Bringing children along anywhere complicates things. They are still not totally independent or competent at everyday tasks, let alone whatever it takes to make a journey or explore an activity. So what I try to do is this: make everything else (within my control, of course) as simple as possible.
Here are some tips:
- Don’t Bring Snacks. Plan proper and fulfilling meals, whether you bring it yourself or buy it out, and nobody will go hungry. Snacks entail more to pack, more time to consume, and more to clean up. Our family doesn’t ever snack so not having snacks at an outing isn’t a big deal. If your kids are used to snacking, hopefully the change in scenery will keep their minds off of snacks. Otherwise you may have to remind them that they will survive until the next meal.
- Drink Only Water. Preferably in reusable bottles. (I am still hunting for the perfect child-friendly, spill-proof bottle myself.) Water is the most thirst-quenching and body-nourishing liquid there is. If water is spilled, it doesn’t stain, get sticky, or smell – it just dries, easy-peasy, with little or no clean-up. A properly hydrated family is a pleasant family. Just remember those potty breaks!
- Don’t Bring Anything “Just In Case”. There are things you know you will need for any given outing. Skip the things you don’t actually need and would just bring for peace of mind or to feel a bit more comfortable. Lugging around and keeping track of extra items adds stress and physical bulk. Most of the time, you won’t even notice you are without those “just in case” items. Other times, you might be a bit less comfortable. Instead of lugging around extra things, you could practice getting comfortable with being a little uncomfortable. You will survive.
- If Bringing Toys, Only Bring a Few. Ideally, bring simple toys, without batteries or small parts, that the whole family can use – like a Frisbee, ball, a bucket and a couple of shovels. I wouldn’t bring favorites that would cause a tragedy if lost. And bring no more than 1 toy per child – adventure time is perfect for discovering nature and different towns and finding fun in them without toys that can be played with at home any time.
- Dress Simply. I believe in dressing nicely. I don’t like wearing sweatpants out of the house or overly graphic shirts or whatever. But I also believe in dressing comfortably. Trust me, a balance can be met, even with children. I like shopping at Primary.com for simple, versatile clothing for my children. (I myself prefer Pact and Levi’s.) No fussy straps or broken zippers or shoes that pinch. Just simple clothes that let you live your life comfortably while also looking nice.
- Prepare to Be Patient. Sometimes things do go wrong and break-downs happen. If you are prepared to go with the flow and to explain any unexpected changes of plans to children, they will catch your vibe and be more likely to go with the flow. Patience is key. As long as children receive the attention that means their fears or disappointments are being listened to and respected, they will be more capable of moving on. Not everyone can control every situation and it will do your children good to learn that truth early.
- Don’t Listen to Me. You know your family better than anybody, especially me. If any of the above just sounds like it would be bringing hell along in a basket, just ditch it. Try some new things if you’ve got the curiosity and the courage, but if things are going well, just do you.
If you’d like to share any tips of your own, leave a comment.
Expecting a baby can be scary because you may not have any idea or frame of reference for what to expect. I know I didn’t. So when Andrew and I were expecting our first baby, we did a Baby Registry. (I also hadn’t heard of minimalism yet.)
We were the first of our friends and semi-extended family to get pregnant so we couldn’t expect a lot of hand-me-downs. Without knowing what having a baby would be like, we followed the big box store’s Baby Registry Buying Guide to make sure we had everything we could possibly need to care for our hypothetical baby. Two actual babies later, I’ve been able to see that we didn’t need a lot of what the store said we would.
- matching furniture – we were gifted a beautiful crib and glider that we use everyday. We got a secondhand changing table, bookshelf (for toys), side table (which we don’t really need, but is nice for holding a plant and a glass of water for me during nursing), and toddler bed. The closet attached to the room is more than ample for their clothes.
- matching crib bedding – we used a breathable crib bumper (only from 0-9 mo.) and just 2 sheets per baby. We were gifted so many blankets we donated a bunch. We kept only a lightweight and heavyweight blanket each (we like homemade crocheted blankets from family the best).
- waterproof mattress covers – most crib mattresses are waterproof anyway. Ours is. So we got rid of the covers and cut down on a lot of laundry.
- sheet saver – again, just another piece of laundry to wash. And I worried about it as a suffocation hazard.
- wearable blankets/sleep sacs/structured swaddlers – muslin blankets satisfied the purposes of all of those things. And don’t worry, with practice, you will get better at wrapping a swaddle.
- table lamps – our ceiling fan/light is extremely useful and out of the way; a nightlight is nice for late-night feedings or diaper changes; but table lamps can be a space-eating hazard
- any decor – babies don’t care. They want to see their parents’ faces, and that’s it… well except for some breasts or a bottle. We have decorated our boys’ rooms over the years with posters that have come with books or DVDs.
- mobile/white noise machine – yes, the mobile is very cute, but we only used it a handful of times and didn’t really need it.
- wipe warmer – superfluous
- wipe dispenser – extra-superfluous. Wipes have their own dispensing mechanism built-in. I’ve never had wipes in the pack dry out on me and I’m not even careful.
- changing pad cover – we used these because we had them, but the changing pad is waterproof so it is easily cleaned without the extra piece of laundry
- changing pad saver – again, just more laundry
- 6-8 baby bath towels – we have 4 (for 2 boys), but now I’m thinking we could have just used our regular bath towels.
- 10-12 wash cloths – we have 6 and don’t need that many.
