Monday, October 28, 2013

fifteen | practising simplicity

Living a less-distracted life : pay attention to the toys your children actually play with.

It's a pertinent topic considering we're only eight weeks out from Christmas and it's been on my mind constantly. 


I made a point of observing the children at play when we returned from Bali. We had spent a month with hardly any toys (Poet had a doll and a ball, Che had a lego truck and some playing cards) and not once did they pine for the things they had left at home. When we walked in the door Che went straight to his lego box (no surprise there) and Poet moved between her sandpit and picture playhouse. Since then, nothing much has changed (except for the addition and subsequent disappearance of the caterpillars). It's pretty obvious that my children have a lot of toys that they don't play with and whilst they may be beautiful, they don't serve any necessary purpose; they just sit dormant in a box. It's time for another good clear out and subsequent evaluation of the things that we are bringing in (no use decluttering if we're just going to fill the void with something new). 


I've always stuck by my golden rule when it comes to gifts but this year things are a little different. Firstly, my children don't need anything. They're pretty sorted in the wearing department, too. Which leaves a want, a read (I've just found this for Poet) and perhaps a few stocking fillers. I'm also more inclined to put some money in their bank accounts in lieu of too many gifts (the grandparents are liking this idea, too). Every Tuesday Che and Poet line up at the school canteen to deposit some money into their accounts. We're slowly introducing them to the idea of pocket money, savings and spendings. I figure if on birthdays and at Christmas we can gift them some money to boost the savings it's going to help out when they ask for a drum kit, ipad (we're holding off for as long as possible) or other such big ticket item. 


So: you do have a choice in the matter; you can keep it simple. 


How are you approaching Christmas this year? Do your children have savings accounts? Dare I ask, how much do you spend on Christmas? Last Christmas I overheard a woman telling her friend that she had a small budget of $1500 per child!!!!!


36 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Jodi, wise thoughts as always. I find Christmas completely overwhelming and work hard each year on keeping it low key. This year I am thinking about supporting the Smith Family through their Joyspreader gifts, particularly the Ready, Brekkie, Go gift which is affordable and helps disadvantaged children get a decent breakfast. I plan to give one of these to our children and nieces and nephews, they might find it boring but I like the principal behind it!

    My children don't need anything either, all the more reason to keep the spending and consuming to a minimum. As for $1500 per child, I wont be spending that much on our entire Christmas. Great post :)



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    1. I find it overwhelming too. I must admit, most years I'm completely exhausted by Christmas Day (I always have a deadline of around the 20th Dec to meet!). I really like your Joyspreader gift idea x

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  2. I love your golden rule and adopted it last year. This year, I'm doing similar. My girls are getting a box of Lego to share, a new book each and a new outfit. I don't budget but I'm not extravagant either. "Santa" will bring a small stocking full of practical things: new undies, socks, singlets, new pencils, new drawing pads, a bubble wand, a chocolate bar and a twirling ribbon stick. It sounds like a LOT when you write it down but mostly it isn't. :)

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    1. Santa always includes a toothbrush in our stockings! I particularly like your idea of refreshing the craft cupboard - always handy when there's 6 weeks of holidays ahead x

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    2. Ahh yes, he brings toothbrushes and bubble bath here too (I forgot) I'm pretty sure that's all though :)

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  3. We decided as a family this year to have no presents and go on a holiday instead. Our boys are so excited. They also dont need anything so we felt this was a better investment. We do 50 dollars for each child in a savings account each month as car money and they do age appropriate chores for pocket money each month.

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  4. Books were always top of my list when it came to presents but I'm finding that there are so many great books in the library, we don't need to buy any anymore (apart from a select few that like to be read over and over, a fresh story with a fresh perspective and art is proving more interesting). So no books this year. I'm going over the top with simple this year. Each year I make it simpler and it still overwhelms me. I have to say I find this season too much - it's all too much. What the boys play with the most are their Schleich animals, wooden blocks and Lego - other than that they just play outside. So a couple of Schleich animals as stocking fillers and a small Lego box. Kian adores his $2 Tuzzles puzzle I picked up years ago so I'm on the lookout for another puzzle. That'll probably be it. Embrace 'less is more' at Christmas is key to managing the overwhelm, I think!

