Roly Polies, Sticks and Mud: Finding Freedom in Simplicity

Are our houses overflowing with toys? What are we teaching our kids about where to find contentment?

Living in Guatemala for almost a year affirmed the value in contentment and simplicity for me. I was inspired that my Guatemalan friends focused mostly on relationships and things that last. During lunchtime, we took an hour, yes, a whole hour, to sit around a table and eat together. They strolled, enjoyed the moments, and had a beautiful dependence on God. They lived in simplicity, and it refreshed my soul.

How can we exemplify simplicity to our kids so they don’t get wrapped up in “things” – things that don’t satisfy.

We’ve all seen it: once they finally get that toy they’ve always wanted, it eventually loses it’s shine. They’re on to something else. I want my kids to be kids and enjoy life, and it is fun when they get a toy they’ve always wanted. There’s nothing wrong with that. I just want them to be mindful of where their greatest joy lies.
One practical way to reinforce this outlook is to have THEM pick out some of their toys to give to a local shelter so they can learn to keep their hands open. Another way is to buy crafts or toys for children staying at the hospital and bring them there together. When children give to others, their focus is taken off of themselves. Not giving our kids every single toy they ask for also reminds them that the world does not solely revolve around them – a hard, but valuable lesson to learn early on. They will learn it someday, and I rather my kids learn it from me.

Our children will then find ways to enjoy what they already have and their creativity will thrive.

They will experience the freedom that comes with simplicity. And, most of the time, children have more fun playing with roly polies, sticks and mud anyway.
My hope is that as I consistently teach them that loving God and others matters most, their hearts will yearn for greater things over temporal things. When my kids choose to give something away on their own, it is sweet to my soul. We celebrate our triplet’s “homecoming day” each year like it’s their birthday. Their homecoming day is that oh-so-wonderful day each of them came home from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
My daughter, Brooklyn, was in the NICU for four grueling months and had seven surgeries after being born at 2.5 pounds. Thankfully, Brooklyn is thriving today and her homecoming day, August 2nd, is a huge day for our family. When Brooklyn was five-years-old, her doctor gave her $5 for her special day. I thought surely she would spend the money on a toy for herself. She chose something so much better – she wanted to give it to the church. Those moments don’t always happen, so when they do, I celebrate them.

Isn’t it great that we have the opportunity to mold our children and show them where they can find real joy and freedom?

The Rhyme Bible for children has an impactful story about “the rich fool” from Luke 12 who wanted “more, more, more,” but was never satisfied. In that story, Jesus reminds us that, “Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). I often remind my kids that more, more, more won’t make you happy, but Jesus, friends and family do. Let’s teach our children these life-giving truths through taking simple steps toward living in simplicity.