Simple As That: Celebrating Our Unique Families

jumpingbed Photo by ODHD

Here at Simple Kids, we celebrate an approach to parenting that is intentionally basic. This approach emphasizes experiencing life in a very hands-on way, spending time thoughtfully engaged with our children, and seeking out creativity and enrichment at every turn.

I am so inspired by this community made up of over 1500 parents and caregivers – a community which spans the globe from North America to Europe to Australia and all manner of places in between.  We have gathered here with a common goal: to embrace the joy of uncomplicated parenting.

For some of us, there is tremendous support for this approach to parenting in your family, friend circles, and communities.  For others, this simple, slowed-down approach can be a little isolating.  The choices your family makes may be profoundly different from the choices of families around you, and sometimes you might feel quite alone in your parenting journey.

Let’s take a minute to come together today to share and celebrate what makes your family unique! The purpose here is not to pass judgment in any way on the choices of others, but rather to encourage and inspire each other with a peek at what uncomplicated, joy-filled, creative, and mindful living looks like in your home.

I’ll get us started.  In our family:

  • jumping on the bed is allowed and perhaps even encouraged!
  • we don’t own a gaming system – and sometimes feel as though we are the only family on the planet who doesn’t have a Wii.
  • our four and a half year old isn’t enrolled in any lessons, nor does she participate in any organized sports.  We will probably pursue these activities in the future, but for now, we are content to allow her free time to be happily unstructured.
  • there is a bin of markers, crayons, glue, and scissors on the kitchen table at all times.  You never know when creativity will strike!
  • whether indoors or outside, mess-making is okay.  Learning can be messy, and teaching our children how to help clean-up messes equips them with responsibility and thoughtfulness.

A simple approach to family life will look different for everyone based on what works best in your family. Even in a community of like-minded parents, there are going to be differences, but I think we’ll be surprised by what we have in common!

Okay, now it’s your turn! What does your family do or not do, read, eat, listen to, allow, and encourage that makes your family unique?

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  1. We don’t watch tv. Occasionally a video with a parent. But, no tv, cable, or video games, etc.

    We do only 1 organized activity, a preschool music class at our church. And, we only go if everyone is feeling up for it.

    We have books for everyone in every room.

    We bedshare with our 4 1/2 year old and 18 month old.

    Finally, we converted one of our extra bedrooms into an Atelier…and messes are definitely allowed (if not encouraged) there!

    My husband builds airplanes (real and rc) in his spare time and we have a workshop where the kids are helping him rebuild an engine. My daughter can tell you how an internal combustion engine works….me, not so much.

    Most of the time, I feel like we are complete weirdos compared to our friends. But, once I think about it, I am glad we are.
    .-= Bryssy´s last blog ..Sasame Street is Cool! =-.

    • Thank you for sharing these, Bryssy! It is my absolute DREAM to have an atelier in our home. Kudos to your family for making that a reality.

  2. We don’t have a Wii either, but we do have a very old Xbox with one remote and some old games, my son has taken to playing.

    We read stories every day, and make up stories and draw pictures to go along with them.

    Right now my twins have taken my kitchen chairs and have laid them on the living room floor as airplanes to fly. Our living room is always messy with stuffed animals, blocks, trains and dolls.

    We have a craft bin that is always on hand to make new things.

    Cooking is something we enjoy doing at our house experimenting with new foods.

    We listen to all kinds of music, my family has a background in jazz, my husbands in classic rock, my kids love Dick Dale’s surfing music.

    They have sleep overs at Grandma and Grandpas houses and enjoy learning about their history.

    We just try to be respectful of others and have fun with our family and friends.
    .-= Rana´s last blog ..Puppet Show =-.

  3. I don’t think we’re very unusual, but in our highly competitve neighborhood/school district/town we definitely are. Our kids don’t do sports of any kind; we don’t watch sports or attend sporting events, either. We don’t own a video game system, and we watch very little television. We allow a lot of playdough and art, and sometimes kids will come to the house and be amazed that I will let them GLUE.
    I think even bigger differences occur in our parenting. We are cosleeping our toddler, which people think is weird, and we don’t allow our kids to run all over the neighborhood. We encourage our kids to play together, and no one is allowed to exclude anyone, i.e. group of boys can’t shut the door against the girl. This is not a popular concept around here. I also see a lot of forced independence in little toddlers–just hard to explain, but it falls into line with all of them being on sports teams…not knocking sports teams, but it’s a serious lifestyle here. The middle school health teacher told us parents that our teen suicide rate is higher here than the state average, and they think it’s because of the competitiveness. It seems the town motto should be “Buck Up, Kid!”
    .-= Visty´s last blog ..Backyard firepit =-.

