Minimal Kids: Encouraging Imaginative Play in Small Space Living

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Quite easily the most common question I’m asked after someone learns that we live in an RV goes somewhere along the lines of “but how do your kids play in there?”. There’s an underlying assumption that the smaller the space or the fewer the toys the unhappier the child.

Allow me to beg to differ.

We’ve never had a lot a lot of toys for our kids (mostly because the minute I became I mom I immersed myself in minimalism and have gradually been trying to strike a healthy balance ever since). I’ve always tried to encourage my kids to lean into boredom, be thankful for what they have, and not base our playtime around “things”. But this phase of life where we’re intentionally limiting ourselves (spatially) has taught me a lot about how kids (or at least my kids) play and how to foster an environment that encourages them to lean heavily on their imaginations instead of their toys.

Also, my girls have plenty of toys, trust me. I’m not a miserly mother who doesn’t believe in letting my kids have “things”. They have lots of things. But I hope this post can act as both clarification and inspiration for anyone who is curious about imaginative play, regardless of your house size.

To a child, just about anything can be a toy. I’m constantly amazed by Evie’s ingenuity — she’s my maker; constantly building, creating, drawing, tying, sewing, re-purposing. Mara is just as imaginative, but she prefers to play with her dollhouse, ride her bike, or dress up as whichever queen/mom/friend/animal/hero she’s obsessed with at the moment (as long as it involves shoes). Their interests and imagination styles are polar opposites but somehow, they haven’t run out of space or ideas for what to do yet.

Although I can’t take credit for their creativity and ability to play well together, I’ll share a few things I’ve intentionally done to foster that environment as much as possible and, ideally, create a home that they don’t get bored of or feel stifled by.

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  1. Choose “open ended” toys

All of the toys in our RV are relatively open ended, meaning my girls can use them to play multiple ways. My girls love their dress up clothes, like the butterfly wings, cape (made from recycled Saris) and crowns all ethically made from Do Good Shop, one of my favorite one-stop fair trade shops, especially for families. They use these pieces almost every day and have dreamed up so many different roles and scenarios to play in. I love that these pieces aren’t specific to any story/movie/game so my girls can imagine that they’re just about anything (as opposed to, for example, their Elsa and Anna dresses which are more limiting in their “line of thoughts”).

In addition to dress up things, they have a small play kitchen from Ikea, a basket of their favorite stuffed animals (Evie wants to be a “pet shop owner” when she grows up, so these get lots of use), some Mega Bloks and a set of wooden blocks to make roads for cars, a small dollhouse with mini animals/furniture/clothes, and lots of coloring supplies and play dough.

They also have a basket of books that we swap out each week when we go to the library and they spend their “quiet time” reading to each other.

Toys like these allow my girls to get more creative than other toys with a more structured purpose. They can play with all of them at once (and usually, they do), or only a few at a time, but they haven’t run out of exciting combinations yet.

2. Swap them out regularly

To stave off boredom with their toys, we have a few more options in storage (where we have the rest of our “house stuff” at my parents’ house) and sometimes I’ll switch out stuffed animals, bring in a new game, or exchange their blocks for other toys to keep them excited and interested. This practice works regardless of the size of your house and makes it like they’re getting new toys when really you’re just pulling pre-owned things out of storage.

3. Encourage outdoor play

The most important part of encouraging my kids to play imaginatively, I believe, is making sure they get tons of time away from their toys. The majority of their playtime, especially in the warmer months, is outdoors, where they’re building forts, getting dirty, exploring nearby, and simply put, being kids. I know not everyone has the space or lifestyle where they can get outdoors frequently, but even a daily walk or trip to the park is beneficial for kids. In nature, children can imagine anything, become anything they want to be, and experience the world in it’s purest form, without plastic toys or man-made interventions. The accessibility to the outdoors is one of the main reasons we’ve chosen this lifestyle and this location specifically.

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4. Get comfortable with messiness

There’s a time and place for structured play and clean up time, but I also believe that in order for imagination to thrive, things have to get messy. Even though I tend to be fairly laid back as a parent, it’s taken me a while to get comfortable with the idea of letting my girls turn their room into a jungle or a mansion or a pet store or the wild west knowing the inevitable battle that will follow when they have to clean it all up.

Small spaces are destroyed in half the time, so cleaning up after each round of play has been the only way I’ve been able to mesh the importance of fostering their imagination with my need for some semblance of structure.

