Living within these four walls…..

I have spent so much time in the past year in the same four walls; working, eating, family life, any precious few minutes for leisure. Its plenty of time to notice all the parts that need work, the niggles I can’t seem to get fixed. Plenty of time to take comfort in all the material aspects that make it ‘home’.

And then we moved house. But I found that the four walls I lived within moved with me – the four walls that bound how I think, feel and act. Sometimes they can feel as intractible as solid walls – but more often they are like an infra red web of relationships between everyone in my household, and us all together, connected to the world outside through an even more complex web of family and friends, school and work.

It’s not that the new house doesn’t make a difference. It does – there is more space, a bigger garden, and being more rural we enjoy a beautiful outlook and woods on the doorstep. We are incredibly fortunate. I think the space to breathe and the view enables more ‘give’ in the walls of our inner lives. It changes how the children play, how we will relate to others, and a closer connection to nature. I would never say physical location doesn’t matter. The birdfeeders never cease to calm my soul. And yet, in essence, I remain comforted and reassured by the same kindnesses, habits of affection, or gestures of friendship. I am hemmed in by the same frustrations – at myself and at others: additional space has no meaning to young children wanting constant close physical companionship.

There is work to do in the new house – some of it routine, like tending the garden. Some is more drastic – changing internal walls. And there is work of all kinds to do on my inner four walls; my connections with family, with God, with the natural world, and my sense of self. They are not only in my house; the relationships I am part of affect the walls that others live within.

As I was weeding near the fence recently, trying to distract myself from aspects of the house and garden I don’t enjoy, I had in mind some verses from Psalm 16 – “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Surely I have a delightful inheritance.” And it reminded me that however I change or work on my physical house, and whatever happens in the inner web of my life, I can take comfort from knowing they remain held within the unbreakable cords of love that is the foundation and sustenance of all life.

“Underneath are the everlasting arms”. (from Deuteronomy 33 v.27)

Does living simply mean simply being mean?

“They can’t just eat sawdust!” wailed one family member. “But it’s Christmas, – they like getting lots of presents!” protested another when I baulked at the volume under the tree.

It’s one thing to change your own consumption habits. I can now look at reduced packets of the specialist cakes and biscuits I am restricted to and not want them if they contain a lot of plastic or palm oil. A few years ago I would have hoovered them up without a thought.

But it’s another to impose yours on your children isn’t it? Shouldn’t they just be able to enjoy a ‘normal’ childhood? What we consume and how we parent is almost more than anything else governed by our expectations of what’s normal. But what’s ‘normal’ about resource use is currently changing. A few years ago I happily bought plastic foam craft kits in plastic containers with no thought but to the creative stimulation it would give my child (and the few minutes peace it would give me). Now, I see craft cupboards in institutional set-ups as the future contents of my recycling/rubbish bins.

There is an apocryphal story of a monk who said to a guest “let us know if there’s anything you want and we’ll teach you how to live without it”. Given that that’s my tendency as a parent, I’m asking for a sense check on my framework of what I think is OK to deny children as a way of teaching them that there are limits to our resource use that are not to do with how much they cost.  Some of these need a luxury of time (refilling bottles or looking in charity shops). Others have just been a change in what I see when I look at something. This isn’t trying to be a statement of virtue – there is an equally long if not longer statement of consumption I could make (I have done far more than my share of flying over the last few years). It’s a question about our norms. Can we break away from a childhood flooded with stuff, or will it always seem simply mean?

  • not buying magazines with plastic toys
  • hand-me down clothes and new ones from charity shops where possible
  • no ‘character’ toothbrushes or toiletries if we can find bamboo or refill bottles
  • choosing which presents (birthday or Christmas) they won’t keep before they get put in over-stocked cupboards
  • not buying ‘gimic’ toys that entertain for only a few minutes
  • only eating processed packet food like crisps and smoothies out of the house and in holidays on picnics
  • not buying fruit (esp berries) out of season even if it’s their preference
  • presents of toys/books/games from charity shops encouraged from others
  • not buying clothes with plastic in/on (sequins, glitter etc)
  • re-used craft materials and minimising plastic pens and plastic craft kits etc
  • no big one-off birthday balloons
  • re-using stationery from my childhood and writing notes in pencil rather than biro
  • jumpers are compulsory – thermostat at home is almost never above 19 degrees

I’d love to know what you think.

 

One place at a time..

