Before we get going, I thought I’d fill you in on what being a ‘scrunchy’ mom means to me.
It means that while I do gentle parenting, co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, babywearing, baby-led weaning, cloth diapers, essential oils, DIY cleaning solutions, and no tablets – I also allow 1 hour of TV every day, plastic toys, and occasional candy and sweets. We use a stroller on weekend family outings. We sometimes use disposables. I’m crispy or scrunchy or whatever you wanna call it. Sometimes known as “crunchy with a side of Sonic”.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are my tips for being a gentle parent while providing much-needed routine.
Organize the toys into a few different bins for different days.
When you’ve reached the point of no return with too many toys all over the place, it’s time to have one large bin of toys available at a time. Keep the rest in the garage. Rotate daily.
You may need to devote a whole afternoon to arranging all of the toys equally among 5 bins. It may be difficult to do this with kids around, so have another caregiver entertain them somewhere else if you can. Make sure that each bin has a decent variety of toys – puzzles, instruments, dolls, figurines, etc. You don’t want all of the play buildings in one bin. Your child might beg for that special bin to be taken out, too, then you’ll have more bins to clean up at the end of the day.
Keep the bins in rotation, and be flexible if your child requests certain ones more than the others. This isn’t boot camp. We are just trying to limit the mess and teach our children about moderation. If she wants to switch bins in the middle of the day, tell her she has to pack up the original bin first. Both you and her will benefit from a tidy environment.
Let me tell you – it feels nice to not have the outgrown toys hanging out in the corner of the living room for weeks on end. Seeing which toys are left in the bin gives you a good idea of what can be stored away till the younger child can use them.
Enjoy cleaning one entire bin at the end of the day!
Allow TV/movies from 9:30-10:30am and 3:30-4:30pm.
We watch shows in this house. My husband and I have fond memories of our favorite shows as kids, and we are in agreement that our kids should have the same privileges.
I am lenient with full-length movies, and I will let Kate watch the whole thing and go over the agreed-upon time. Who pauses movies just for the sake of being on a strict schedule?
Kate has learned new words and phrases from her shows. She loves the characters and stories. I ask her open-ended questions about them, and we kick off fun conversations.
Kate also connects with other friends about the shared experiences. While we adults may find certain aspects of the entertainment industry upsetting, the kids just love singing songs together. The kiddos are innocent, and plenty of animators and producers are innocent, too. So, maybe we can just ‘be chill’ and let our children participate in their culture.
Many kids end up resenting their parents for going ‘full Trunchbull’ when it comes to media, food, etc.
Schedule 1 fun class and 3 play places the same days every week.
We were fortunate to hear about an age-appropriate music class for our 3-yr-old that turned out to be the highlight of our week. The three young adults who organize this class are talented vocalists and musicians. They are remarkably good with small children, too. It’s a wonderful opportunity for Kate to learn about what school is like before entering preschool!
Two days each week are committed to indoor play areas, and one day is reserved for an outdoor playground. We have an abundance of indoor playgrounds within a 10-mile radius, and we enjoy the free mall and restaurant play areas as well. Kate knows when to expect a fun activity outside of the home, and she has gotten the hang of the days of the week. She makes friends quickly, and I meet wonderful people, too.
If you don’t know of any kids’ classes in your area, perhaps you will feel called to create one. There will be homeschooling families who appreciate a new class in town. What are your skills? Just imagine how much joy you could bring to 3 and 4-yr-olds with fun activities every week. You can charge $50-60 per month for a one-hour class each week. You will have some disposable income even after purchasing supplies.
A structured and semi-predictable week will bring calm to everyone in the family, including a work-from-home dad who knows when the house will be quiet! 😉
Have a different art activity available every day.
One day, the easel and paints come out. The next day, playdough and cookie cutters. The next day, coloring books and crayons. The next day, construction paper, elbow noodles, glue stick, and markers. The next day, paint and fun sponge shapes with paper or cardboard. The next day, chalk outside.
Having one art activity to focus on each day will help your child feel imaginative and content. If you are up to the challenge of cleaning up after multiple art activities in one day, go ahead and put it all out there! I just feel inclined to take the route that my mom did. She kept me ‘in the moment’ with one fun activity at a time.
There is something to be said about simplicity and appreciation of what’s right in front of you for a segment of time.
Figure Out What Works for You
All of that said, I am the last person to judge a home or lifestyle. I don’t walk into someone’s living room and immediately wish that they followed my tips. Nor do I take issue with a little game time for your child on your phone or tablet. I don’t know all of the variables that came into play for you to make your calls. Sometimes, the age gaps and child personalities lead to differing parenting styles. Keep doing your thing, because no other parent is better for your kid than you!
Every family is different – and while I enjoy sharing what works for me, I remain open to learning what I don’t know.
Whatever you do, I wish you peace while riding the Hot Mess Express. I wish you fun while getting messy. I wish you comedic relief and spontaneous dancing. I wish for you to be a gentle parent to yourself. You are very worthy of your own kindness!
Enjoy it, whether you are crunchy or silky or in the ‘sorta crunchy mama village’!