and filling every surface we had with 'stuff'. I can't pinpoint exactly when our home mentality started to shift but as we slowly began to purge our belongings the freer and more peaceful we felt. Several years ago I wrote a post about how to start the process of purging if you have no idea where to begin. It can be really overwhelming but once you start, it really is hard to stop! A lot of people interested in adjusting their lifestyle in this way ask me how we manage all the toys. If you have kids you know this struggle is so so real and it is unbelievable how much we acquire by having children. Here's what works for us and how we have managed to keep this pretty much under control:

1. We have designated spaces for toys and play things. This means we don't have kids stuff in every room of the house, all over the place. In our living room we have one natural colored basket with a few things in it for the girls to play with and a small natural colored basket for books. Do not underestimate the power and use of the basket! We use them for EVERYTHING. These ones from target in both this shape and the round shape are my absolute favorite. All other toys are in their playroom on the second floor. We have two sets of shelves, a dresser and 4 baskets in this space and if there is not room for something in one of the three spaces, we do not keep it. I go through their play things about once a month and am shocked each month that I am able to fill a box for donation. In their bedrooms I keep only books and stuffed animals as to try to create a really calming sleep and rest environment.  I also know everyone does not have a playroom and I totally get that. I would then encourage you to purge as much as you can from your children's bedrooms and designate a book shelf and a couple baskets for toys and some organized storage for games and puzzles in their closets. If you have not heard of the book Simplicity Parenting, I highly highly recommend it. It talks a lot about the positive mental shift you'll see in your children when you de-clutter their space. Another great book that blends parenting with intentional space is You Are Your Child's First Teacher. And one last book recommendation for getting your belongings organized and in order is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. 

2. We are very intentional with the types of toys we buy for our kids. If it is loud and obnoxious we tend to stay away from it. There are so many amazing toy brands that we love that align well with our preferred toy aesthetic. A few of our favorites are Hape, Plan Toys, IKEA toys and Melissa and Doug. 

3. Art supplies. In our house this is a huge and daily struggle to keep under control. Our oldest daughter makes art ALL day long, every day which means we needed an easy organization system she could use independently. We got a 3 drawer, clear tupperware bin she can see her supplies in and open and close by herself and we keep it in the playroom near her art table. The top of one of our toy selfs (which is chest high for our 4 year old) has a basket for work she would like to keep (which I sort and recycle every few days), an art bin with her colored pencils, glue sticks, scissors, tape, hold punch and pencil sharpener. She can grab what she needs or bring the entire bin to her table. 

In our home we also only have one big closet for storage - no basement, no garage, so when we moved in we really needed to think about this. Most of what we own is visible which is another reason we didn't want to have a bunch of stuff everywhere. I operate best when my mind doesn't feel too cluttered and it definitely does if my environment is cluttered. We keep things like camping gear, holiday decorations, old baby gear, etc in the storage closet and again, if we don't have room for something we donate it. Have you ever heard of the idea, only keep what is either functional or beautiful? We try to keep this in mind and keep our home functioning with this principle in mind. This also applies to our clothing. Nick and I both have a pretty simple daily uniform. Jeans, and for me either a sweater or tucked in tee with a sweater over top. For nick, a button up shirt or flannel, and t-shirts. (He doesn't need to wear a suit to work so that helps.) We have gotten rid of most of our cheap, 'trendy' clothing and have been sticking to better made stuff that lasts us much longer. Some brands we really like are Noble Denim (for both jeans, sweatshirts and tee's) and Madewell. I'd say almost everything we own comes from these two outfitters. Everlane is another good basics shop made high in quality if you are a jeans and tee kind of person like I am. 

Another important thing to note is that minimalism can look like a lot of different things depending on your family and your goals. Minimalism doesn't mean that you have to get rid of all your stuff- I think it's more of a mindset. If you feel calm and content in your space and have a lot of time for slowness and connection with your family, I'd say you're a minimalist. It doesn't mean you need to have white walls and neutral colors throughout your entire home. Define what minimalism is to you and then run with that. It is a constant struggle to live slowly in our hurry up, do more culture. I'm hoping that by choosing to do and have less our family will continue to grow in closeness. What are some of your peaceful home tricks and tips!? I LOVE hearing what works for other's and getting new idea's on how to continue to keep a minimal home. 

A WALDORF + MONTESSORI INSPIRED 'ROUTINE'

January 27, 2017

In the Waldorf community you will hear the word 'rhythm' a lot. I have loved learning more about what rhythm looks like and how to create a more Waldorf inspired environment in our days at home. At first I just thought, okay you're replacing the words 'routine' or 'schedule' with 'rhythm' and making it sound 'prettier.' And in a sense that is exactly what rhythm is but with more intention and that is the part of it I've fallen in love with. The point of creating daily rhythm is to slow down, create calm, encourage creativity and i'm sure the list could go on (I'm still learning.) For us, keeping to a schedule just meant we did x y and z at certain times of the day but there was no real intention or mindfulness behind any of it. Don't get me wrong, we still eat, nap, sleep at specific times but the freedom I've found through creating these natural rhythms has been so, so good for me and my girls in our days. And also, I'm still learning and struggling to find balance in creating these rhythms versus falling into old habits like having the TV on for my daughter while I'm cooking or putting the baby in for naps, etc. Another element that has been hard for us to work around is the fact that Ru does not like to play or work if i'm not with her AT ALL. We are a work in progress and I'd love to hear from others who are maybe on a similar journey.