We are moving back to the UK in the Summer. It is a bizarre process in some ways, particularly with small children, because your head is full of big life questions but their daily needs are still so dominant. I was told once that people either experience life as ‘in timers’ where they are distracted by the moment, or ‘through timers’ where they always have some thought directed to whats happening next. I am very much in the first category. This poem tries to express how it feels when you are preparing to move. It reads slightly surreally and disjointed. But then again, that’s how it feels.

One place at a time

“When you move countries, you live where you are living all the time…until you dont.

All the normal mechanics of life only ever happen in one place at a time. You shop, cook, wash, supervise homework, go to the playground in the same way you always did.

“When are you leaving? How is packing going?” is what you think about with other people. When you are on your own, it is just a list of jobs that need doing, sometimes more or less complicated than at other times, and sometimes it all feels overwhelming, but whatever happens in life, aren’t there always lots of jobs to do and decisions to make?

At the weekend you go to a mixture of places you have been before and you like, and places you haven’t been before, Just because you won’t go many more times does not mean you aren’t fully experiencing it: Just because you might not see someone much or at all once you move does not mean you don’t value them or appreciate their friendship now.  Life is always moving on, even if you stay in one place.

But once you do move, you are no longer living there. You will then be experiencing somewhere else. And all the normal mechanics of life will take place there. And it doesn’t matter where you were living the week before, apart from the things in your head, like the fact that you might keep thinking you catch sight of people who you knew in the other place.

People don’t see you leave. It is just that you are no longer where they would normally see you. They might remark to each other that they miss you… Or they might not.

People don’t see you arrive. One day you just happen to interact with them in the course of their lives. They might say it’s nice that you moved there…. Or they might not.

Because their day is happening, just as yours is, in the place where they live.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I am not a fan of your Fan Club

My 7 year old is passionate about a particular make of toy animal families. She adores everything that goes with them and can spend hours absorbed in play. Last year she joined their Fan Club; a decision I was happy to support. However, six months in, I wrote this letter to the company expressing disappointment that their stated ethos is so undermined by their business model and the implicit aim of their fan club. For the sake of this post, lets call the toys Sylvantic Animals.

Dear Sylvantic Animals Fan Club,

Having been a fan of your toys for over 30 years, I was thrilled when my daughter starting enjoying them. They are the perfect fodder for her fertile imagination. She can spend hours creating scenes and stories like this one.

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Dont you want to go on this holiday?

Last year, when she became aware of your Fan Club I was happy for her to join. However, having received emails and magazines now for several months, I am writing to tell you why I am decidedly NOT a fan of your fan club.

You claim the toys have a strong ethos about enjoying nature, and they are ‘evergreen toys’. This is not a term I am familiar with. However, the implicit messages you send out through the Fan Club communications is entirely at odds with a love of nature: It seems to be all about promoting sales. Here are some examples; Your emails seem to only feature product promotions, as a result of which I no longer show them to my daughter,; your events are marketed as a way for fans to buy the new products: (we will therefore not be going),; you profile fans who have amassed significant collections and say how much they love getting new toys; you use the magazines to showcase ever new products which are only a slight variation on the existing ones: My daughter has the otter family, (amongst several others). Now she wants the ‘splashy otter’ family because she saw it in the magazine.

This messaging seems to reinforce a business model based on promoting sales of new, packaged toys which are then discarded. The Fan Club appears to be a way to manipulate the childrens’ desire to consume, which, when magnified, is at the root of the over consumption that is driving the destruction of the natural world.

But that’s not all. The focus on acquisition is not only at the expense of nature but is also at the expense of the other values of creativity and family that you say you seek to promote. My daughter used to think up lovely names for the animals but since getting the magazine my she has to wait until she sees the name you gave them. Her desire to acquire more leads to dissatisfaction: she can sometimes spend more time poring over the products in the magazine she doesnt have than playing with her already extensive collection. And her desire for more leads to family tension: The toys are expensive. I don’t want her to consume for the sake of it. She already has a lot and my timelines are longer than hers. In a few years time they will be discarded and I will be left with the hassle of selling them on ebay for a fraction of their cost  and at no discernible value to you, the company that created them.

I am telling you frankly that at the moment, my stated aim is to minimise her acquistion of your products and persuade her not to rejoin the Fan Club. However, if you managed things differently, my purse strings towards your company would loosen significantly. This isnt just about my purchases, it is also about what her pocket money and what I encourage wider friends and family to buy for her.

