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Karen Brennan
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Simplifying books, clothing, scent, sound and light

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Well, I think it’s time to finish up chapter 3, “Environment” in Simplicity Parenting.  Next week, we will begin discussing Chapter 4, “Rhythm.”  A friend told me once that the three R’s of Waldorf early childhood education are rhythm, repetition and ritual.  Today, in the section on books, Kim writes about the importance of repetition.

Books: As a lover of books, this one is and was harder for me than simplifying toys.  He says that books are often the second major form of excess after toys.  Do you think so?  He recommends, for children under 7 or 8, having one or two books easily accessible and another 12 or so favorite books available on a shelf.  As with toys, you can rotate them through.  And he doesn’t’ write about library books, which can be another nice way to rotate through some different books.  He suggests in deciding which books to purchase or keep looking at criteria similar to the criteria he suggested for toys.  Is it a story that leaves some room for the imagination? Is it developmentally appropriate? Is it a story based on a product or a television or movie character? Is it designed to engage or to stimulate? A book read at bedtime nourishes a child’s dreams.  We all know how much children enjoy hearing the same story over and over again.  “Repetition deepens the experience and relationship for a child; it helps them claim it as their own.”

Clothes: Guess what?  Fewer clothing choices simplifies getting dressed!  The suggestion here is to have available only clothes that fit and are appropriate for the season.  All other clothing should be packed or given away.  Until adolescence, children don’t really need to use clothing as a form of self-expression.  Someone told me about Minimalist Fashion Project 333,(for adults—I don’t think it would work for children unless you were willing to do laundry all of the time) where you leave only 33 items in your closet to wear for 3 months.  I’m not sure if I could do it, but it would be interesting to try and see if it is really possible.

Scent and Lighting (and sound): This chapter ends with a short section on scent and lighting.  It is so easy to get caught up in all the stuff that we forget about these other important parts of the environment.  “The amygdala, the ancient part of our brain, is the area associated with olfaction, or smell.” Artificial scents and too many scents get the amygdala firing and adrenaline flowing.  Simplifying smells in the home, including cleaning supplies, perfumes and other scented products, can help to calm the amygdala and bring a sense of safety and well-being to the young child. Kim points out that many of our homes have a lot of hard surfaces—wooden floors, plain ceilings, wood and glass.  While these offer “clean lines and a natural aesthetic,” they can also be challenging for children with auditory processing difficulties—in other words, the noise bouncing around these kind of spaces can be confusing to children. Lastly, Kim writes about lighting.  He writes about how wonderful it is to light a candle sometime during the day.  He also writes about the importance of natural light and also the importance of darkness.  He encourages us to wean our child off of nightlights.  “Most small children can sleep through loud sounds, but they are very sensitive to light.  If your child does not have “nighttime concerns,” a darkened room improves the quality of sleep.

Don’t forget small, doable changes!