Challenge of Not Buying Kids Stuff during COVID

An overcast threatening-rain morning seemed the perfect time to take our young kids to the wading pool- perfect for avoiding crowds that is. Within an hour of our return home from the pool I had ordered water toys and a soaker sprinkler…we’ll avoid the wading pool for now.

From the mom who emptied her dog’s dish to let her son use it as a bucket in the water, to the swarms of screaming children-my COVID safety vision meant it was a short dip for our kiddos.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I’ve always tried to reign in the amount of toys in our small home by not buying things readily available in the community . After all, we chose our neighbourhood precisely because we live a 5-minute walk from the library and four parks -one with a huge pirate ship themed splash pad and outdoor pool.

Why amass a huge toddler book collection when, thanks to the library, we only need to have those ‘please read it again’ winners on our bookshelves? Similarly the free early years drop-in program up the road means I don’t need to personally store a race car track for the kids- the centre has that pleasure.

And then along came COVID and I have since been unable to close my recycling bin lid due to all the shipping packaging.

Image by jacqueline macou from Pixabay

We are in the privileged position of having a backyard and two incomes unaffected by the pandemic. So while splash pads and pools are now reopened we can choose to avoid those crowds by ordering our own sprinklers, kiddie pool and water toys.

Likewise, the library is now offering online ordering but unfortunately baby board books aren’t well categorized so I’ll need to order the black and white high contrast books for our newborn if we’d like those in the house.

COVID has taught my four and two-year old (and me) a lot about entertaining ourselves without the usual distractions of playgrounds, play dates and community programming. I love our daily walks by the lake and the fact that both kids can now easily identify red wing blackbirds, gros-becs, and cormorants.

Image by Meatle from Pixabay

I am also grateful that I can choose to buy those items we can no longer easily access even though it has meant stepping away from my minimalist values. I only wish I’d come to peace with owning more playground equipment when trampolines were still in stock.

Featured image: Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Paring Down on Toys

80% of the kids toys disappeared overnight and their reaction floored us. The feared mutiny to minimalism has never come and we’re all happier.

Before hosting my daughter’s first birthday we stashed nearly all the toys in the basement. Save one small toy basket, play kitchen and a ride-on, the rest were hidden away. All this was done while the kids slept and I steeled myself for the meltdowns in the morning. Except they never came.

Literally 80% of the kid’s toys disappeared overnight and they didn’t even seem to notice. Like didn’t say one word about it.

So we stuck with it, swapping the contents of the basket and larger ride-ons every couple days. Nightly clean up time was reduced to minutes and no one seemed to be too restless with less distraction options.

Image by

It’s been six months now and I’m finally comfortable enough that no mutiny is coming to have sold our large toy storage unit and pass along quite a few less-loved items.

Simplicity Parenting

I’ve always tried to keep a thoughtful and small toy collection and found psychologist Kim John Payne’s book Simplicity Parenting an accessible and easy read on the benefits to children on having less stuff in their lives.

Time and again he saw little people that were more emotionally balanced and happier when toys and busy schedules were simplified. And like my own experience, most of the kids he worked with didn’t even comment on a reduction in their toys, despite parents’ fears.

The book gives great advice on how to purge and the pieces to invest in, like kid-size table, costumes, a tent-like space. And those than can go, such as branded character toys with limited creative uses and noisy obnoxious toys (hurray).

Ironically after reading it I went out and bought something new for the kids- a small table and chairs as suggested. It seemed unnecessary but has become a place where both kids are drawn daily for self-directed creative play.

Simplicity Parenting offers no magic number of toys to possess and I never would have thought it’d be as low as our current number but for now its working. As the kids get older we’ll certainly need to adjust but I’m grateful for our little unplanned experiment to realize we can drastically pair down and all be happier.

Minimalist Travelling with Kids – Mommy Connections Guest Post

Re-posting a guest post I recently did on I’ve attended Mommy Connections events and workshops in the past and I am thrilled to be featured on their blog.

