Updated: Jul 6
Fun without things, how can that be? Marketing companies will have your child believing they cannot have fun unless they have the coolest and newest item in every color it comes in. Kids have been taught that more is better, even if we protest this in our own homes. How do we combat this idea that only things can equate to a good time? Show them this is simply not the way.
This is a no-brainer, especially for those of us who lived in a time before all the cool and fun technology. I'm not going to date myself here or sound like someone who can’t adapt. Just saying, it’s a lot easier to stay inside these days because there’s more to do; like watch tv and play on devices.
Isn't it better to have the kids outside and not making a mess in the house? Who cares how many sticks they collect or flowers they pick because they can all be left outside. Exploring nature gives them a new sense of adventure.
And yes, you will hear “There’s nothing to do outside, it’s boring.” But give them just a bit of time and just like that, they will gain interest in the world around them. My daughter gives me a hard time when I want her to play outside. “It’s too hot.” “It’s too cold.” “There are too many bugs.” “The air isn’t conducive to proper playing.” Okay, so maybe that last one was a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea. Kids will give any excuse to stay indoors sometimes. Remind them there’s fun to have in the snow and rain too! Think making igloos, jumping in puddles or leaves, climbing trees and snowball fights!
On the other hand, when she finally caves into the outdoor play, I’ve caught her singing to trees, making wishes on dandelions, watching birds, building with sticks and making obstacle courses with logs and stones.
I’m not saying that we should force our children into primitive play all the time, but it’s nice when they can step away from all the clutter of “things” and enjoy the simplicity of life without all the noise. They might be reluctant, they might make excuses, but we know how beneficial outside play can be. So, let’s continue to be the “bad” parents and encourage them to get out of the house every now and then.
Clutter-free Outside Ideas
Chalk - Technically it’s clutter, but this is what I call temporary clutter. It goes away! I’m all for things you can use and then they just disappear.
Bubbles – I’m not talking the expensive sets or those with a bunch of parts; after all that would be clutter. Dish soap, water and some string can be just as fun!
Games and Activities: The tried-and-true games work for a reason. Do a quick google search of outdoor game and you’ll find a ton of them. Remember hide and seek, freeze tag, Red Rover, manhunt and scavenger hunts? What do they all have in common? They needed nothing to play them.
The play can focus more on imagination, physical activity and social skills and less on acquiring. When we encourage our children to develop their own activities with less distraction, it can promote self-confidence in them.
Teach your kids about the fun we had outside as children. I find it fascinating to see that some kids have no idea how to play some of those games! I’ve recently taught my daughter how to make mud pies. She was confused and utterly disgusted with the idea, so I dug in and showed her how it was done. She was not impressed. So maybe we have to adapt and see what is cool on the playground these days. But that doesn't mean we have to cave in and buy anything.
Allow them to be kids, just like we once were. Now those were some fun times!
Weather got you stuck inside?
You can get creative here too. Here’s where kids can play with all of the toys they have been neglecting since forever. After all, that's the reason you were holding on to all of those games, right?
It’s a great time to assess what your kids have and what they actually still enjoy. If you suggest a game and your kid rolls their eyes, can't find the pieces, flat out say "no!" it’s safe to say it’s time to get rid of it.
Start a collection pile or box of toys and games that can be sold or donated. This takes the guess work out of what to keep. When your child is face-to-face with an item and shows they aren’t interested, that’s your cue! Clutter-be-gone!
More clutter-free ideas? Take this time to use up the clutter that you do have! Get out the paints, crayons and art supplies and have your children create something. Then let them give it to someone as a gift! Bonus: It’s now out of your house. (Let’s get grandma back for all the toys she brings into our house!)
If you still need something to do, and you feel a call for action, try doing something nice for the environment! Ok, so this might not sound like the most fun thing, but trust me it really can be. If you grab a bucket or a bag and head to the beach, mountains, lake, etc. you can pick up trash! Yes, I said it, and I get that I’ve probably lost a few of you. But really, my daughter loves it. We get exercise, fresh air and clean up the areas that we like to visit. It also teaches her about helping the community and taking care of the earth. You don’t need anything fancy to do it and it’s free!
I love watching my daughter get creative and use her imagination to make up new activities. It’s not just about keeping the house clean; it’s about encouraging our children to find ways to keep themselves occupied without always resorting to things.
If you stuck with me this far, thank you. Now go play!
What are some clutter-free ideas that you do with your children?