When they’re outside, all hopes of staying clean goes out the window. They’re constantly riding bikes, digging, building with rocks and sticks, and meeting little bugs. Even though the increased frequency of bathtime (or, if we’re being honest, a quick wipe off at night) is just another thing on my to-do list, I love that they’re able to get messy and really explore with all of their senses every single day.

As I type all of this out, I’m realizing how simple it all sounds. Small space living, when met with two incredibly imaginative kids, isn’t really restrictive at all, it feels very intuitive. Every day is a new chance to turn their space into something new, a new chance to get messy, explore, and create in ways they wouldn’t be able to if they had endless piles of toys and empty space.

I’m curious how this looks in your lives, fellow mamas! Do you ever struggle to encourage your kids to play creatively or does it seem to come naturally?


*Thank you to Do Good Shop for sponsoring this post and gifting my girls with a few of their very favorite toys. Do Good Shop is a long-term partner of SL&Co. and is doing incredible work to provide fair wage and safe jobs for artisans around the world.

Use the code SIMPLYLIVANDCO for 20% off your purchase.*

How to encourage your kids to play MORE with LESS -- Lessons from a family of five living tiny.

Simply Styled || A Postpartum Pep Talk

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I shared on Instagram a few days ago that I’m learning (slowly and with lots of patience) to put clothes on a body that feels a bit foreign to me. I know the postpartum phase is fleeting, and eventually I’ll “have my body back”, but for now, in the immediate weeks and months following pregnancy and childbirth, things just feel a little abnormal.

I’m getting to know a new soft, squishy tummy where there was recently a hard, round belly, and before that, something relatively flat and fit. My thighs touch where they didn’t before, my hips are wider, my skin reacts differently to things it used to love, even my feet seem to have shifted just enough to cause a noticeable difference in the fit of my favorite shoes.

Pregnancy is beautiful and I’m loving the postpartum phase more now than ever before, but sometimes, dressing a body that doesn’t feel like home yet is strange.

Whether you’ve had a baby or not, chances are women of all ages and lifestyles can relate to the feeling. Period bloat, stressful seasons, a new relationship, a job change, a sickness or new diet — all of these things can affect our bodies in ways we never expected, causing us to embark on a new journey of getting to know ourselves in our present state and push towards health as we are now.

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It’s tempting to want to rush to the “get my body back” part of this. It’s tempting to want to try on my old high wasited summer mom jeans that fit a mere 12 months ago. It’s tempting to compare my postpartum body to someone further down the “recovery line”. But this time, the third time, I’m finally content. I’ve found more peace with my present body and have thanked it for not only sustaining me but for growing and sustaining my little Aria.

But there’s a learning curve nonetheless.

I’m leaning hard on wrap silhouettes these days. This top, the Simone Top from Pamut, has been on rotation lately for it’s versatile shape (it can be worn tucked in or out, or reversed) and easy access for breastfeeding (which is just about all I have time to do these days). It’s made of organic cotton gauze and is especially light and airy for the summer months (and for postpartum hormones).

One of my favorite things about this brand is the fact that, although their size chart already goes from a 00-16, they’ll make any customer a piece to fit their body if their measurements aren’t on the size chart. Size inclusivity is something particularly important to me, in addition to sustainable fabrics and ethical production (all of which Pamut achieves beautifully).

Shamless plug for this wonderful brand: if you’re in the market for some extremely high quality pieces that can be easily dressed up or down, use the code “simplyliv” for 20% off an order from Pamut (not an affiliate link, I just love it when you can save money on great clothes).

I paired the Simone Top with my trusty Aurorei linen pants — the pair I had been fantasizing about my entire pregnancy because I missed wearing them so much — and my Nisolo Ama mules.

The outfit looks more elevated than many a cozy-loving-mama’s go to of leggings and tee, but trust me, it's even more comfortable, breathable, and practical. It’s also great for the “getting to know you” phase of my body’s recovery. The silhouette is loose but feminine and it gives me lots of room to breathe and accept.

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I hope to share more of these “simply styled” posts and give raw, truthful peeks into my postpartum journey and what that looks like for not only my closet, but for my mental health as well.

What about you? Can you relate to the sentiment of not fully knowing your own body for a time? How have you given yourself grace to grow through those seasons?