What if the Fan Club operated more like a toy library? What if membership granted the option to borrow different families and buildings or accessories? (obviously with a provision for loss or damage). What if you could subscribe to your company for 4 or 5 years during which time you had access to all sorts of different toys? Then you as a company would get the value from the second hand use of the good quality toys currently lost to you via ebay. You could focus more on the imaginative aspects. Your magazine could have competitions for pictures of scenes, or stories or accessories created by the children so that it is creativity rather than consumption that is rewarded and celebrated. You would minimise your contribution to landfill whilst maximising customer loyalty and brand visibility. And you could promote your ethos of loving nature, family and creativity with integrity.

And some other requests; please please can you sell outfits without having to buy the toy that comes with it? At the moment the need to always buy the toy flies in the face of any commitment to nature or imagination. And as a visible commitment to reducing plastic, please can you adopt the playmobil aproach of cardboard packaging with pictures rather than vaccum packed. It would save a huge amount of space as well.

There is such a desperate need for toy companies to show leadership on protecting nature, to demonstrate that mindless acquisition is not the only way and that decent toys and good companies can be built on this. You would get far more revenue from me and others likeminded if you took a different approach. The children of your Fan Club now are the generation who will suffer from mindless consumption. Please help them forge a different path. And then I would be a fan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Battle for the Brownie

I watched Incredibles 2 over the holidays. What a great film! And how amazing that they could so perfectly capture my toddler’s tantrums without ever having met her! My children might not have super powers but they certainly have different identities. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground, or average day. They are either brilliant or dreadful. This is not an original observation. We used to say that they both lived up to the curls in the middle of their foreheads, as the nursery rhyme goes.

So this poem was prompted by my 7 year old who, soon after starting Brownies, stormed into the house one evening declaring she couldn’t be a Brownie and announced she was a Frownie. And proceeded to be one all evening! I don’t think she’s the only one.

Brownie or Frownie?

I have just joined the Brownies: It’s all very cool
With the badges and toadstools and hoodies and all,
There’s Snowy and Brown Owl who tell us what’s what
And games where you all take a name from a hat.
I’m a Brownie, a Brownie, a Brownie, that’s me!
And it’s all going to be such a fun thing to be!

Now at Brownies we learned we should all lend a hand;
To do a good turn and to share the things round;
To think first of others before of ourselves
And to help out at home like we’re true little elves.
I’m a Brownie, a Brownie, a Brownie, that’s me!
What a perfectly lovely and good thing to be!

So I tried it at home when I cam back from school
But at teatime I felt not a Brownie at all.
Why should I do dishes instead of just play
After all, I’d been working at school all the day.
I’m a Brownie, a Brownie, a Brownie that’s me.
But it’s not always easy a Brownie to be.

So I stomped up the stairs and I went to my bed.
And d’you know what was running around in my head?
Am I really a Brownie if I stamp and shout?
Or is there a Frownie that needs letting out.
Am I Brownie or Frownie? A puzzle, that’s me
Cos I don’t always know which one I want to be.

When Frownie says “Yes” then the Brownie says “No”
But I can’t seem to stop when the Frownie says “Go!”
When Frownie’s in charge then it makes people sad
Then when I’m a Brownie I feel really bad.
I’m a Frownie, I guess I’m a Frownie that’s me.
But I’m really not sure it’s who I want to be.

Now at Brownies we learn we don’t do things alone
And I know that the Frownie won’t go on it’s own
It might need a cuddle, to chase it away,
And help win the battle for Brownie to stay.
If it’s Brownie or Frownie, it’s Brownie for me
But I need you to love me, whichever you see!

 

 

 

 

 

A Christmas letter….of sorts

Christmas letters can be like facebook: You see the photos; read the update and feel different reactions. For some, you enjoy the connection with someone you haven’t seen for a while and its good to know what they are doing. With others you wonder what lies behind the idyllic family pictures. And with a few you know the inside track; perhaps you helped mop up the tears on the holiday, or helped agonise over a decision that, from reading the letter, you would think was all straightforward.

We tell ourselves and our children that who we are is more important than what we do; that success and status count less than people and relationships; and that it’s ok to go through hard times. But we still live in a society that prizes wealth, activity and institutional position; that rewards things that get you noticed and ‘liked’. It’s rare to hear much discussion in the media of what builds ‘character’, or what it means to live a good life. I feel that without that grounding we seem to be in a bit of a tailspin about what our lives are for, and its reflected in the national state of our mental health. So, in a world where ‘”Its time to talk”, perhaps it’s time to be more honest with ourselves and our friends about how our experiences of the last year have really felt.

