How to make space in the kids department before the holidays

...and inspire creative play.

For those of you who have children... or who know people who have children... or who have ever spent time with children... you are probably aware of all the stuff that can come along with having a kid.

Ironically, most of the time, my kids are happiest with sticks and ropes and planks and bricks and any other natural material they can find of their own accord--in the summer months when that sort of stuff is accessible.

Indoors, wooden blocks have recently made a resurgence in my house--with my 3 ½ year old and 8 year old (somehow) playing harmoniously, each making their own towers within the same compound.

building with blocks 3.jpg

Turns out, where you place their toys makes a big difference.

We’ve had those blocks for years, with little time devoted to them (I’ve thought about passing them along many times). They’ve lived in the kids’ room, and out in the living room. A few weeks ago, as fall began to feel chilly, I moved them from one side of a table to the stove side--where the kids could build right in front of its warmth. That’s when the kids started playing with them ALL THE TIME.

Location matters.

Mostly kids want to be in the heart of the action--which can make it tricky to keep a presentable house or keep your sanity when you feel like their stuff is taking over.

I had that experience just this week.

My daughter has a mini kitchen setup that is a favorite of my kids and any friends that come over. So far, it has always found a home in our living room.

We have this lovely bay window nook that we built into the house when we bought it--to bring south-eastern light into a space that originally felt like a cave. It’s the perfect place for a Christmas tree; it has housed a futon, plants, a reading nook, you name it. Currently the red kitchen lives there along with my daughter’s doll bed and miniature chairs--the sort of setup I never considered having for my son (don’t get me wrong, Dash played with dolls at certain points, but he never sat in a little chair, or took so much time to put his dolls to sleep). 

bay window kitchen nook.jpg

With all the use the kitchen gets, it had begun to feel a bit out of control in that zone of our shared space. With everything else in life going on, it took a low priority and continued to collect: plastic easter eggs the kids found when we pulled out the Halloween tub; paper bags to put salad and cookies and any number of food items in; rubber bands; treasures (candle wax, beads). That sort of thing.

Truth be told, in that state--as it continued to collect--it hadn’t seen much use over the past few weeks.

Spaces that accumulate are less enjoyable to use.

Monday night I got home from a meeting at 7:30pm and the house was quiet--with the time change my husband had managed to get the kids to bed on time! With the knowledge that I had 3 different gatherings at my home this week, I got a dose of inspiration to clear that area. I sat down and put things where “they belonged,” made a pile of recycling, a pile of trash, a few things to send to the thrift store and a pile of things to put away elsewhere. It took me all of 15 minutes, but let me tell you, it felt AMAZING.

The next morning, as soon as my daughter woke up, she said, “I’m going to make you some ‘tea.’” She headed straight to her kitchen and got to work. She hadn’t even seen the space before she decided.

There is a draw--visual and also energetic--to places where you’ve put your love and attention.

She proceeded to bring me a multi course breakfast in bed while I snoozed until 6.

I wish it had looked like that!!

I wish it had looked like that!!

Did she notice that I’d removed some of her valuable treasures she’s put there?

Nope.

Did she care that things were not how she’d left them?

Nope.

Did she notice anything I’d thrown away?

Yes.

Just one thing. A sweet paper creation--a birthday cake her friend had made her for her 3rd birthday. She hadn’t played with it in ages and it was starting to come apart, so I’d put it upside down in the trash so all the flashy parts weren’t visible.

Best part: that morning, as I was about to get up, I heard my son say to my husband: “Dad, when the Switch Witch came she ate our candy all at once!”

(If you don’t know about the Switch Witch, check this out. I love her.) 

My husband: “Oh yeah, how do you know?”

Dash: “Look, all the wrappers are in our trash can!”

(That’s what I get for eating 4 mini bags of peanut M&M’s at the meeting the night before and bringing the wrappers home!)

This inspired Sadie to look into the trash can and locate said birthday cake as my husband implored, “Sadie, we don’t pick through the trash.”

Yup, that’s what 6am in my house looks like. :)

I tell you this story to remind you that sometimes 15 minutes of inspired cleanup...

  • ...will create an area that is a magnet for creative play,
  • ...will buy you 45 more minutes of sleep in the morning,
  • ...will put a smile on your face first thing,
  • …i s all it takes for your shared space to feel like it belongs to you again.

This applies to all spaces over which you have control (which is most of them).

This time of year, in the upper latitudes of the northern hemisphere, we begin to spend more time indoors. It can often feel like our spaces are too full, like they are closing in on us or like we can’t take a deep full in-breath in our own space.

The holidays are coming, and along with them, what can potentially be more interaction with our extended families and in-laws than we are accustomed to--and traditions that bring up memories--both good and bad, hard times and good.

Rather than pile on to the potential overwhelm--of your space, of family traditions and memories of days gone by--get on top of your space RIGHT NOW.

When you feel the urge, take that inspired action. It always leads to good things.

I have a fantastic free opportunity coming your way to do just that: to take inspired action and make space before us northerners get into the deep dark of winter. Of course, it's always a good time to do that--but I am feeling it particularly urgently as I go inward. Are you?

Get excited for space and inspiration coming your way--I know I am!

:) Tenaya