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Less really is more: How to parent like a minimalist

Minimalism is more than just getting rid of all your stuff (although I am on that bandwagon too.) It's about filtering out the noise to focus your energy on what's important.

Less really is more: How to parent like a minimalist

When I was pregnant with my first child, I had big ideas. I wanted to give my children the world. Like most new parents, I had the best of intentions.

Every generation wants to give their children more than they had themselves. My intention was no different—I wanted to give my children more. More love. More protection. More opportunities. More toys.

More, more, more.

This desire for 'more' was rooted in love.

After I had children and they began to grow, there was a shift. This desire for more became rooted in fear.

If I didn't play with them enough, would they be happy? If I didn't stand at least two foot from them at all times on the playground, would they fall? If I didn't land a spot in a top preschool, would their education be impacted?

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In the words of Erin Loechner, “No one ever told me how much fear is hidden in love."

All this fear, camouflaged as love, quickly started to take a toll on me. Trying to be everything and do everything for my children left me depleted.

My desire to give my children more left me feeling less.

Less energy. Less joy. Less calm.

Then I found Minimalism.

Minimalism is more than just getting rid of all your stuff (although I am on that bandwagon too.) It's about filtering out the noise to focus your energy on what's important.

Families of today have 'noisy' lives.

I know this in my personal life, but also in my professional life. I have a Ph.D. in Child Development with a specialty in Family Wellness. I work with families to find calm amongst the noise.

In families, the calm lies in balancing the needs of each individual while simultaneously tightening the strings that hold them all together.

Sounds tricky, right?

Fortunately, minimalism has a secret formula for parents—Less is More.

Here are some lessons I've learned on my journey toward a simpler family life.

1. Hover less and your children will live more.

We spend so much time protecting our children, we forget to let them live. When we hover over them and perseverate over safety, our fears can undermine a child's confidence. These fears rob them of their independence. Instead of hovering, let's instill a sense of responsibility and natural curiosity for the world.

Allow your children to live life to the fullest. Even if that means climbing to the top of the jungle gym without a spotter.

2. Entertain less and your children will innovate more.

In many ways, Pinterest is a trap. The abundance of art, craft, and activity ideas that abound leave us feeling as though we need to do more to entertain our kids. Wouldn't it be easy if we could just flip a switch and provide unlimited entertainment for our kids?

Oh wait, we can. It's called screen time.

When we provide endless varieties of entertainment for our children, we leave them with very little opportunity to create and explore new ideas on their own.

So hear me out—follow my lead and skip the Pinterest activities. Then cut back on the screen time. Let kids be bored. Give them space. The innovation that results will astound you.

3. Schedule less and your children will rest more.

As humans, we need to rest our bodies and minds. This is particularly true of small bodies that are growing and maturing rapidly. Research show us that childhood anxiety is a rising epidemic in this generation. A child who grows up with anxiety is significantly more likely to be plagued with mental health challenges throughout their adult years.

Do you know what our children need? Rest.

Do you know what we need? Rest.

Stop making rest a luxury—make rest a priority. The mental and physical health of your family depends on it.

4. Referee less and your children will problem solve more.

As parents, we wear many hats. One hat we need to hang up is that of the referee. Parents have the tendency to jump in and solve any disputes and challenges that children come across. It's easier to be the referee than watch two kids awkwardly settle their own disagreement. It's easier to jump in and help than wait ten minutes for a kid to fumble through shoe tying.

After you hang up that hat, get comfortable sitting on the sidelines in silence. Kids need a lot of practice to learn how to problem solve—so let's give them many chances to do it for themselves.

5. Buy less and your children will seek more.

Research shows that clutter is associated with higher levels of stress in families. Have you yelled at your kids to clean up their rooms recently? If your home has less inside, it is easier to clean up. It is easier to take good care of fewer things.

You know what doesn't have a long-term impact on a child happiness? The latest hit toy. Buy your children less, and as a result, they will be able to better filter out the noise and focus on the important things.

Studies tell us that family vacations and togetherness have a long term impact on a child's happiness. Let's teach our children to value “stuff" less and experiences more.

This article was originally published on No Sidebar by Denaye Barahona who is the founder of Simple Families, where her podcast and blog deliver the essentials for living well with your kids.


After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.

$200

Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

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