A Stick-y Christmas

TGSG Note: There have been some great posts about simplifying Christmas out there in the blogosphere, which continue to give me hope that Americans may have actually learned something from this recession. A nice though, isn’t it?

My friend Carol Torgan did a nice roundup of posts about gifts to promote outdoor play that you should check out.

You’ll find lots of yummy cookie recipes just perfect for sharing, over at The Slow Family Online. (The spritz cookies really took me back, reminding me of sweet Christmases long ago, and of people long since gone.)

And below, you will find a piece I did on potentially the greatest toy of all — the stick. A gentle reminder that all that glitter does not glow…

Regardless of what holiday you celebrate, try and remember that the greatest gift of all is kindness, compassion, love, and time for one another. No fancy wrapping required or trip to the mall.

Happy Holidays, world. Hugs ~ Bethe

Earlier this year, the very low-tech, but nonetheless AWESOME stick was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame. That’s right, I said stick. It takes its rightful place among other perennial favorites, including the cardboard box and the 64 pack of crayons with the built in sharpener (of course!).

To qualify for this honor, a toy must must exemplify three very important qualities: learning, creativity, and discovery. The stick certainly meets that criteria.

It can be a sword, firewood for a shipwreck survivor, woven into the roof of a fort or a Fairy House, a magic wand, or a thousand other things a child can dream up. And each day, that same stick (or one just like it), takes on life anew and can be part of yet another scene of creativity and wonder only limited by a child’s imagination.

How many expensive toys can we say that about? How many toys that your kids “just had to have” are now abandoned in the basement, laying broken under the bed, or gathering dust on a shelf? More than a few would be my guess.

If Christmas, and the amount of money you spend on short-term satisfaction aren’t enough of a reminder, my friend David over at The Good Human wrote a great post called We Must Stop Living Throw-Away Lives, that will also help put things into perspective.

So, here is my challenge to you: stop buying so many toys. It’s pretty much that easy.

Letting kids engage their imaginations takes a lot less stuff  — plain and simple. It is also a great way to get them outside into nature’s toy store, which has much less marketing dollars behind it, but is a far better value all the way around.

Leaves, rocks, sticks, acorns, creeks, trees, and good old fashioned dirt will challenge children to create their own games and worlds of wonder. These simple, natural items are the building blocks of great play and countless adventures, and are there at the ready.

No plastic. No batteries. No blinking lights or buzzing noises. No rules, nor right or wrong way to play or adult explanation needed, which is as it should be.

If you are really in the mood to buy a toy or bicycle (which is also in the Toy Hall of Fame, PS.), check out yard sales, thrift stores, and your local “Penny Saver” paper. You will be surprised at the great things you can find, without breaking the bank or requiring additional manufacturing or packaging.

Or, why not set-up a Toy Swap with friends and neighbors? It’s a great way to pass toys along and get something “new”  for the kids in your world.  As we all try and lead more sustainable lives, we need to take the concept of recycle, reuse, and reduce to new areas of our lives, so why not play and toys?

Of course, it’s OK to buy new toys for special occasions, but challenge yourself to simplify and buy less overall. Odds are your kids won’t miss it, and I know you won’t miss the clutter.

Now, if you will excuse me, there is a stick outside that is just begging to be played with. I would hate to disappoint it.

See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru

Creative Commons License photo credit: Mandi Gaga

photo by: La Flaf

5 Benefits of Living More With Less

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt within the heart.  -- Helen Keller

Tad Sae Waterfalls

Unless you live on a private island, you are bound to have noticed our sagging economy. At a time when I thought things were getting better, I just had a fourth wave of friends go through layoffs. IKEA — known for being a a frugal girl’s dream and a college kid’s staple — is advertising, “New Lower Prices.” And, the eHow of the weekend was “How to Stock Your Pantry For Hard Times.” It’s almost August, and many of us continue to tighten our belts, make adjustments to the way we live, and cheer-up friends who have recently lost their jobs.

So, I wanted to take a minute to touch-base on the up-side of a down economy. Some of the good in all the bad. A few musings of a girl on a budget who is never without a reason to smile…

  1. Play costs nothing. A simple romp in the backyard or a trip to the park to hit the tire swing. Camping under the stars as an alternative to a night in a hotel. Fun and joy needn’t cost a thing, and I am seeing more and more people reconnect with play and spending time outside in nature.
  2. People are gardening in record numbers — taking charge of growing food for their tables and reconnecting to the land. Learning new things and teaching their children a new skill and hobby.
  3. Going out less means more nights playing board games, cards, or Hide & Seek in the backyard. Cooking together and sharing laughter and conversation across the dinner table. Really taking the time to connect with family and friends.
  4. As we buy less, we notice that we really don’t need as much stuff as we thought. We just are in the habit of spending and buying. It’s a great time to teach children about the value of money and how the important things in life don’t come from a store, but are in the moments we share with each other, or on our own — watching the sunset or walking in the woods.
  5. Somehow, as if by magic, when times get tough, people are more kind to each other. I have seen amazing displays of generosity of spirit, of charity and giving, and of true kindness in the past several months. People seem more willing to connect and pitch-in — more open to real human connection when times get tough.

Now, I know some of you might think I am a bit of a Pollyanna, which really could not be further from the truth. At the same time, I do believe that the glass is half full, and that somehow we always get what we need. Perhaps our society just needed a reminder to live more simply. To play, and connect with each other, and to blaze new trails — not based on money or acquiring wealth — but on ingenuity and creativity that is necessitated in tough times.

I have written often about resiliency and how it it one of the hallmarks of a successful, happy adult. Tough times are a great reminder to us all to cherish that trait in ourselves, and I hope an inspiration to parents to foster that in their children. Without a doubt, it will serve them well one day.

Now, if you will excuse me, there is a sunny-side of the street I need to go walk down. Join me?

See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru

Creative Commons License photo credit: Greg Hayter

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