Winter has simplified our surroundings. After a fresh snowfall everything is white and our whole landscape becomes pristine and beautiful. The minimalism of this lack of color is so calming. Because this white blanket falls upon us, and the light and temperatures are both low, we settle into our homes a bit more. Life can be so hectic, and the colder season is a good time to slow down a little. This is the time of year where I am apt to stay home, crank up the woodstove, and make homemade bread and a hearty soup.

While winter may sometimes feel simple, parenting usually does not. When I looked up the definition of simplicity and saw; freedom from complexity, intricacy, or division into parts, I thought, “Yes, that’s what I’m looking for!” In seeking lack of complexity in parenting, here are a few suggestions for ways you can simplify:

Assess your level of busyness. Do your children each have three to four after-school activities going? Do you and your partner have to email each other throughout the day or week to make sure everyone is where they need to be and picked up on time? Is every timeslot of the day spoken for? Do you feel like a circus ringleader? Even if your schedule isn’t this over the top, the pressure of a too-full calendar can pile on added stress. Check in with yourself and the other members of your family and then set some limits. (I had to.)

Purge some toys. Downsizing your child’s bedroom and/or play area can be such a relief. Payne and Ross, authors of Simplicity Parenting suggest cutting your child’s toys in half, and then in half again….and then maybe even in half once more. What is left will be much more accessible. Children are quickly overwhelmed by too many play options. With a sea of colorful blocks, dolls, trucks, trains, puzzles, books, and games, they just can’t focus. If you take the majority of the toys and put them into deep storage, you can rotate them on an as needed basis. I cannot tell you how thrilled my boy was to play a game of Hi Ho Cherry-O after it had been hidden in the coat closet for four months!

Offer less choice. This seems counterintuitive, but I’ve found myself in a pickle on numerous occasions by giving my child too many choices. For example, “What do you want for breakfast?” is way too open-ended a question for my preschooler at 7:55 in the morning if I want to walk out the door in twenty minutes. When I give arbitrary choices in an effort to promote a sense of autonomy, it almost always backfires. I ask my son which of two shirts he’d like to wear and he stares at me for a moment before running to ransack his drawers for an outfit I hadn’t even contemplated. I’m pretty sure he didn’t care at all what he wore until I broached the topic.

If you are like me, you could use a reminder to ramp it down and chill out a little. Tonight after I cancel a commitment and stay home, I will read my child a bedtime story without fussing over which book he wants to hear. Then I’ll kick my feet up in the near-empty playroom, sip a cup of piping hot chocolate, and stare out at the peaceful, white view. Ah, simplicity.

Simplicity Parenting; Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross

Originally published in the March/April issue of Parent & Family