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  5. I am pondering this too and I decided last year that I wasn't going to buy a stupid number of toys (even though what I bought for my kids pales in comparison to what most of my friends with children the same age bought!). I decided I'm going to get them (or maybe make) a play kitchen to share as they both love playing with their wooden food and doll tea set. Also it provides a better way of storing everything than just throwing it in the toy box. I think i won't be able to resist getting a couple of small stocking fillers too though - i just love watching them open them and we don't really do xmas here so if it wasn't for the presents it would just be another day! Toothbrushes is a GREAT idea, I'm totally stealing that!

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  6. My oldest daughter is two years old so this year we've asked her to chose a toy for a local charity shop: Santa will bring her another toy instead of an old one. Our presents are always books or clothes and we spend 50 euros per child. The problem is keeping the grandparents under control! They buy always a lot of toys! This year I've asked them a big present to buy all together: a radio for the daughter's room.
    I love your golden rule! I'm going to follow it!

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  7. Always so inspiring Jodi. I love your golden rule. We'll be in Sydney for Christmas this year and want to be travelling light, so we'll definitely be keeping things simple. We did lots of craft stuff last year, the favourite, which is still being used now, almost everyday, is a sticky tape dispenser - can't get simpler than that!! xo

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    1. Sticky tape dispenser - GREAT idea! It's on the list for the stocking (if it fits in the stocking) x

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  8. thanks for sharing this too. I am really wanting to simplify even more so this year. Honestly the kids dont really need a thing. I cringe at kids under mountains of wrapping paper, unable to fully grasp or appreciate everything piled on top of them. Makes me really uncomfortable. Hoping to channel the grandparents towards memberships and 'experiences' instead, and from ourselves focus on a couple smallish things.

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  9. I do feel some outside pressure to buy my 2 yr old lots of presents but luckily my practical side wins out every time.. This year we're getting him a little trampoline and a gardening set because he loves pottering in the garden. We will then take a family trip to buy him his own plants to pot and take care of. His stocking filler will be a set of wooden spoons and some bowls as he loves helping in the kitchen, even got a spare spot for his stuff in the kitchen cupboard.

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  10. Little A is getting the same thing he got last year for Xmas a membership to Taronga Zoo. Best gift ever. We go every month, sometimes more and he loves it. Bored? Let's go to the zoo! A few hours to kill this afternoon? Let's go watch the seal show! Little A is seal obsessed now. They also have a fantastic play / water area AND a new lemur enclosure / play area opening next year where kids can play along side the lemurs.

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  11. Such an interesting question! I do one present from Santa, then one for each side of the family: total of 3 gifts. Unlike when I was a child, birthdays and Christmas are not the only times Teddy gets bits and pieces so I keep it very modest. Only this week, Nana came over with a pot plant & watering can, because I'd mentioned Teddy was ready for gardening! When family ask what he needs/wants, I say either money into his bank account or a toy he can keep at the grandparent's place for visits :) I love the whole 'need, want, read, wear' but honestly, like you this year, if he needs something he gets it & ditto for wearing & reading...oh, and I have been careful not to start something I will regret continuing - going overboard at Christmas is something I probably won't want to do every year so I am not tempted to now!

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  12. My children have everything too + more, this year I will be asking people to buy things that are eco friendly/ age appropriate toys, books + craft activities, lets hope they listen. being the only grandchild on both sides make people go crazy.

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  13. After years of overdoing it with toys, my two boys are getting a cubby house for the backyard and that is it. We've asked family and friends to contribute towards the cubby or a charity in lieu of gifts. I'd raid rather them have one large gift that encourages imaginative and active play than more pieces of plastic. A thoughtful and timely post Jodi.

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  14. **much rather not raid rather!

