Sometimes I think back to the stories my parents would tell me about their own childhoods: How they played outside in the summers until the street lights signaled it was time to go inside. The adventures their parents took them on—with everyone loaded into the back of a station wagon and plenty of stops at unique attractions. The simple joys of life in the days when practicing minimalism with your family was just the norm.

Nowadays I feel like we are forever missing the small moments—the moments that our kids will cherish forever.

The world we live in is changing so quickly that it’s often hard to keep up. As a parent, I feel that I’m sucked into this modern-day lifestyle without having time to agree with it.

No, I would much prefer my babies have the childhoods of past generations: The simplified, easy days with nothing to do but be a kid.

I want my family to focus on the minimal things and embrace the small moments. That’s why my family has really embraced simpler living in the past year—and here’s how we’ve accomplished it…

We spend less money on stuff

This past year we really downsized financially. We moved into a house that was much smaller than our last—and not only cut back on square footage, but our mortgage as well.

Although that was a large step, we noticed that the small steps were actually the ones that had the most impact on our lives: We stopped eating out so frequently, I quit making my weekly runs to target (unless I needed something of use) and we basically just stopped blowing money on useless things. If something wasn’t a necessity, then why were we spending money on it?

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In place of those things, we started focusing on our time: I would take my little guy to the park instead of Target, and let him get some fresh air and pack a few snacks to munch on while we were there.

Something like this was much more meaningful than dragging him to Target and to the toy aisle. He didn’t need that. What he needed was my time and not me spending money on him. That wasn’t a lesson I wanted to teach him.

We experience life together

A few times a month we always make time to experience things together. Whether it’s a new fishing hole, a camping trip or even a new corner of our city, we make time do just do something as a family—and I can tell you that some of our best memories have come from those times.

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We play more

Playing with my little guy more often has made such a difference in his overall mood. I know things have to get done and I completely understand that, but taking some time out of our day to just play and imagine with him makes him light up.

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Lately, after dinner, we’ve been breaking out the Yahtzee game. A few daily hours of play are good for the family’s soul! (And it’s just as fun as I remembered.)

We make things

Sharing the art of making something with our children is such a valuable life skill. Whether it’s a craft, a new recipe, a blanket fort or even some handy garage work, making something with our children teaches them skills while they have fun.

Lately, we’ve been on a big chocolate chip cookie and homemade popsicle kick. The treats are much more appetizing and fun than the store bought ones—and my kids will be professional bakers before long! ?

We cherish ordinary, everyday events

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Whether it’s admiring the sunset, stargazing or catching fireflies, cherishing the things that come daily are so important. Although we may think of them as ordinary, these events teach our kids the value of nature and that happiness is around us each and everyday. And, as for one investment I don’t regret for a second: Last year my little guy got a telescope for his birthday and we often sit in the backyard and watch the stars with it. ?

The effort we’ve put into living more simply has been rewarded so deeply—and in just a short amount of time. Now I know that happiness isn’t about what you have, but who you share it with.