Thank you to Pamut Apparel for sponsoring this post — as always, all photos, creative direction, and opinions are my own. Use the code “simplyliv” for 20% off any order at checkout!

Sari Bari || The Diaper Bag with a Story to Tell

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The theme of “new life” is an easy one to trace in my life lately. My home is currently full of newness — a new life in the literal sense after Aria joined us, a fresh “rebirth” for me as a mother of three, a new life for my older two as they navigate the world of older-sisterhood, a new path for AJ and I to forge together as a family of five.

There’s another form of “newness” too, woven into our lifestyle that, although different than the fresh start we have currently, is made even more impactful when compared with the newness around me now.

A piece that I use everyday — something every mother needs and uses — was sewn by a woman who was given a new life of her own; pulled out of the horrors of Kolkata’s red light district.

Sari Bari, a brand I’ve followed and admired for several years, has created a safe haven to empower women rescued from the expansive sex trafficking industry in Kolkata. They train these women with a marketable skill (sewing), give them a safe place to live, work, and recover, and provide them with post-trafficking treatment to ensure their new life is met with hope and true health.

Each bag, blanket, and pillow that Sari Bari sells was made by a woman who is, in the most literal sense, creating a new life for herself and her family. It’s the most glaring contrast of darkness and hope, being trapped and experiencing freedom.

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And I’ve decided to use this piece, something so meaningful and beautiful, in the most menial way: as a bag to carry spare diapers, swaddles, and snacks. It seems almost like a step down for the work of art that it is, but perhaps that’s what gives Sari Bari’s pieces their final mark of beauty. The maker’s themselves are given a chance at real, true, beautiful, messy life — and then we, the ones who buy and use their handiwork, give their pieces a new life of their own, likely one that’s just as real, true, beautiful, and messy. To carry dirty diapers and containers of cheerios is a noble task in itself.

Sure, a diaper bag can be any shape/style and from just about any retailer, but I’m a firm believer that if there’s a way to support a greater cause with even the most practical of purchases, you should do it. Give new life with your diaper bags, support the freedom of someone else when you buy new clothes, spend your dollars where they’ll be put to good use.

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The Process

Each piece from Sari Bari is made from vintage, upcycled saris (another piece of the “new life” metaphor that I clearly can’t get enough of). The artisans use a technique called Kantha to handsew five layers of sari together, giving the piece true uniqueness and quality. In true Kantha tradition, each piece is signed by the maker as a finishing mark, as if the seamstress is leaving the mark of her freed, empowered life in each piece she makes.

The Partnership

In addition to job training, Sari Bari also provides “wholelife care”, leadership training, school support for their children, well woman checkups, and HIV/aids treatment and care. (To partner with Sari Bari and support their artisans in one of these ways, click here). This partnership allows the team and staff at Sari Bari to truly help these women start over and build a new life.

The Products

Using techniques passed down for generations, the women at Sari Bari use traditional patterns to create modern pieces like bags, backpacks, bed and table linens, baby blankets and more.

Click here to shop their collection!

Use the code “SIMPLYLIV” for 20% off

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The fact that something as simple as a new diaper bag to make my life easier (it converts to a crossbody too, for even more versatility!), has such a powerful story behind it is almost more than I can wrap my mind around.

If you’re on the hunt for a new wallet, purse, bag for travel, or even a new bed spread or baby shower gift for a friend, consider shopping with this incredible brand that does so much more than just create gorgeously unique products.

And when you do, don’t forget to use SIMPLYLIV for 20% off (not an affiliate link, I just want you to save money while shopping for good). ;)


*This post was sponsored by Sari Bari. As always, all words, photos, and creative direction are my own. Thank you for supporting these amazing brands!*

Ethical Mother's Day Gifts for the Mamas in Your Life (or, For Yourself)

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This is my sixth Mother’s Day and it still feels surreal. For many people, Mother’s Day is a difficult day when facing loss, broken relationships or difficulty, and a list celebrating Mother’s may not be relevant or needed. For many others, Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate the female role models in their lives, or for others, the single dads who raised them. Whether you’re approaching Mother’s Day from a place of excitement — maybe it’s your first Mother’s Day after the birth of your child, or you have traditions with your own Mother you look forward to each year — or a place of hurt or difficulty, I hope you feel seen and valued on this day. This list, although I’ve specifically chosen gifts for moms, is meant to be unspecific. Buy these gifts for your step-mom, your best friend’s mom, your friend, your grandma, or of course, yourself if you need an extra boost of self-care this season.