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  15. As the grandmother of ten and step-grandmother of sixteen overindulged children it does my heart good to read this post and the followup comments. We give book vouchers each year and I'm happy to say that they are still well received. Keep up the good work all of you!

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  16. As my daughter's only 18 months old she's yet to be obviously influenced by advertising or what her friends have so we're introducing the idea of simplicity with presents too. I think it's a tricky one for parents because you don't want to feel mean or that you'r depriving your children but as you say, and unlike adults, children need very little in the way of toys. My girl, for instance spends more time playing with a bucket and stones from the garden than anything else. So this year at least, we'll just be getting her something simple like an easel and chalks. And if you don't waste money on pointless toys you get to spend it on trips to Bali or similar which is a lot more fun for everyone anyway!

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  17. Thank you so much for this post Jodi!
    I am trying to keep the gifts simpler this Christmas. Really trying. Beautiful, but smaller gifts. Books, lego, a bike for exercise. Bits and pieces. A game and a couple of toys I know will be much loved.
    Does not sound that simple - but I am trying!

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  18. Wow. $1500 per child??? That's just .... I can't even.

    We tend to give tiny when it comes to our son. We have a large family that loves to spoil, so we opt for just a few things knowing we will ultimately be bombarded by stuff.

    Instead of stressing about it, we have a family tradition - all through the month of December, we purge. Our clothes, our movies, our toys, our junk -- we purge it all. Anything our son doesn't wear or play with anymore, the stuff we know we no longer love is donated to folks who truly do not have everything they need, much less everything they want. Then, when the eventual influx comes, we know not only is there room, but we won't stress about it as much.

    (Oh, and at the end of January I quietly go through all the new stuff as well, pulling out what doesn't get played with or worn, and do the same thing. There's no sense in keeping new things around just because they're new if they aren't used.)

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  19. so true! we don't really "need" anything! we should remind ourselves to be thankful for that :)

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  20. Some lovely friend with older children just give us BOXES of beautiful books. I found a bookcase at the op shop so I am going to paint it. And Toddler C will get a library for Christmas.
    He will also get a few bits and pieces that I have picked up throughout the year...a new train for his set and some dinosaurs.
    I just did a massive clean of the entire house and was really shocked by the amount of stuff we have!

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  21. I wish my parents had introduced savings and bank accounts to me at such a young age. I'm almost nineteen and I'm still trying to figure it all out.

    I felt obliged last year to buy gifts for most of my family/my boyfriends family for Christmas. Gift giving makes me feel incredibly elated and I just feel the love all round. My extended family does a KK which obviously makes things a lot cheaper for everyone. Usually I try and spend 50-100 on everyone but it just depends on what the gift is.

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  22. I had only been pondering this question recently Jodi & I welcome your thoughts with open arms. My four kids are complacent when it comes to their myriad of toys & it pains me to buy any more 'plastic'. I will be looking for alternate presents this year. Money & the concept of saving is something we highly value too. If they can learn that a 'want' doesn't appear immediately through desire alone, this itself will be a gift.

    p.s. your imagery is so beautiful. I have to catch my breath every time I see one of your photographs.

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  23. Normally our children get three small presents each (one from each member of the family) and a game to share. This year we are thinking of giving each child an iTunes gift card (minimal plastic involved there) and buying a goat or two from Oxfam.

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  24. I struggle at Christmas as both my Babies are December children. For the eldest she is 21 this year, I have been asking people for gift cards from Flight Centre, she has always wanted to go to Bali. I thought it would be an amazing experience for her. But I have been met with such reluctance from many family members, saying they would prefer to buy her something. But she does not need anything.
    Both of my children have savings accounts. Each week they get $20. Well I should say got in Tamika's case. I stopped when she turned 18. Her $20 a week had turned into $30 000. Yes you read that correct. Term deposit and clever investing. She is now saving for a deposit on her first home.

