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5 easy ways to simplify parenting.

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There’s no denying we live in a technology driven age. Everywhere you look there are gadgets and tools, bright lights and loud noises. Our kids are spoilt for choice when it comes to apps for iPads, smartphones and games. Take a look at the Christmas wish-list for most Australian kids and you’re bound to find something that needs a battery or a charger.

Sure these things have their place. The use of technology has educated our kids in ways we never could have imagined. But there is also a lot to be said for getting back to basics and adopting a more natural approach to parenting, to simplify the day and remove a lot of the chaos.

Here are five ways you can simply your parenting.

Wooden toys.

There is something special about wooden toys. I love giving them as gifts, and have even just purchased a wooden musical set for my daughter’s first birthday.

There is not a light or switch in sight and yet all three of my kids have spent more time with it than any other toy in recent weeks. It has removable triangles, maracas and clapping sticks. There are mini drums and a xylophone and honestly it’s the first thing they gravitate towards.

It’s funny that when a toy is simple it encourages learning outside of what it was designed to do. We’ve had heaps of fun making music (noise) but it’s also helped us with counting, recognition and colours.

There's just something a little bit special about wooden toys. Image: iStock.

Imaginative Play.

A recent study from the UK found that today’s children are spending on average half the time playing outside than their parents were at the same age. Yep, apparently while we used to run around in the sunshine for around eight hours a week, our children are only getting out there for four. The National Trust, who was responsible for the study, also found that a simple stick was one of the best "toys" you can give your child because it encourages them to use their imagination to construct games and imagine different realities. Following from the study, the National Trust also put together a list of 50 things you should do with your child before they turn 11-years-old and 80 per cent of the activities were based outdoors.

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Cooking.

For most of us cooking is just another job we need to get done throughout the day, but involving your children in cooking can really help simplify the afternoon routine and keep them off technological distractions.

As they get older, you can use your dinner cooking time to help with their homework at the kitchen bench but while they are young, children love getting involved in meal prep but chopping up veggies (with a safe knife) and mixing ingredients. This is also an excellent opportunity to teach kids about nutrition, where their food comes from and how to look after their bodies, which is paramount to raising happy, healthy kids.

A few years ago I discovered a local farmers' market which is held each Friday near my house. It’s amazing to see how much the kids like to be involved in their dinner when they’ve been part of the whole process.

We have our ritual, we head off to the markets and select fresh produce. The kids are exposed to a wider range than they are at the shops and they discover new foods almost every time we go. They get to chat with the people who have produced the food and ask questions about it. I let them choose the items for dinner and then they are excited to prepare it at home. They refer to it as them "making dinner". I just wish they’d learn to wash up!

"Involving your children in cooking can really help simplify the afternoon routine." Image: iStock.

Our farmers' market trips have also spurred on an interest in growing their own veggies so one weekend we spent the day building veggie boxes in the garden. Most days the boys will get out there and get grubby tending to their crops, having the time of their lives watching their veggie plans come to fruition. Something so simple can keep them occupied for hours.

Put away the phone.

As parents we spend a shocking amount of time staring at the small screens in front of us. We need to call people, text, look up directions, take photos, update social media. All of these things involve our heads in the phone. Imagine how that looks to our children. From a young age they are taught that there is something special about the phone. I mean, mum and dad are on them so often, they must be fun? But all the time when you’re staring at your phone, your children are wanting you to play with them, to interact with them.

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I’m the first to admit that I’m a shocker when it comes to self-imposed bans on my phone but that’s exactly what I’ve done. I’ve started putting my phone in another room and consciously putting it away when I’m engaged with my kids, and amazingly their behaviour has changed! It’s like they are no longer competing with the phone for attention so the whinging has decreased, the fighting has decreased and my stress levels are much lower.

It’s had incredible effects on me too, and has reminded me that our children are young for such a small amount of time, I don’t want to miss it because I was staring at my phone instead of at their smiles.

"We spend a shocking amount of time staring at the small screens in front of us." Image: iStock.

Reading.

I get it. You come home from a long day at work, or you’ve been with the children from sun up, to sun down. You’re tired, exhausted and all you can think of is to get the kids in bed so you can sit down on the couch and unwind. But spending just a few extra minutes at bedtime reading to your children can really help calm them before bed and give you some quality time at the end of the day. All you need is a book and a lap for cuddles.

Parenting is an incredibly busy stage of life, especially when they’re young, but by consciously simplifying the way we do things we can not only increase the quality time we have with them, but also reduce our own stress levels.

How do you get back to basics as a parent?

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