- grooming kit – we only used the baby nail clippers
- air purifier – I believe that babies should learn to breath the same air as everyone else; it builds strong lungs
- baby bathrobe – cute on the hanger, but I don’t even know what it would’ve looked like on my babies… we never got it on them. Being wrapped up in a towel was always good enough. And just easier.
- dental care – wait until your baby has teeth, then your dentist will give you what you need for free
- tub faucet cover – I don’t understand why this would ever be needed. Because it’s cute? Look at your baby – I bet he or she is 1,000x cuter.
- car seat saver – I’m not even entirely sure what this is exactly, but it sounds like more laundry
- sun shade – We use a blanket with little babies and sunglasses for our toddler.
- mirror – We registered and received one, but it did not work out very well. First, it was hard to find a good place for it in our car. Then, it didn’t stay in the correct position so it reflected things like feet or just seat. Finally, it kept falling down. Much more hassle than it’s worth.
- bunting and foot muff – Infant carseats come with enough safety padding for infants. For warmth we just used blankets.
- booster seat – we will probably need this, but we didn’t need it in our pre-baby preparation. We will buy it when our boys outgrow the carseats they already have.
- car seat travel bag – Another thing to carry around more things? Definitely not essential.
- any stroller accessories – We just used blankets for extra shade and brought a toy or two from the house when needed.
- fancy expensive diaper bag – We’ve used backpacks, totes, and duffels we already had laying around the house. Keep your travel accessories simple and a simple bag will do. I like using my small canvas “gym” duffel the best.
- more than 6 bottles – that’s about 3 small bottles and 3 bigger bottles with 3 slow nipples and 3 fast nipples. I breastfed for the first 6 months with Wingnut and 10 months with Pigpen with some combination feeding before going solely formula (a little over 4 months with Mo and 2 months with Pigpen). Wash your bottles daily or twice daily — preferably without a dishwasher — and you’ll be fine.
- infant positioner – We used our laps and arms for the infant stage and the high chair when the babies could sit up on their own.
- 6-8 pacifiers – pacifying is a totally personal choice. We allowed it. We got buy with 2 to 4 pacifiers.
- bottle warmer – Used a mug filled with warm water.
- bottle sterilizer – A pot with boiling water.
- special bottle drying rack – Our plain drain board in the sink worked fine.
- dishes and bowls – we use our Corelle flatware for our children. Some times we let the baby eat off of his tray; we taught Wingnut to be careful and he has proven to be quite responsible with with porcelain and glass as early as being 1.5 years old.
- baby shoes – annoying and useless. I like getting shoes when the baby (toddler) is standing and starting to walk around — the shoes are good for outside when they want to be a part of the action and explore on their own.
- door jumper – we were excited for this classic piece, but our babies are small so the sizing never worked out. They were either floating and sliding around the big bucket seat, or old enough to walk around and very unhappy about being trapped in a hanging seat.
- play yard – We have a small house and let the babies explore most of it on their own.
- play mat – Replace with a blanket and toys.
- seat walker – Like the door jumper, it wasn’t a good size for our boys. They prefer(ed) the standing walkers. We were lucking to receive one that did not require batteries or have too many bells and whistles.
- DVDs – We limited screen time until Wingnut was 2 years old. Even when Wingnut watches now (we use a streaming service), Pigpen isn’t interested. He’d rather play with toys or people.
- a lot of toys – We keep the toys limited to 3 shelves on a bookcase in their room. We rotate the toys a few times a year to cooperate with the seasons and keep things interesting.
Wow. That was a lot of stuff. And I’m sure there’s even more stuff you don’t need out there that stores are trying to sell to you and your baby. Maybe I should have made a list of all the things I actually did need and find to be useful, ha.
But anyway, maybe some of my little stories and tidbits will help you decide you don’t need a few things you were considering after all. You’ll save yourself and/or your loved ones some money. And you’ll save the planet the cost of more consumerism and waste. It’s a win-win.
We switched out my son’s toys this past weekend and, although he’s had most of these toys for most of his life, it seemed a Christmas-like event for him.
We pick just enough toys to fit on his dedicated shelves — trying to keep a nice balance of wheels, balls, stackers, stuffed, and small — and the rest go in a storage bin that stays in the attic for the next three months.
They go in the attic because there is no temptation. We don’t have to keep track of or clean up any of those toys. We don’t even have to think about them for three whole months. We kind of forget about them. So when they make their way out into the rotation again, they are like new, and, thus, exciting again.
Rotating every three months is an arbitrary amount of time. It seemed to make sense because it lined up with the changing of the seasons. I like to do something, even something small, during the changing of the seasons to commemorate them. It makes me notice them more and then I enjoy each one more. And I’d be going in the attic for seasonal clothes at those times anyway. The timing also works well around holidays for us — Christmas and Mo’s birthday each fall near the a solstice and an equinox.
We keep Mo’s toys on the bottom three shelves of his bookcase for a few reasons. 1. The shelves are a nice display. They are open and within his reach so he can see everything that is available, get it himself, and also put it away himself. There is no rummaging in toy boxes where things can get lost or broken. 2. The shelves act as a boundary. We can’t accumulate too many things without also thinking of what we would get rid of to make room. 3. The shelves were available. He has only two shelves of books. They are at the top because they are delicate and are only taken down to be read together.
We don’t keep many toys out at a time and Mo is perfectly happy with that. He enjoys what’s available when it’s around and explores new places and things when those opportunities arise. It works for us. And, more importantly, it helps to keep our lives a little simpler, less stressful, and more enjoyable.