This post is my Christmas letter…of sorts. It’s a bit circumspect as this is a public blog. And I appreciate that the line between authenticity and self-indulgence is an easy one to cross. You can be the judge.

“Our greatest achievement this year has been an improvement in our family’s ability to kick about at home; to understand what each of us needs in terms of space, activity and downtime, and to be generous about allowing it for each other. It doesn’t always work, but it is getting better. One day, we may even be on time for church.

My daughters (7 and 2), have become much better at playing together: Dens, camping, lions, princesses etc. Normally they want to include each other. Normally they are happy with half of my lap each, and sometimes they interact beautifully and make each other giggle. Other times they yell and scream at each other. I find it astonishing how quickly, particularly in the holidays, my overwhelming sense can go from “this is fine, why don’t I home school, what’s the problem?” to “If I see my child do anything or hear them say anything. Anything at all, I think I will scream”. The most useful phrase we’ve found as a family is “I’m sorry. And sorry means I will try not to do it again” and the most helpful thing I’ve seen is a lecture by Jennifer Kolari on CALM parenting. It’s long but I’d thoroughly recommend it.

My eldest daughter is learning to control her feelings better and is less prone to tantrums. She managed the discipline to finish a story and enter it into a competition and then manage the inevitable disappointment of not winning. But she is still writing stories. She keeps me on my toes when her toys act them out “Mummy, I don’t mean to be rude but are you paying attention to your cue” and her expectation is that Father Christmas, who is magic and can do anything, will be able to bring her a doll, complete with clothes, cot and teddy; not for her, but for her toy panda. She is mocked at school for being small and whilst it makes her reluctant to go, she is being fairly resilient.

My toddler is trying to rule the roost as toddlers do. She knows her mind: “Mummy nuff swim. Ice cream now please”. I am not allowed to hum, for fear of being told “Mummy, open your mouth; sing nicely”. If she wants a book read once, she will want it 20 times in the next few days. She is often very pleased with herself; her most frequent phrase is “I’m doing really well” or recently “I’m doing brilliantly”. Woe betide your breakfast if you come and stay – she will stand next to your chair ready with her spoon to dig in. That is, when she isn’t suffering from a winter illness that seems to have been constant. After a few nights of shouting (by her) for an hour in the middle of the night, I confess I struggle to maintain family calm.

For me, I have had a bit of time at home to read, pray and write. Without that time in the school holidays, I recognise I get irritable and lose perspective.  I have to accept there is always less time than I would like and my first free morning is normally spent sleeping (I appreciate that’s a luxury but it still seems the best investment in building resilience!). With regard to the blog, I don’t check thefigures or dwell on it as furiously as I used to. With each post I still go through a cycle of getting the idea, thinking it’s brilliant, start to write it down and realise it’s much more challenging, and then rushing to get it finished, panicking no one will read it and then moving on. I keep reminding myself that I don’t want it to take off as a thing but it’s a useful way to see reactions to particular ideas.

The playgroup that meets here each week gives me great joy. I aim for it to be an amalgam of all the best aspects of the different groups I went to in the UK and after a year, it is starting to feel like a real community. Almost the best moment was last week when I needed to take some time out with my toddler – and everything carried on regardless. As my friends remind me when they come to visit, our house and my life here feels a world away from the part-time London commute I will return to, and I am quite apprehensive about that. But for now, it’s good to use the space and time.

In the summer, my husband and I went away to celebrate my 40th birthday which proved he was more than capable of romantic gestures. We are getting better with each other about trying to be kind, rather than right. I am managing to anticipate stress points better, and recognise what I am likely to feel. However, I don’t always manage to manage what I feel in the stress points. That’s one of the challenges for 2019.”

So that reflects some of my preoccupations for 2018. Perhaps it is as smug in a different way: Perhaps it still conceals as much as it reveals. Frankly, Christmas leters are a declining breed. But even if not through this medium I do think we should be prepared to talk as much and as concretely about what we say really matters as about any external achievement.