So what does that actually look like? For me, our home environment is a huge part of it. No clutter, clean spaces (of course you can't focus so much on this aspect or you'll go crazy but it definitely helps set the tone,) soft music playing throughout a lot of the day (Renee and Jeremy are a favorite around here) a lot of creating through art, a lot of candles, involvement from my girl in preparing meals, washing dishes, taking care of plants and designated quiet times. As part of quiet time I just started having it start by making my daughter a cup of tea (which I got from other Waldorf mama's.) It's just a nice, quiet way to set the tone of quieting her body and she loves adding honey and stirring it. I often will turn on a show for her at this point in the day which I have a love hate relationship with but I just can't figure out another way for her to rest her body without needing me. I've tried a basket of books, some music, even just some coloring but she always ends up running wild with her imagination (which is not a bad thing!) and doesn't end up resting at all. We are working on it. (Also with that said, I am definitely in the camp of thinking a bit of TV is not the end of the world. She has honestly learned so much from shows like Daniel Tiger, Creative Galaxy, and sweet shows like Stella and Sam. So no shame there! :) Anywho....

How do I incorporate daily rhythm and Montessori idea's together? Well, a huge part of the Montessori philosophy rests in the idea of the prepared environment. I've talked a lot about this is the past but to touch on it again, for us this means my children have access to everything they need in a day without needing assistance from me. Their toys or 'work', snacks, water, their dishes and utensils, their clothing and shoes, etc. Ruthie finds so much joy from real life work and it helps me slow down and allow her to be independent. Sometimes that looks like 5 extra minutes to get shoes on but she is so confident and happy when she is able to do these sorts of tasks on her own. When we actually give our children the gift of independence, you will find they are so capable! I also love Montessori materials so we have quiet a bit of those in our play/work space. (I mention what we have out right now in this post.)

I'd love to hear what your days look like and what sorts of 'rhythms' you've created in your home.

BITS OF OUR PLAY/HOMESCHOOL SPACE

January 19, 2017

If you follow me over on Instagram, you know there aren't a lot of things I love more than making a home and Montessori / Waldorf education. I wanted to share bits of our play and work environment here to talk a little bit about the intentional choices we've made in this particular space for our children. First off, before I had my girls, I was a Montessori primary teacher. I love everything about the philosophy and could talk for days about it. I'm a huge nerd when it comes right down to it. I am also aware that our home environment (and the way I teach my children) doesn't fall into the strict, traditional Montessori pedology. So, 'true' Montessorians would disagree with my incorporation of Waldorf (And vice versa for Waldorfians) but I find the both of them to be beautiful educational philosophies and I also believe there is not one single, or right or wrong way we must educate our children. I take the things that work for us, that I find beautiful about each method, and apply them here at home. My aim is to nurture my children as a whole, help them find their unique identities, instill in them confidence, teach them to serve others, respect nature and one another and learn in a safe, welcoming, loving environment. As a side note, I do find that there are a lot of similarities in the two philosophies, although strict followers of either would probably disagree with me there too. 

We also have wonderful Montessori and Waldorf programs in our city and it has been a gift to have my oldest daughter experience both. She goes to Montessori two days a week now and I'll start my baby bird in a parent/child Waldorf nature class next fall then into the same Montessori program once she's 3 1/2. We may have them do Waldorf summer programs or enrichment classes here and there too. I love that we can just see how we feel and decide as the time comes. Im finding that sort of freedom really empowering with our decision to partially homeschool. 

Anywho! This space! I have it mostly set up in the traditional Montessori sense of low level shelves with work set out completely ready for them to use with little to no help from me. I do have some traditional materials out for them as well- sandpaper letters, the pink tower, numbers and counters, spindle boxes, and the moveable alphabet. I also have a play kitchen, a lot of art materials and baby dolls out which all fall more in line with the Waldorf philosophy. While Montessori stresses the importance of reality, real materials and real work, which I love, I do also really like the whimsy, imaginative aspects that Waldorf encourages. I think there can be a nice mix of the two that doesn't create confusion in the child while still allowing them to work and play all in the same breadth. 

I am actually interested in adding a few more Waldorf touches to the space including a nature table and natural fabrics. I think it is also important to note that neither of these philosophies, at their core, are about materials. These beautiful methods can be implemented in your home, regardless of financial means. With a bit of research and commitment to practicing you can certainly achieve your educational/lifestyle goals.

A few sources that might help in understanding the philosophies better, and some of my own personal favorites:

Montessori: 



Readings:



Waldorf:



Readings:






 

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