Making the transition to living a minimalist lifestyle can be an all-consuming task for adults. So many important decisions must be made that it can be easy for the children to be lost in the shuffle while they are left to fend for themselves. Keeping them engaged is critical.
As the mother of a seven year old, I know how much I both enjoy and, at times, dread summer vacation. I love the quality time I get with my daughter and take great pleasure in sharing our daily activities together (she loves to cook with me and loves to help me “clean”)! But, I also know there will come those moments when she is absolutely bored. In her mind, there is nothing to do and nothing to play (in a house full of toys). As our family makes the move to a more minimalist lifestyle, those moments have certainly made we think about how we will make the transition while still stimulating and entertaining her. I realized that with just a little work and a lot of imagination we could easily allow that to happen and she would love every minute of it.
Keep Them Safely Involved
Living off the grid can be a unique environment for your child. They have the potential to be more active in the family’s daily life and, with fewer electronics, will more than likely be outside much more. Safety has to be a main priority in this situation, and what better way to remind your kids of this than making safety a game.
- Treasure Hunt: Create an opportunity for your children to explore the world around them. Send them on specific tasks to find treasures for you. Within each task, have them identify one potential pitfall that could have occurred.
- First Aid Mania: Encourage your children, particularly the older ones, to learn the basics of first aid. Younger children will love playing First Aid Light, a variation of Red Light, Green Light. Have older children or another adult create “yes” and “no” first aid trivia questions. During the game, the leader will read each question individually. If the answer is yes, the kids take three steps forward; they do not move if it is no, just as they would in Red Light, Green Light. The child who reaches the leader first wins that round.
- Food Fun: Nature has supplied us with an overwhelming abundance of food. From roots and berries to plants and animals, our options can be overwhelming at times. Unfortunately, nature can also be amazingly tricky, and it is important your children understand what is safe and what has potentially life-threatening effects. Create a food scavenger hunt where younger children are paired with older children or an adult on a quest to find safe foods.
Stimulate Their Brain
It is one thing to allow a child to have fun but something entirely different to stimulate their brain and really get them thinking. Fortunately, children living in minimalist or survival situations have a lot to keep them busy, which keeps their brains active and engaged. But for the times you want to push your child to expand their thinking, there are several different opportunities.
- Memory: Revitalize the classic memory game for your family by creating one (or more) that is more relevant for your situation. Using index cards, paper, or wood squares, let your children create their own games. Give them a topic to craft them under (nature, food, safety, states, etc.) and allow them time to draw and color their pieces. Once their game is complete, set off to see who has the best memory in your family!
- Checkers and Chess: Plan to make the two games that involve great amounts of strategy and quality time a part of your family evenings. Start with checkers for the younger ones as they begin to learn the importance of planning and strategy before later moving to chess. Allow your children to create their own checkerboard with things they find in the world around them and see who can create the best family board.
- Alphabet Spools: Reuse your thread spools for this fun and stimulating game. Each child will need a set of thimbles and a pencil or other round and smooth device. The first spool should have the letters F, S, L, G and R written on it in marker with each letter written individually like numbers on a dial. The second should be similarly marked with each of the vowels and the third should with T, N, B, P and D. Take the spools and slide on the pencil and allow the children to turn the spools to create new words (s-a-t, g-e-t, and f-a-n are just a few examples). Spice things up by having a competition to see who can rack up the most words while timed or include a fourth spool with different letters.
Offer Them Simple Fun
Beyond the learning opportunities, kids still need time to simply be kids sometimes. Play with them or simply sit back and watch as they play with each other. Introduce them to games played when you were younger or teach them new ones.
- Jack Straws: Similar to pick-up sticks, this classic game relies on a handful of straws, pieces of hay, various sticks and twigs, or other similar objects. The first player throws the handful perpendicular to the ground in a clump. Using a larger and slightly heavier object, they must attempt to remove one piece at a time from the stack without disturbing the others. If the group is disturbed, they must pass their turn to the next player. If they are able to remove the piece, they add it to their pile. The player with the most pieces at the end of the game is the winner.
- Cornhole: A favorite game among Amish children, this simple creation can leave your kids with hours of fun. Make a set of small bean bags for each child. These small squares can be sewn and filled with beans, dirt, or any other item that will make the bag heavy enough to toss. Allow the children to spend time tossing them to each other and eventually into a target surrounding their opponent. The ultimate goal is to use a slanted board with a hole cut into the center as the target.
- Who Has the Button: Select one child to be ‘it’ and have them leave the room for a moment or simply close their eyes. Have the remaining children sit in a circle and pass a button until one person hides it behind their backs. All other children will then place their hands behind their backs as well while the first child who is ‘it’ guesses who has the button. If he gets it correct, the person holding the button becomes ‘it’; if not, that child remains ‘it’ and play resumes.
No matter how it occurs, living a minimalist life provides wonderful opportunities for children to be active and engaged. It is important to remember the kids when planning your simpler life. They will be happier and healthier when they feel like actual members of the family, and by working to keep them connected through game and play, you can make that happen.