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    1. $30K! Wow. The current bank account the kids are using has an underwhelming interest rate of 0.01%. However, it's the novelty (and practicality) of depositing at school that is important right now. Tell me, did Tamika have to earn the $20 each week or did you just deposit it without her knowing? x

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  25. We've been doing this since my eldest was born. Like many other commenters, out biggest problem has been grandparents buying too many things (usually too much noisy plastic tat that never lasts!). My DH's parents even used to buy a big bag full of gifts every time they visited, even if it wasn't a birthday or Yule! It doesn't help that DH has a sister who is very different to us, whose children are older than ours, so GP's have gotten used to HAVING to buy lots of gifts.

    As far as we're concerned, lots of gifts does not equate to lots of love. Love cannot be bought, especially not from children.

    It came to a head this year, when they (once again) refused to listen to us and we said that if they could not restrict themselves to ONE gift or as many books as they liked from their Amazon WishLists, we would consider them being disrespectful, choosing to actively ignore our wishes and our aim for our home, as well as one of the basic parts of how we parent, and that they simply wouldn't be welcome in our house.

    This will be the first Christmas since then, so we'll see how they do (will make sure DH reminds them!).

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  26. Most children NEED for nothing, which is so wonderful and fortunate. My boys enjoy the act of unwrapping but I honestly don't think they care much for what's inside the paper or box! (unless it has wheels). This year our boys will get new pyjamas, some Lego, Finn will get a bike and Ronan will get a Hot Wheels racing track. I never want my children to have expectations of many many presents being under the tree. I'm with you, and I try to keep it as simple as possible.

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    1. I meant to add, that I have spoken to the grandparents and I have requested they buy either books or some sort of 'activity' game (puzzles, beading, craft, educational) etc.

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  27. This is such an interesting post, I often try to buy toys for felix that has longevity or I think of as an investment whereas my husband showers him in toys (although often found on ebay so they don't cost a fortune he still get's him lots). I think this is because he didn't get hardly anything as a child as his parents were extremely strict in buying anything. I think this would be such a happy compromise to look at what Felix actually enjoys playing with and re-gifting some of his toys to children less fortunate this christmas or running a stall to sell some of his toys and put the money into his savings.

    www.wildandgrizzly.blogspot.co.uk

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  28. I find these days there is just to much stuff for kids. Being a sandplay and expressive therapist before kids I decided early on not to have to much plastic in the house. We make our musical instruments out of things in the kitchen, there are animals and wooden toys to play with and l have told people not to buy any more toys. This year we are busy making snowflakes and our own decorations for montessori at home, the kids (4 and 1 in dec )are getting some purebaby clothes l got on sale and a book each for Christmas and their birthdays and that is it. We give each child $52 to add to their savings accounts along with their grandparents to celebrate the year just gone and l think it's a perfect way to keep things really simple.

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  29. Our daughter will be 14 months soon and so far we have only bought her a couple of books as gifts as we have been given gifts/hand-me-downs and already feel that there are days and possibly even weeks where we don't get through our toy corner. For her first birthday, we asked for people to come and share in her birthday celebration and not bring gifts and we will ask the same for Christmas. For our extended family (about 20 of us Christmas morning), we not longer give gifts but fill eachothers stockings (my favourite Christmas tradition anyways). I think the time spent together and playing together with whatever you have around are the best gifts. We have started an education fund for her and will try to give her enough over the years so she can get through university without worrying, although I do think being very aware of the value of money is an important life skill and never was that made more clear to me than when I was a poor student.

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  30. I'm so glad to be able to read yours and others thoughts on this, Jodi. It's something I have thought about quite a bit but is especially at the forefront now for a few reasons: being pregnant with our first, christmas approaching, and the question being raised amongst extended family. I, of course, wasn't able to give a simple reply to the 'what does everyone want to do about the kids and presents?' question but also haven't received much response to my rambling response either. It's overwhelming enough to think of how we will raise our own, let alone what the broader expectations are amongst extended family. So tricky. I did find this to be interesting when searching for others' thoughts online - http://zenhabits.net/bah/

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