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  • Writer's pictureAideen McCartney

Make 2019 your year of less

Updated: Jan 8, 2019

Do you feel like there’s too much going on in your life? Too much stuff, too much information, too many activities, choices and gadgets?

If you’re feeling this way, and it’s stressing you out, you’re not alone.

As Kim John Payne, family therapist, parenting consultant and author of ‘Simplicity Parenting’ writes,

“As the pace of life accelerates to hyperspeed – with too much stuff, too many choices, and too little time – children feel the pressure. They can become anxious, have trouble with friends and school, or even be diagnosed with behavioural problems”.

So, we’re going to kick off 2019 with a whole month focused on simplifying – doing less, having less and slowing down - so you and your family can flow along with ease and enjoyment.

Don’t know where to begin? Follow these steps to get started.

1. Simplify the environment

Want to keep your kids happy and entertained? Give them more toys to play with, right? Wrong!

A new report in Infant Behaviour and Development has proven what many parents and professionals have long known - having fewer options of toys and games is actually better for your children. It takes the stress out of choosing and encourages creativity, imagination, deeper focusing, perseverance and sharing.

You can simplify the environment by creating a toy library

  • Begin by throwing away all old, broken, incomplete or outgrown toys & books

  • Put at least half of what remains into storage boxes and out of sight – this is the toy library

  • The children can only play with what is ‘on loan’ from the toy library

  • After a few weeks (or more) you can swap out the toys and books

  • Over time you can give or throw away the unused/unmissed toys to reduce the amount that is in the toy library, or maybe get rid of the toy library altogether!

2. Simplify the schedule

While having your kids enrolled in a thousand clubs and activities might seem like the best way to support your child’s development and education, if it’s making you stressed, then the chances are, your children will be too. And stress for kids often manifests as anxiety and challenging behaviour.

The natural pace of life for kids is much slower than it is for adults. Children need extra time; to rest, to connect with others, to dream and to explore and experiment though self-directed play.

Having regular unstructured, free-play time (at least 30mins -1hr per day) will help them learn to problem solve, use their imaginations, be independent, develop their own interests, initiate tasks and motivate themselves.

You can simplify the schedule by planning some ‘do-nothing’ days

  • Set aside time in each day/week for doing ‘nothing’, or doing ‘anything’)

  • Children choose what they want to do in this time

  • Try not to offer suggestions or instructions

  • It’s ok for kids to become boredthis is where the best ideas come from!

  • Make downtime a normal part of your schedule too – have a cup of coffee and read a book or magazine (NOT your phone) , even if only for a few mins

  • It’s healthy for kids to see parents enjoying downtime as a natural balance to an active life- they’re learning how to live their lives by watching you

3. Simplify the relationships

You are your child’s favourite person!

Those daily interactions and moments of connection are when children learn about themselves and their place in the world, so it’s essential to their wellbeing that you spend quality time with each other.

This doesn’t have to mean big days out, or hours of doing special activities together (although that can be lovely too). Relationships with children are often built and strengthened in the moments between the big things.

You can simplify the relationships by making space to just ‘be with’ each other.

  • Make a time in each day to ‘tune in’ to your child – join them in their play (let them lead), talk about or tell the story of their day (include good points and bad) or spend time cuddling without talking

  • Create some fun, simple regular family rituals like eating meals all together, having special Sunday breakfasts, playing board games, having regular snuggle and movie nights, cooking or baking together

  • Screen time can make children overstimulated, stressed – be sure to have reasonable and consistent screen time limits e.g. no phones/tablets on school days

  • Your own screen time can unintentionally become one of the biggest barriers to family relationships. Make certain times of the day screen-free for everyone – particularly mornings, mealtimes and last thing in the evening

If you’d like to join us for a month of simplifying, be sure to follow Playful Pathways on facebook and Instagram

For more information about simplifying, check out my video on this topic or visit



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