Mommy Connections Alumni, Bronwyn Hannelas, shares how she packed for a One-week trip, with 1 Baby, 1 pre-schooler and NO checked luggage.

For March Break our family of four flew to Vancouver for a week.  We spent time chasing waves on Tofino’s sandy Pacific beaches, atop snowy mountains, cycling in Stanley park and touring the city centre. Even with baby in tow we managed to avoid checking any baggage here’s how.

Maximize your Carry-on Limit

Since baby flew for free, we were left with a carry-on allowance of 3 pieces plus 3 small bags. I forwent a purse and opted for a diaper bag instead, the camera bag also did double duty holding some snacks and small toys.

Okay let’s get real with a 3.5-year-old and 15-month-old snacks and toys were inevitably stuffed everywhere but in clear ziplocks to maintain some sanity.  Wearing my daughter in her carrier also avoided the need to find space for that essential but bulky item.

Bring that Stroller

We gate checked our umbrella stroller for free. I travelled alone with the two kids on the flight over and the stroller doubled as a luggage dolly- a real life saver.

Any modest sized stroller that folds seems to be fine and I even saw a couple doubler strollers being stowed at gate.  Just beware as if its too bulky you could be looking at additional fees to check it.

Limit Shopping

We ended up being that family at airport rearranging suitcase contents and shovelling snacks into our kids mouths after our suitcases had mysteriously expanded past acceptable dimensions on the way home.

We planned to buy nothing, but I was the first to crack when I fell in love with Pinterest-worthy dessert bowls at a farmer’s market. We also did a Value Village run to replace some soaked sneakers and succumbed to ‘mom please’ requests for new dollies..

Forgo the Hotel

With Air BnB over a traditional hotel you can scout out a family friendly home that offers more options for meal prep, enclosed backyards and can seriously limit what you need to bring. We made sure to ask questions about high chairs, cribs and kid-friendly dinnerware ahead of time.

While visiting Vancouver Island the home we stayed in had an enviable toy collection that included ride-on toys- a definite hit with our littles. Our lovely hosts also passed along this outgrown rain suit for our daughter which was perfect for the ocean spray on the island’s sandy beaches.

Plan Activities Ahead

Limited luggage for us meant a trade-off in spontaneity. We brought hiking attire for some planned modest treks but opted not to bring swim suits. This meant having to forego the local pool on a rainy day and instead discovering free train rides and a cherry blossom festival at the local mall. Both kept the kids active indoors for a couple hours.

Minimalist travelling requires some additional planning and trade-offs much as it does in our daily family life in our small Toronto home. Ultimately though, keeping things simpler meant having the space and money to focus on taking in more new experiences.

Bronwyn Hannelas lives in Toronto’s west end with her husband and their two young children. She writes about trying to live a simpler life with less stuff at

Goodbye Yoda: Letting Go of Collectibles

I just sold my entire collection of unopened Star Wars Episode 1 figures for $20. I didn’t even broke even with what my geeky 13 year old self paid for them. While E-bay confirmed over the years that they weren’t worth much, I could never let them go for ‘nothing’. As I minimalize and reclaim more and more of my house I was more than happy to have these gone and reinvest the $20 into pizza and garlic bread.

Star Wars Episode 1 Figures Hasbro CommTech x 5 NEW

So yes happy- relieved even, to say goodbye to yoda but still unwilling to pitch my pog collection which was housed in the same now emptier box as the Star Wars figures. I’d planned to give the pogs to my kids one day until reading this:

Things that were fads should fade away from your life. You probably wouldn’t re-buy that pog collection, right? Some things served their purpose for that time in your life, but they’re superfluous now  

Ouch! If the post had used a Star Wars example I’d be patting myself on the back instead of being smacked with reality. Pogs aren’t making a comeback and my kids won’t want them. They were a nice recess distraction in grade four and its now time to let them go. At least these suckers are cardboard and can be recycled. I find the idea of things having served their purpose for a specific time in your life as a good mantra to purge collectibles. Maybe I can let go of my china dolls next.