By Cheryl Goodman of Not Just Yum

“Where’s the manual?”

This was my next thought after I changed and fed my twin girls the very first time, and no, I wasn’t referring to the one for the breast pump. I am sure at that time I didn’t feel this way but the feed, change, sleep, repeat was the easy part of parenting. Not long after, the quiet we first enjoyed were replaced with shrieks, sibling fight-over whatever was the favorite item of the minute, and spilled milk madness.

It can get quite overwhelming for many young parents. Just when you think you’ve got something figured out, a new developmental milestone set in and you are having to revisit strategies and makes you wish for the same manual you wish existed when your child came home with you.

We are only 4 years in this business called parenting and I still have countless moments wondering how to truly fulfill the task at hand. While I am still unsure if we are headed the right direction, I do know that life with 4-year-old twins is a whole lot simpler, richer, and enjoyable for us the day we have decided to apply these 3 things.

1. Seek to unbrand.

Unbranding is basically getting rid of kid-related items that is associated to a specific cartoon character or having big bold prints (princess, cutie, etc.) and focusing instead on simplicity, quality and utility. If you have been a parent for a while now, it can get quite tiring (and expensive!) having to chase one brand after another. We buy quality clothing that are simple and can sustain the daily grind of play. All branded, plastic toys were sold and exchanged for high quality, open-ended toys, ones that offer opportunity to ask questions, create and problem solve. Owning fewer, well-built toys make more room for creative play, responsibility (fewer toys means increased likelihood that kids can put them away) and more moments of parent-child engagement.

2. Cultivate verbal and visual rhythm.

One of the things that we have worked hard to apply this year is a family rhythm. Family rhythm is the flow of your day from when you wake up to going to bed. Contrary to schedule or routine, family rhythm flows with your values as a family and is fluid enough to make room for unexpected events. It is predictable yet flexible within each chunks of time and involves the children in the entirety of the day not just parts of it. Our kids are involved in all parts of being family including laundry, cooking, vacation, play, etc. Family rhythm entails that high activity days are followed by rest days. In our family, we make time for nature walks in the morning and afternoon rest times is a must regardless of what is going on. We are selective in accepting social invitations and weekend activities are spaced out well so we can enjoy being together. Having a family rhythm makes it simpler for parents to manage their homes and allows children to feel safe and secure.

3.  Slow down childhood.

Within our family rhythm, we have plenty of unstructured times. Time to daydream, to create, to pretend. Kids choose how they were going to use these special chunks in our day. We do try to use a lot of these times outdoors, whether walking in the park or tending to our garden. Since we are busy imagining and creating, we have very little room in our day for technology. As a family, we just believe there is a time and place for everything. I know our girls will most likely learn technology probably faster that we ever did. However, while I can, I would prefer to slow down and allow them time to just be children, drawing with crayons, talking about our favorite cookies and singing our favorite songs about weather and play.

When our days are less stressful, we are able to create magical, blissful moments of learning and loving, naturally. By simplifying our parenting now, we make room for more joy-filled experiences that our children can carry through their growing years.

Manual or no manual, the smiles and moments of discoveries we share with our kiddos at home tells me we are headed in a good direction.