Finally, I wanted to appreciate anyone who has taken the time to read any of my posts in 2018 and I wish everyone a very joyful Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

 

 

Beanbag Parenting

Recently, I have felt like a beanbag for my children. The shape I am in doesn’t matter; what matters is that I can make them comfortable and provide support, regardless of how angular their elbows or how heavily they are feeling the weight of the world. You don’t think about beanbags. You just need them to be there so you can throw yourself on them.

As well as being a constant assault on the senses, I have always thought that children live by the law “I am awake, therefore I make mess, need feeding and create laundry”. Which is why, whilst Inuit famously have 19 words for snow, mothers should have at least 19 different words for exhaustion. But, whilst it’s immensely frustrating, having your incessant, daily provision for their needs so utterly taken for granted is in some ways a privilege.

They can’t live their lives on the beanbag – growing older needs to bring with it a greater recognition of the mechanics of life. And you can’t let them take you for granted forever.

I started to try and express this in a poem. Then I realised that mothers weren’t the first to feel this way…

My Child

Your children do not see you are the ground beneath their feet.
Their window on the world, they look through you to those they meet.
They notice your provision only when it might fall short,
And thrash out all their feelings without giving yours a thought.

But underneath their feet is where you catch them when they fall,
They see life with their minds framed by your worldview on it all.
They carry something with them of your forethought every hour,
And your secure embrace is what they need to grow and flower.

‘My Child, let my Divine love be the rock on which you stand,
Your needs are met through all that was created by My hand.
There’s nothing you can say or do to lessen My embrace.
The love you bear your children is an echo of My grace.

So be their rock and comfort, be their guide and compass too,
And lead them daily in My love, and you will point them true.’

 

 

 

The unintended consequences of ‘free’ gifts

The scale of our unintentional consumption is terrifying. I realised this recently when the school requested odd bits of plastic and recycling for an art project. I haven’t dared to ask what will happen to them, but took the chance to amass some bulging bags of bits that I won’t throw away and can’t recycle, some of which I probably moved across the continent with us, but for which I will never have any use.

What was revealing was how much of it I never wanted in the first place. Some was included ‘free’ for my convenience – plastic scoops that came with every packet of powder or individual craft-kit paint/glue containers. Then there were the ‘free’ toys from magazines or party bags/cafe lunches that you can’t refuse. And most ironically, there were the ubiquitous ‘free’ plastic wrist bands given out to help a cause.  All these items may have come into my house at no financial cost to me. But in no way are they ‘free’.

In fact, I’ve started to realise that anything you are given comes with an implicit statement from the giver.

“A part our planet has been used to make this item. I am now choosing to make it your responsibility to use, store and dispose of it. I consider that the goodwill I am buying from you is worth the planetary resource it took to make the gift.”

And when we accept the ‘gift’ for fear of looking awkward, or rude, we are implicitly agreeing with that judgement. We then use it, store it and dispose of it at cost to our own time and conscience. Frankly, thats often enough of a pain in itself.

But the cost is far more than that. Without meaning to, and with no evil mastermind of malicious intent, we are now in the situation reflected in recent reports by WWF and others: The unintended consequence of our desire to generate goodwill and convenience is to destroy our natural world and to create huge volumes of indestructible waste.

Madeleine de l’Engle, author of the classic “A Wrinkle in Time”, tells this story in one of her memoirs: “A science-fiction story tells of a machine that was invented that could produce everything needed for man’s comfort on earth: food and furniture; refrigerators and radio; clothes and cars. There were a few wise men who warned people that one cannot continually take without putting back, or the supply will be depleted, but they were laughed at. After several centuries of the machine giving freedom from all material want, schools were teaching that the old myth that the earth was once larger than the moon was rank superstition. And at the end of the story there is one toothless old man clinging to a tiny and depleted fragment of earth.” (A Circle of Quiet p209)

I am not pretending that we are taking the atoms that make tigers, dolphins and bees and turning them into plastic tat. But frankly, we might as well be. It is one thing to exploit resources to sustain livelihoods. It is quite another to abuse them for no good reason. There is no question it is awkward to refuse stuff. Last week I had to apologise profusely when returning a halloween bag that came home ‘free’ from nursery. But we have to start somewhere.

We all know the value of our natural world is rarely reflected in the price we pay. Let’s start saying no to ‘free’ gifts that are costing the earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking the taboo that it has to be new….

My last post was about the plethora of children’s stuff. In two months time we will have the festival that sees most families make their greatest accumulation of childrens stuff in the year.