    • Wow, Visty! It’s hard for me to imagine a community with so much emphasis on competition. I think that is really admirable that you and your family are confident in pursuing a lifestyle that works for you, even if that means being a little different from others around you.

      We do lots of glue-ing. Lots and lots. Washable glue is a good thing.
      .-= Megan´s last blog ..Simple As That: Celebrating Our Unique Families =-.

  4. We don’t have any gaming devices either.

    We also have books in every room in the house (including the bathroom and hallway).

    Art supplies are readily available.

    Jumping on the bed and couches are also allowed.

    We listen to lots of music and almost every day we have “family dance time” where we all dance around the livingroom.

    Tricia 🙂
    .-= The Orchard´s last blog ..The Leaves Came Down Today (Blogtoberfest 18) =-.

  5. We finished the Atelier this summer and absolutely love it. I have some pictures of it on my personal blog:

    Orchard, are there people out there without books in their bathrooms. It’s some of my very best alone time!!! lol
    .-= Bryssy´s last blog ..Motley Savings…for my Coupon Loving Friends!! =-.

  6. Interestingly, this is the first time I’ve been to your site – and just this morning I posted the following about our family on my blog:
    [We don’t have TV.]
    my blog
    .-= lisa´s last blog ..[we don’t have TV] =-.

    • So many parents are moving towards TV/Screen-Free homes. I think this is so encouraging! I am sure it sometimes feels you are the only ones who aren’t “plugged in” but I’m hearing about more and more families who are going this route.

  7. For the majority of the day (except for one hour of Sesame Street) the TV is off.
    We eat dinner together as a family whenever we can.
    We enjoy the outdoors together: hiking, biking, going for a stroll.
    We read books all the time.
    We give lots of hugs and kisses and express our affection for each other often.
    We sing and dance in the kitchen….a lot!

  8. Great post. I don’t have time to share a list of my own, but all except for the fact that Sugar is in dance…we fit your list. 🙂
    .-= Corey~ living and loving´s last blog ..Okay….Gabriella Fundraiser….take TWO! =-.

    • We were going to enroll Dacey in dance this year (she really wants to start!), but we figured adjusting to all-day Pre-K would be a big enough challenge for this year. I’m hoping to allow her to start next year!

      I know you have created a wonderful intentional home, Corey. 😀

  9. Our daughter is only going on 6 months, but we *like* spending time with her. We consider ourselves a family, not two parents and a kid. We keep her in church with us (instead of leaving her in the nursery), and we aren’t always looking for ways to get out of the house without her. Not that we don’t ever seek alone time, but we see ourselves primarily as a group of three.
    .-= Jessie´s last blog ..Lucy’s Christmas Stocking =-.

    • Great example, Jessie! Sometimes it’s not so much about what we do but how we think that makes the difference. Great insight – thank you for sharing that.

  10. We are a family of 4 and with few exceptions, we go everywhere as a family of four.
    We love to read and books are readily available everywhere. We knocked out a wall in our house and put floor to ceiling bookshelves for our library. We have library time with our 1 and 2 year old each night before bed.
    Our littles are not and probably will not be involved in organised sports because it isn’t something that is a priority for our family.
    We sing a lot, everywhere!
    Tent building is always going on in our home and we have an easily accessible cupboard of blankets for that.
    Chloe wears a tutu almost every day. She’s a ballerina you know 🙂

    Oh, and this one will get you: once a month we eat cupcakes for breakfast. Well not really. I bake cupcakes once a month for a local company. After everyone has eaten cereal or toast, then they can have a cupcake for breakfast 🙂
    .-= Jenn @ Beautiful Calling´s last blog ..Character is the Key: Review and Giveaway =-.

  11. What a fun post, Megan!

    Our biggest uniqueness is that our family of five represents four different countries: England, USA, India, and Liberia.

    Our kids do have friends and playdates, but being nearly the same age they are each other’s best friends – and I love that.

    They don’t drink juice except on special occasions, and have never had a happy meal.

    My kids have never seen a commercial!

