Minimalism & Kids: Simple tips for happy kids (and parents!)

As parents, we all want the same thing for our kids. We want them to be happy and confident, and we want to set them up to be successful in life.

Simplifying our lives — our homes, our stuff and our schedules — is so important and integral to that!

Our kids all need the same things

I want our kids to be responsible. I want them to be empathetic. I want them to have a heart for caring for and helping other people.

boy in garden

You might want your kids to excel at athletics, arts or academics.

But regardless of how we define success, our kids ALL need these things:

  • They need downtime.
  • They need pressure releases throughout the day.
  • They need rhythms to their day.
  • They need less stuff to manage.
  • They need fewer decisions to make.
  • They need time for play.

If we want them to develop to their fullest potential — no matter how we define that — it is universal that they need time to play.

Let’s discuss a few ways that we can simplify a few areas of our homes and our lives to really set our kids up for success as adults.

Or watch this video on YouTube!

Simplifying Toys

There’s an interesting article that discusses a study that shows that when kids have too many toys, it can actually lead to addictive behavior.

They found that when kids have a lot of toys, they can sometimes have a difficult time figuring out how to manage their emotions. Instead of working through their emotions, they would tend to go from toy to toy, looking for a distraction or something else to do.

Now that’s NOT to say that just because our kids have tons of toys, they’re going to be addicts when they’re adults!!

But if we want to set our kids up for success as adults, there is so much research that shows that kids thrive in an environment with very few toys. This is what leads to creative, imaginative play, as well as social skills and higher self-esteem.

play area in boys' room

I’ve definitely experienced this with our kids! Since we’ve highly simplified their toys, they play better together. They play longer. They are much more creative.

So if it’s really that simple, what’s the problem?

black toy bins

We are up against a toy industry that spends billions of dollars on marketing to tell us otherwise.

The good news is that simplifying kids’ toys can be done very simply and quickly. Check out this series for my BEST tips to help you simplify kids’ toys!

girl boxing up toys

I recommend simplifying down to simple toys like Lego, blocks, play food and dolls. Box up the rest and only pull out toys that your kids specifically ask for. Then after some time has past, you can safely donate whatever is left.

You’re going to find that your kids play so much better! All they need is their imaginations.

boy hugging tree

This concept ties in to craft supplies as well. If you enjoy facilitating craft projects, sensory play and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) activities, of course do that! But DON’T feel guilty or pressured that you have to!!

If your kids are playing outside, those are sensory activities. If they’re building with Legos or blocks, those are STEM activities.

kids playing in grass

As far as craft supplies, we have really simplified how much we keep. Our kids are the most imaginative when they have very little to work with, and they’re happier, too!

Simplifying Kids’ Clothes

When I first started simplifying our home, I pared down all our kids’ clothes to about five outfits each.

As they’ve gotten older, they want more input into what they wear, so they have a bit more now. But as they get older, they can manage more themselves, too!

At first I just wanted to simplify laundry and keep our house cleaner, but reducing the amount of choices also helps your kids avoid decision fatigue.

clothes bins

In the book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne he says, “By simplifying clothes, you ease transitions. You offer freedom from choice and overload while still allowing for the slow and sure development of personal expression.”

I love that! And with my recent experiment with an all-black wardrobe, that’s what I want as an adult, too!

Simplifying Special Things

We have a memory bin for each of our kids where they can put their special items.

memory bin

Having a designated bin uses the Container Concept by making the boundaries the bad guy. They can keep anything that’s special, but it needs to fit within a certain space.

It’s a great skill for your kids to learn that we can’t keep everything, but we can keep the really special stuff and keep it in a place of honor.

Simplifying Kids’ Activities

In Simplicity Parenting, the author found that kids were actually starting to show similar symptoms to post-traumatic stress disorder from being exposed to chronic stress and being introduced to adult topics too early in life.

Our kids are over-scheduled and their days are too full, which doesn’t give them enough time to relieve stress or to have pressure releases where they can reset. It is so important to have rhythms and for our kids getting enough sleep.

boys' room

If we want our kids to succeed in academics, sports or arts, we can feel very pressured as parents to make sure they’re in the right activities and they’re getting enough training and exposure.

But we need to balance that with making sure that they have enough time to play. To have the opportunity to just be kids is so important to their mental health and brain development.

Time in front of the TV is not the same.

They just need good old-fashioned, unstructured play where nothing is being asked of them.

boy playing with wood and stones

When we started having kids, I couldn’t believe how much peer pressure there was from other parents and well-meaning friends and relatives who thought I should put my kids in all kinds of activities.

It felt like we were being bad parents if our kids weren’t doing ALL the things!

But that couldn’t be further from the truth. I wholeheartedly believe that our kids need downtime in order to be happy, and to not be introduced to an adult-paced schedule too early on in life.

kids roasting marshmallows over campfire

What do my kids need right now?

It’s important that we stop every once in a while and ask, what do my kids need right now in this age and stage and season?

  • Do they need more downtime?
  • Do they need a simpler environment to really be able to thrive?
  • Do they need fewer decisions?
  • Have we been accidentally introducing them to a more adult-paced life or adult-based topics?
  • Do we need to cut back on screen time?
girls' bedroom

As we have simplified our home, it naturally led to simplifying our schedule and it gave me the capacity to really be able to pay attention to my kids’ needs – what they need from our home and what they need from me.

Our kids need us to be present. Just putting your hand on your child’s back can help them regulate their emotions without even saying anything.

Unfortunately, as we continue to be more distracted, and as our kids are consuming more content through screens, there is a breakdown between this ability for us to help regulate our kids’ emotions.

As you work to simplify things, the benefits that you are going to see are going to be SO worthwhile!

Will it be difficult in the very beginning? Most likely.

But is it an incredibly worthwhile pursuit? Absolutely. I think it is one of the most worthwhile things that we can do!!

family photo at waterfall

I don’t just want you to take my word for it. I would love for you to check out these resources below, and really look for ways to simplify your kids’ childhood and find meaningful ways to connect with them.

I get asked a lot about screen time specifically, so I wanted to share a few additional thoughts on kids, technology and screen time (just my humble opinion!)! We’ve simplified screen time, and it has made a HUGE difference in our house!

You can receive $30 off of a Gabb phone with this code & link!: MINIMALMOM30

Find Ralphie from Simply on Purpose’s Instagram here: (be sure to check out her saved story on cell phones!)

Are there areas that you have simplified for your kids that have really paid off?

Have you cut back on activities with good benefits?

If so, how do you find that balance?

If you have any tips to share that could help others, we’d love to hear them!

All the best on your parenting journey!

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