Week 3: The Environment

the power of less

If a child has been able in his play to give up his whole being to the world around him, he will be able, in the serious tasks of later life, to devote himself with confidence to the service of the world.
— Rudolf Steiner

Quite simply

  • Too much stuff leads to too many choices.

  • The number of toys your child sees and has access to can be dramatically reduced.

  • We honor the value of something in our lives by fostering a deep, not a disposable, relationship with it.

  • Simplifying clothes will ease transition and offer freedom from overwhelm, while allowing the slow development of personal expression.

  • Too much stimulation causes sensory overload. Adjust the volume of sounds, smells and light in your house.


In her book The Shelter of Each Other, Mary Pipher discusses some of the unspoken lessons that advertisements teach us, and particularly our children:

  • to be unhappy with what we have

  • "I am the centre of the universe and I want what I want now"

  • products can solve complex human problems and meet our needs

  • buying products is important

tackling toys

Imagine your house the way it is and the way you would like it to be. Let that be the place where you are inspired to create small change. 


Toy Simplifying Formula 

Ten kinds of toys you may want to consider discarding or storing.                One kind for 'keepers'

  1. Broken Beloved

  2. Developmentally inappropriate Whole

  3. Fixed Invite imagination

  4. Too complicated, break easily, batteries involved, plastic Invite the sense of touch

  5. High stimulus Visible

  6. Annoying or offensive Healthy for humans, animals, planet

  7. Pressured to buy, commercial Can be put away in 5 minutes

  8. Corrosive play

  9. Multiples (too many of each)

  10. Environmentally unhealthy/toxic

Simplified play

Trial and error: repetition and effort. Floor time. 

Touch: explore everything with their mouths, hands and feet. 

Imaginary play: role playing, open-ended, flexible and creative. Clothes, hats and accessories.

Experience: kids need to experience things for themselves rather than entertainment. Buckets, nets, shovels, scoops, bubbles, baskets and containers for pouring and collecting. 

Purpose and industry: real tools for work tasks. Participate in cooking and chores of daily life. 

Nature: Restorative. Un-googeable. Grounding. Rope, cloths, clothespins. 

Social interaction: Interaction with others to build social skills via practice, pretend, role-play, learning and refining. 

Movement: Run, skip, jump, climb, hop, twirl, wrestle, roll, throw, catch and feel their bodies in space. Bikes, balls, swings, scooters, play structures, hoops, tunnels, blocks, sleds. 

Art and music: Relaxes and channels attention. Nourishing. Big pad or roll of paper. Crayons, paints, pencils. Scissors. Glue. Dough. Beads, woodwork, sewing. Rattles, shakers, drums, bells, harmonicas, rain sticks.

change process

  1. IDENTIFY dissatisfaction within my home environment

  2. IMAGINE things better

  3. DESIGN a small doable change

  4. FULFILL the change at home


imagine your home...

  • Watching your child create new worlds and new ways to play with a few familiar toys.

  • Opening your child’s closet and seeing a few in-season clothes, with room around them.

  • Your child having a few real tools, and cooking, cleaning, gardening with them.

  • Your child being able to live deeply into the “now” of play, rather than often eyeing what is next.

Imagine your own “dump zones” and your home…

  • Cleaned up, sorted out.

  • With cleared space in orderly closets and shelves.

  • After a few regular, rhythmic “clean up, clear out” events.


Audio of Kim John Payne speaking on the environment. 

*Take before and after photos of your kids' stuff and share in the group


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