    .-= steadymom´s last blog ..Reminder: Moms’ 30-Minute Blog Challenge This Tuesday =-.

  12. My son created his own underground fort in the backyard.

    We have an ant farm in my son’s room, tadpoles and froglets in the backyard, a hamster, a snake, and a dog. We also don’t like killing spiders. We call them our “pest guards.”

    (This is all, incidentally, right in the middle of suburbia. But our backyard is fenced. 🙂 )

    We don’t have cable or satellite tv, but we do enjoy watching netflix dvds.

    Both kids are in tae kwon do classes, but we don’t do tournaments.

    We all laugh together. A lot. 🙂

    • We don’t kill spiders, either! I rely on them to do their part around here and take care of the other creepy crawlies for me.

      Your house sounds like a lot of fun!

  13. Oh such fun, Megan!
    First of all, I love your list. Loved that I could relate to it. No Wii here either!No lessons, sported or scheduled stuff for my 4y.o. (something that I question myself about frequently, though.)

    Neither children have ever had McDonald’s. Nope, they don’t point out the golden arches as we drive by.

    We have books everywhere, everywhere! (Not always a good thing, as they get well loved!)

    My 4 y.o. can cook for himself–french toast, sandwiches, etc. We have a bit of a free-range kitchen, but not in a constant grazing sense. We cook together a lot and the toddler’s favorite toys are all kitchen utensils.

    No TV, but Noah is allowed to watch Planet Earth dvd and the Mighty Machines series.

    He watched his FIRST full-length feature for his fourth birthday, ‘Cars’. He had been very patient!

    No Baby Einstein dvds for my toddler. He doesn’t even glance twice at the TV if it is on.

    In a lot of ways we’re different than our friend’s families (cloth diapering, for starters) but our children don’t feel like outsiders or different in anyway.
    Oh and we laugh a lot too. 🙂
    .-= Aimee´s last blog ..The Beef Chronicles: Classic Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding =-.

    • Great list, Aimee, and a wonderful reminder that different doesn’t have to me “outsider.” I think you make a great point – it’s about following through on the little things that are important in your own family while being flexible enough to adapt to others.

  14. We don’t have T.V. either, but we do watch Elmo clips on You Tube.

    We make a point of having our 2 year old help with daily chores like laundry and loading/unloading the dishwasher. He’s actually quite good at it now and he’s just happy to be spending time with us, doing what we’re doing.

    Even though we both work full time, we make a point of going to the library regularly because books are a cherished part of our everyday lives.

    We walk or go to the park almost everyday after dinner since we have a giant dog who helps ensure we all get some fresh air and exercise!

    Mostly we just love hanging out as a family of four (3 two-legged, one four legged!)
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..Fix, Freeze, Feast and Toddler Firsts =-.

  15. Here are a few of the ways that have made me feel as though we “stand out”:
    no bottles or pacifiers for the girls (mostly by their choice, but not completely)
    we co-sleep with our toddler
    we are almost always together as a family
    since our 4-year-old was born, my hubby has been at every dr.’s appt. except 2 or 3.
    we go to the park and/or for a family walk daily (weather permitting), and when the weather is not so good our couch and beds double as playgrounds and trampolines
    we also have books everywhere
    our in-car entertainment is usually: my hubby or me saying “hey, look out the window at….”, telling stories or reading

    • Yes, you brought up a few that I almost mentioned, but I didn’t want my list to get out of control long! Dacey (4) sleeps with us nearly every night. Bed sharing with a preschooler is kind of unusual! And we don’t do DVDs for road trips anymore. We had a portable DVR but it broke, so now we sing and tell stories and read in the car. It’s kind of nice to have a break from Dora and Blue!

  16. Bonnie Young says:

    Oh this is so lovely. I am enjoying finding out how much I have in common with everyone here.
    We are a family of 5 (4yrs, 2yrs, 4months, 33yrs + 33yrs).
    We value real food. Our kids have never had baby food from a jar (that includes formula milk) and they think the golden arches are exciting because its an M and its fun to spot letters.
    We value play and reading so there’s no time in the day for tv but dad loves his sport so we have that on over weekends.
    We value kids and had them so we could spend time with them so we do almost everything together.
    We are continents away from our extended families but we try to involve the kids in communications and making gift cards.
    We love to spend time over a coffee (or a glass of milk) in a nice coffee shop preferably with table service. Because its all about the experience!
    We like drives in the country and are hoping our newest edition realises that the car seat is not her enemy soon.
    I should stop. I am hogging all the space! But I will say that I want Jenn’s library roon with floor to ceiling shelves. Going green with envy! Our Ikea shelves are overflowing!!!