I love celebrating mothers. The soon-to-be mothers, the mothers who are still waiting to conceive, the mothers who have dealt with loss, the mothers who have grown children and the ones who have been a mother to someone else’s child. We’d be nowhere without these women in our lives and they deserve all of the celebration.

Here are a few gifts I picked out from some of my favorite ethical shops (some of the links are affiliate) in hopes that you would shower a mother figure in your life with the same love she’s showered on you.

Ten Thousand Villages Harmony Bell Necklace

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This necklace, although perfect for anyone, is designed with expectant mothers in mind. It’s traditionally worn in many cultures by pregnant mothers, with the chain just long enough to skim the belly, and send soft chimes in for your baby to hear and be soothed by.

Shop here: Harmony Bell Necklace ($125)

LA Relaxed Loungewear

Loungewear is the gift that keeps on giving (for real life). LA Relaxed is one of my favorite resource for insanely comfortable garments that are made with plant-based materials. Their recently introduced hemp and organic cotton pieces are to die for.

Shop LA Relaxed (use the code SIMPLY25 for 25% off!)

Sela Designs “Known Necklace”

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Another one of my most worn pieces this year, my Known Necklace from Sela Designs is especially perfect for mothers. You can select letters to symbolize people she loves — I have one for each of my littles and wear the necklace everyday. It’s an understated, non-cheesy piece with just the right amount of symbolism.

Shop here: Known Necklace ($28 starting with one charm — hurry though, shipping in time for Mother’s Day ends 5/2!)

Do Good Shop

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A beautifully curated one-stop shop of fair trade home goods, jewelry, clothes, and more, Do Good Shop is owned and operated by a mother herself, and proceeds of the 501c(3) non-profit go towards supporting organizations that fight trafficking and provide dignified employment to women all over the world.

Shop Do Good Shop: Use the code SIMPLYLIVANDCO for 20% off!

The Little Homeplace Care Package

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I just stumbled on this sweet mama-owned company a few weeks ago and have fallen in love with how thoughtful and practical each box is. The shop offers three selections right now, the Original Homeplace Box, A Kitchen box, and a Bath box, all packed with homemade, eco-friendly goods.

Shop the Little Homeplace Box

Bohemian Reves Skincare

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Because every mother figure needs an extra excuse to care for herself too, skincare and body products make the perfect gifts. Bohemian Reves is one of my most recent favorites — I love their zero waste packaging and plant-based, organic ingredients.

Shop here: Bohemian Reves collections

ABLE

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From denim to leather bags to footwear to apparel to jewelry, ABLE is truly a one-stop shop with ethics that are hard to beat. They’re having a Mother’s Day sale too, use the code MAMA15 for 15% off at checkout!

Shop ABLE

ROUND + SQUARE

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For organic pieces that make a statement, look no further than ROUND + SQUARE. This brand is on a mission to empower women and girls through their collection of organic cotton tees and gorgeous silk scarves. Any piece from their shop would be a meaningful Mother’s Day gift.

Shop ROUND + SQUARE


*This post, while not sponsored by one brand, contains affiliate links which means I may make a (small) commission off of items purchased from these links. It is also part of a long-term collaboration with Sela Designs. LA Relaxed, ROUND + SQUARE, and Do Good Shop. Thank you for supporting these amazing brands!*

Another Fashion Revolution Week is Over...Now What?

This week marked the sixth anniversary of the Rana Plaza Disaster in Bangladesh, where more than one thousand people lost their lives in the collapse of a five story building that served as a production factory for well-known fast fashion chains. This event, although it wasn’t the first of it’s kind or the last, sparked what’s come to be known as the “Fashion Revolution”. Each year, as a tribute to the lives lost and a call to shed light on the malpractice that still exists in the fashion industry, people and brands all over the world demand greater transparency. We ask of our favorite brands, “who made my clothes?” in hopes that the cumulative pressure will result in not only policy change but ground-level, real life, actual change too.

And it’s working.

Last year I shared a post about the strides in the Slow Fashion Movement to date, and I think that if I did a little more digging, I’d find that even more strides were made this year. More awareness was raised, more voices heard, more big brands committed to Fair Trade certification and greater transparency.

