Under-Stimulate | Day Eighteen

We recently spent time in the big city of Portland, Oregon and found ourselves overstimulated. Heavy traffic made mommy uptight and crabby. Noisy stores wired the kids, making it even harder for them to listen and follow directions. Even creative museums and farm exploration caused sensory overload and eventually exhaustion.

The one time I felt like we were all centered and listening and calm was our short time in the forest. It was quiet, except for the tiniest sounds of drops of rain falling on leaves and birds trilling. We felt the soft moss, turned our faces up to look for the tops of trees and watched raindrops falling from way up high, and listened.

Our imaginations came alive. Our souls lifted.

A simple environment with minimal stimulation encourages creativity and imaginative play.

In the past four years, we have simplified our space a lot. We store toys we aren't using, or simply give them away. We decorate simply. We try to keep surfaces clean and free of clutter.

We're more careful about avoiding crowds and noisy places. We try to balance our structured playtime with quiet downtime at home. We turn off electronic devices and allow our nervous systems to relax before bedtime.

I believe it is important to give children the gift of boredom.

Nigel Farndale of The Telegraph says in his article, "If your child is complaining of being bored this holiday season, the kindest thing you can do is leave him or her alone in a room with a large cardboard box. It will soon turn into a spaceship."

I know for sure I spent more time worrying about whether my firstborn was entertained and enjoying himself than I did my second child. Like Shona Sibary, I realized that my baby was "more than happy [just] to stare out the window" and didn't need a cute little giraffe dangling over his head.

We give our children a gift when we give them quiet, simple environments. We'll give them a gift when we choose building blocks over "noise toys" and put them outside with a cardboard box once in a while.

Happy children have space to breath, think and imagine.

Click here to read the rest of the posts in the series, 31 Days to Happier Children.