  17. We don’t have a DVD player in the car. We don’t feel guilty about sending our son to daycare. He’s in a great place that he loves and he’s thriving there. He eats healthy food but, at age 3, I don’t get freaked out if he isn’t loving vegetables. I like when he’s off playing with a stuffed animal and using his imagination. We refuse to overschedule him. We de-emphasize “stuff” but emphasize experiences.

    • I try not to freak out over vegetables, too, Kim! Both of my girls are pretty good with most veggies – it’s the proteins that get us tripped up.

      I am finding as our oldest gets older, the temptation to overschedule becomes much more apparent! I figure we have lots of days ahead of us to make those decisions on how she spends her free time. I am enjoying this very relaxed age – I know it will be gone too soon!

  18. I’m a little late to this. I guess I would say above all that we are a family of 3, and intend to stay that way. You’d be amazed at how unusual that is and what snoopy questions we get about why we don’t “get” a sibling for our daughter (as if the kids should decide such a weighty decision!). Our daughter was adopted internationally and has a different heritage than us, so that brands us as different too. We are a no-TV family, never eaten fast food except Subway, and do lots of traveling. Bottom line: these things work for us! However, the only thing I am adamant about is to never say never and not be too stringent about anything; everything in moderation (even, I suppose, fast food although fortunately, none of us ever want it!). And cupcakes for breakfast on occasion? Sure, why not?!

  19. Oh, I forgot a really big thing. I am always surprised at how mom-focused the parenting blogs are. We are a very much equal co-parenting family – mom and dad. My husband doesn’t “help” me with household chores; we share them equally. He’s not a weekend dad; he is a full equal parent. I’m always amazed at how unusual this is.

    • Vicky, it really is surprising how comfortable people with asking questions about family size and family plans. Now that our younger daughter has hit two, we are starting to field lots of “So, are you going to try for a boy?” questions. I’m still working on a gracious yet evasive response to that. I can only imagine the questions you must get on your family of three.

      On the mommy-slant on parenting blogs – in the three years I have been blogging in this niche, I’ve noticed that the dads who frequent blogs (let alone write them) are far outnumbered. The ones who do blog about the fatherhood aspect are really tremendous writers, and I wish there more of them! I think the motherhood angle comes more from the prolific interest of women in this niche – not necessarily because more dads aren’t hands-on dads. I think the hands-on dad is becoming more and more the norm (at least in my part of the country). Maybe they just aren’t ready to talk about it publicly yet. I don’t know. You make a great point though! Good insights on the balance and shared responsibility.

  20. What makes us different from families around us? We don’t have granite counter tops or bamboo flooring or stainless steel appliances or a hybrid SUV. LOL 🙂
    We let our kids run and play at the park and don’t feel the need to spot them if they climb more than 6 inches off the ground 🙂 We don’t run full tilt when one takes a tumble – we assess the situation and comfort when it seems needed/appropriate. We make our Halloween costumes (DS5 will be, of all things, a street cleaner this year!). We “eat dessert” by saying something sweet about each family member. We provide a mix of foods and let our kids help plan snacks and meals. If our DS3 is sneaking something from the fridge, I’d bet good money that it’s grapes or cheese haha! We don’t mind that there are no “adult” rooms in our home – there are toys and books everywhere! We don’t pay our kids to do chores, these are things that need to be done to keep our home in order 🙂
    .-= Nikki´s last blog ..School Days =-.

    • Your home and your philosophy sounds nearly IDENTICAL to us! And a big ditto from me on the granite coutertops and hybrid SUV, etc. (Not that there is anything wrong with those choices – it’s just not for us! I drive a 13 year old Avalon with over 200,000 miles on it!)

      I love your dessert idea. Thank you for sharing that!
      .-= Megan´s last blog ..Simple As That: Celebrating Our Unique Families =-.