But, just because Madewell launched Fair Trade denim or brands like Everlane pledge to go plastic free doesn’t mean that we get to stop. We’ve by no means arrived and the need for an ethical fashion revolution remains more important now than ever.

But #FashionRevolutionWeek is over. So now what?

As inspiring and exciting as it is to have a world-wide week of awareness and action, we don’t get to stop there. Here are a few ways that I think we can keep the motivation going, all year long.

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  1. Keep asking questions

You know those photos of inside out shirts with the tags facing out and the wearer asking the maker “who made my clothes”? Don’t stop doing that. One thing I’ve learned over the past three or four years of communicating with brands is that you should never be scared to press for more information. If a brand you love isn’t transparent about their sourcing, fabrics, or factory conditions (which is truly pretty rare) on their website, don’t be afraid to email. Reach out to customer service via email — it’s much less intimidating than a phone call — and ask for more information on their sustainability and ethics practice. If they send over a generic Code of Conduct policy lacking in specifics, don’t be afraid to see through it and ask for clarification.

Ask questions, make it clear you won’t shop without answers, and if you need it, email me (or someone else who has been there before) for help!

2. Find a community

When, for most of the world, questioning the brands who make their clothes isn’t the norm, it can be overwhelming to “walk the walk” alone. In the beginning of my slow fashion journey, I stumbled on this amazing community of people who taught me and answered my questions about where to shop and how to confront brands and, most of all, taught me that shopping ethically was possible.

If you’re feeling intimidated by the scope of the phrase “quit fast fashion”, don’t worry. There’s a global community of people in the same place as you are, each with their own story and perspective. Find them (online, in real life, via blogs, via a quick Google search) and connect with them. The hunt for slow fashion will be much less intimidating.

Your community can be made up of individuals, but you can also form relationships with ethically-minded brands as well. Malia Designs, the maker of the bag in the photos in this post, was one of the very first brands I ever discovered and one of my very first “real” blog posts, which is why I decided to share about them in today’s post. For 10 years, Malia Designs has been working to fight human trafficking, improve wages, and give artisans a leg up in the Western market, and following their journey since I connected with them has been pretty amazing.

Get connected and you’ll have no shortage of inspiration.

3. Know what to look for

What issues matter most to you when it comes to ethical fashion? It’s hard for any brand, no matter the budget or intention, to check every single box off on the “sustainability and ethics ladder”. Knowing what issues are closest to your heart will help you weed through the overwhelming amount of brands out there and decide which ones you love to support. Is women owned important to you? Size inclusivity? Organic/plant based fabrics? Fair Trade certification? Artisan made? Versatile style? Supporting issues like trafficking and human rights?

See? It’s not simple. But it’s worth it.

4. Shop less (but better)

The bulk of deciding to shop more sustainably is to adjust your mindset. Overconsumption is the root issue of fast fashion and the exploitation at it’s heart is fueled by our (the consumers’) need for moremoremore. Create a capsule wardrobe, pare down your closet, invest in more expensive pieces that will last you decades instead of seasons.

5. Share with your “audience”

Whether you think so or not, you have an audience. Your family, your community, your kids, your co-workers, your social media connections. Start sharing, maybe slowly at first, about why you’ve transformed your shopping habits, and watch as your passion spreads.

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Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to sustainability or ethical fashion, but if we can keep the momentum going, as a unified community supporting each other’s perspectives and voices, there’s no doubt in my mind that this year can be the biggest year yet.

A little bit about Malia Designs:

Aside from their obviously unique appreciation of detail and re-purposing, Malia Designs is a true leader in the sustainable and ethical fashion scene. They employ men and women from three groups of Fair Trade Certified artisans in Cambodia. These men and women are often at higher risk of trafficking and having a fair, dignified source of income is life changing.

They use recycled and upcycled materials for their bags and accessories. Upcycled cotton canvas, recycled feed and cement bags and other materials help clean up the streets of Cambodia and decrease pollution from new production.

If you’re looking for a model of “what to look for” in a brand, browse Malia Designs’ website for shockingly refreshing transparency, photos of their artisans, and all of the details you need to make an informed purchase.

What now? How will you take the motivation of Fashion Revolution Week and run with it into the rest of the year?


*This post was sponsored by Malia Designs. All opinions, creative direction, and photos are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make this blog possible (and the world a better place).*