I like getting presents. Through Christmas and Birthday presents, I have been introduced to my favourite authors, acquired jewellery I wear frequently, and my children have discovered new interests I wouldn’t have known to share. What makes the gift special is the connection – when people want to pass on something they have enjoyed themselves, or they want to encourage something we’ve shared. It’s never about the price tag, and it certainly isn’t about the packaging; in fact, many of our most used playthings are hand-me-downs.  I love that because I think of the people who gave them to us every time they are played with. They were all given in good quality, and frankly, most things I have bought for my own children come from charity shops, ebay or second hand sales.

So if gifts are about sharing a connection and the hand-me-downs are good quality, why didn’t my friends just tie a ribbon around their old toys they knew we would like and call it our Christmas present? Why did one friend donate to a charity her perfectly functioning plastic toy (that will last for generations) once her children had grown out of it, and then buy an identical new one for my daughter’s birthday?

Because we all have this hang up that whilst we happily equip our own families with second hand things, it can’t count as a gift unless we have spent a certain amount of money on it. There’s nothing new in that: there is an Old Testament story where King David says ‘I can’t give to the Lord something that has cost me nothing’. And there is nothing wrong with the principle behind it: gifts are a sign that you value people, and spending money on them is a way of saying that.

But this is now a social hang up that drives a massive amount of unnecessary production and bursting houses. People who would swear blind you can’t put a price tag on friendship still have a mental list of those who merit £10 Christmas presents, or what the going price tag is for a school birthday party.  And the factories and the shops are ready to meet them. My 5 year old daughter was given 36 craft kits for her birthday because we had a shared party for the whole class and didn’t have the guts to say no presents. 36. And Yes, they have mostly been re-gifted, because in my life that’s a good thing. So these 36 craft kits, because they are mainly sold for presents, all have to be self-contained and came with their own plastic paint pots, sequins, individual plastic glue tubes, etc which are now either languishing in cupboards or landfill. Just like the “Stocking fillas”, a term that makes me shudder – many things, particularly for children, are deliberately marketed to play to your need to give something for the sake of giving, produced by factories and sold by shops for the sake of it. Yes, providing jobs, but not necessarily good jobs, and also a heck of a lot of carbon and waste once the novelty disappears.

So this year, this is what I’m saying: “To all friends and family who have us on your Christmas list. Thank you! We love your presents. But we dont need to open something in pristine packaging with a label for us to know you are our friends. If you want to skip a Christmas or a birthday, that’s fine with us. And if you have or see something second hand that you would buy for yourself or your kids, that’s good enough for us too. Our kids need our action to protect their future far more than they need new stuff.”

 

Desert Island Toys

Not long ago, (within my parents lifetime), we lived in a time where the acquisition of new stuff was exciting, a treat. You could go shopping for something and not be able to find it – even a trip to London to buy clothes didn’t always guarantee success. Now I feel the opposite -and the volume of things my family has and acquires increasingly feels like a burden, things to be sorted through, given away, etc. etc. I’ve reached ‘peak stuff’.

Two children five years apart seems to mean a lot of ‘stuff’. But I’ve begun to realise the obvious fact that all their things are just different variations on the same few themes. Rather than reinventing the wheel, it feels like companies are continually re-marketing the crayon. My impression from my children is that if they are in the mood for doing something, it doesn’t really matter what there is to do, they will find something to create or play. If they are not, then it isn’t a question of different stuff that will prompt their interest. And when they do play, they spend 90% of their time, playing with 10% of their stuff. It’s not my kids that are bored, it’s all the boxes of stuff that never sees the light of day.

So, what’s the law of diminishing returns for new stuff? If they’re not playing with lego, are the nano blocks ever going to get a look in? Once you’ve got one puzzle book on the shelf with only 3 pages completed, why will a different one get any more use?

If I had to take ten sets of toys to a desert island, I think with these top ten you would pretty much cover the bases.

1.    Something to throw and kick about.
2.    A bike, or something to ride
3.    Drawing and colouring materials
4.    Modelling material/ jewellery/sewing/models
5.    Construction toys (duplo, lego, kapla blocks)
6.    Dressing up, something for a den and toy kitchen/shop
7.    Model characters (preferably generic) and soft toys
8.    Books (fiction and non-fiction)
9.    Puzzles and board games/ pack of cards
10.  Music for dancing

I’m interested to know: what am I missing? Is this helpful in thinking about how to simplify life, or am I just mean?