  21. I’m really enjoying reading these…and relating to many of them and getting some lovely ideas too. After visiting family back east for a week, I realized that a big difference is the pace of our life as a family. Overall, we 3 like to go slowly. We have very few scheduled activities for our 2.5 year old kiddo and consciously make opportunities for her to be a part of planning our days, adventures and explorations. I think keeping unscheduled time might get more challenging as she grows but we’ll have this time as a foundation. Our home is full of books, books and more books and we visit the library at least once, but often twice a week. She & I travel mostly by public transit and make adventures out of it. We try to spend a big chunk of every day outside and getting messy is considered beautiful. We make stuff everyday. And we are always making up songs…lots and lots of songs.

  22. Loved reading all of these! We have a 16-month-old daughter and so many of the things mentioned here ring true for us: the plethora of books all over the house, the absence of television (though our little one does love watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on YouTube), singing and dancing, laughing and creating, family meals, etc.

    I suppose one of the things that makes us “stand apart” from so many other families is that we talk to our daughter: we take the time to explain things to her, to ask her questions, to converse with her. It always astonishes me to see how many parents only speak to their children when they are scolding them.

    The other thing that my husband and I really focus on with our daughter is trying to teach her kindness, empathy, and thoughtfulness. She knows to say “please” and “thank you.” More importantly, we model these behaviours in how we treat each other. We cannot just tell her what to do — we have to show her how to be.

  23. Here in our part of the globe, we belong to a select few who do not have cable in the house. My son (2 yr. old) watches educational videos & absolutely loves his books. He knows how to say thank you & please. My husband and I love to shower our sons with hugs & kisses.

    We all share 1 room. We co-sleep with the baby & our oldest sleeps on a mattress on the floor, but climbs up our bed to sleep most of the time.:)

    I sing & dance to my kids & talk to them as often as I can & explain how everyday things go.

    Most of their toys are gifts as I am inclined to buy them books for their enjoyment rather than plastic or battery operated toys.

  24. I loved reading all of these… It really hit home when someone said that they talk to their little one (16 months I think?) and don’t talk to her only to yell.
    I have been talking to my daughter since she was in the womb, and I ALWAYS treat her like I would treat my husband/friend/stranger. We recognize that she is a person too.

    we wanted to have a baby, and intend on letting her be a little one until she is ready to move on-we believe in the child-led approach to many things (weaning, starting solids, potty learning, sleeping in your own bed.) They won’t go off to college doing these things, and youll miss them when it stops!

    We also co-sleep,
    no TV,
    whole foods as much as possible,
    we didn’t do jared baby food,
    we read A LOT,
    go to the library,
    go to the park,
    we don’t fall apart when she falls,
    we get MESSY- a lot!,
    we color daily,
    we jump in rain puddles barefoot,
    we are barefoot a lot!,
    we dig in the dirt- and sometimes throw it in our hair,
    we- (okay my DD) runs naked on the beach sometimes… coppertone baby is the cutest!
    we love music! In the car, DD will listen to music and books on tape like other kids will watch the portable DVDs.
    We love winnie the pooh, and elmo but she doesn’t know that they’re animated!
    Charlotte’s web is real- and we say hi to her almost daily right outside of our house!
    I still “wear” my baby whenever she wants to be held.
    I still breastfeed her anywhere and everywhere (15 months strong- and probably until college! just kidding 😉
    My daughter and I are partners in crime! DH works long hours, so DD and I are together 24-7. The 1st time I left her for more than a couple of hours was this Tuesday! And I didn’t let having a baby stop me from going places. She has learned through experiencing life with us! I’m sure there’s many more…

  25. Like so many others we have made a lot of parenting and family life choices that leave us feeling a bit, well, different at times. Feels A’s though we are swimming against the current.

    We cosleep
    Nurse on demand
    Don’t own a car
    Have our son do most of his napping while being worn
    No TV
    No jarredbaby food

    Generally, we’re just not trying to take ourselves too seriously. I don’t chart dirty diapers or feedings. We eat when we’re hungry, sleep when we’re tired, dance when we feel like it, walk when we can. So far, it’s working out.
    .-= Danielle´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.

  26. I have read most all of these comments about unique families and it seems many of them have something in common, no TV. I have older children, but I wish I would have not introduced TV to them:( . Anyway, good for you.I hope you can continue as the years become more challenging. p.s.

    • Pam – if it makes you feel any better, my kids watch TV! It’s limited and they don’t watch stations with commercials, but they do watch PBS Kids and even some Nick Jr! I would love to move towards more TV-Free living, but we are definitely taking a baby step approach to that lifestyle. 😀
      .-= Megan´s last blog ..October 23rd: Weekend Links =-.