Davina here - I am a big fan of the book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, which is essentially about how less is more and how this makes happier and I'd argue more creative children. I'd probably go as far as saying this is my favourite parenting book - I find it so wholesome and inspiring. Simplicity Parenting is not just about having fewer objects in your home but also about doing less and consuimng less media.
When we first bought the book we cleared out at least half of Elfie's toys and clothes and reduced her TV consumption down to 20 minutes a day and the occasional film at the weekend. We also tried to simplify her weekly routine, which is hard with childcare and is still too complicated but it's a little better than before. Since her daily routine isn't consistent due to childcare 3 days a week we made a purposeful effort to have daily rituals like breakfast together as a family with candles always lit and set bath times and story times as well as weekly meal rituals like pancakes on Saturdays. It is actually very in tune with a lot of the philosophy behind Steiner schools in terms of setting daily rhythms and in general living slower. It just makes complete sense to me. I really feel children gain so much from a simple routine - it empowers them as they know what is coming next.
Why Simplicity Packing?
Going on holiday whether abroad to stay in a luxury villa or up north to stay with your nan provides an opportunity to experiment with less is more as you can't take all your kids toys, clothes, books and gadgets with you. Hannah talked a bit about this in her post Some Things We Learnt from Living in a tent for 5 Weeks after travelling around Europe with her daughter Frankie-Rose for 5 weeks.
Nick does the packing in our household. He is just much better and more efficient at it than me and he is particularly good at being very selective about what we bring. Last month when we went to Portugal for one week we took one suitcase, which had all four of our clothes and shoes in it and one little wheellie bag, which was mainly full of cloth nappies and a small travel backpack for the plane. Having few bags made it much easier travelling around - especially getting the train to the airport.
What to Pack for your kids?
- A small selection of clothes (assuming you can wash clothes when you are there)- ideally ones that can be worn with different items to create different outfits so tops and skirts that can all be interchanged for example. Check the weather forecast first and pack to suit it.
- Kids Toiletries that you can all share - we just use natural baby washing products for the whole family when on holiday to avoid taking more than one shampoo etc.
- Small section of books - maybe even just one! We took one long story for Elfie and two flap books for Bonnie.
- A couple of open ended toys or tools so they can be used in lots of ways. We took Elfie's scissors and pack of crayons. She loves cutting things up and turning them into new things and drawing is always a winner.
- Optional: one ritualistic souvenir making device - we always take our flower press with us so Elfie can create a souvenir from the trip by pressing flowers.
What will the children play with?
You might be thinking that the above list is not enough to keep them entertained and in some cases for example if you were staying in a hotel room for a week with little to do outdoors than it might not be but in general it will be. The reason is because children will find other things to play with around the house - things that are not normally seen as toys and this is great as it pushes their imagination and creativity.
Ideas for how children can play with household &found objects:
- Play cook with kitchen equipment
- Turn table mats into stepping stones
- Make pillows or duvets into islands
- Create dens using sheets
- Make music with pans and spoons
- Create displays with found objects - Elfie particularly loves to do this. Below you can see lemons she found that she curated on tiny plates with flowers she picked.
- Collect shells, sticks etc to make displays or play shop with them.
- Kitchen utensils and tupperwares make great bath toys!
The list can go on - they will find their own way to do it if you give them a chance.
Elfie spent a good hour playing with these lemons and working out how to display them best. Below she created a display of shells underneath plants in the garden.
Taking home gifts
As well as packing to go on holiday you obviously have to pack to come home and often there is an expectation to bring back gifts. I like the idea of thinking of others when you are on holiday and surprising them with a little gift. I generally think some local food is good as that way you are not adding to more objects in the receiver's life but this holiday Elfie really wanted to buy her friends something non edible. We said she could choose something but it needed to be small enough to fit in her little backpack. She chose these sweet little cockerels, which are a Portuguese symbol.