Book Club : Simplicity Parenting Chapters Two and Three


Today I will be summarizing and discussing the second and third chapters of Kim John Payne’s book, Simplicity Parenting. In a world where childhood seems to be flooded with too much, too fast and too soon Payne helps parents clear the way to a simpler, more connected and whole-hearted family life. After reading this book parents will feel empowered and ready to declutter spaces, establish stronger home rhythms, cut down on screen-time and most of all to slow down and prioritize meaningful moments with their children. Most remarkably, the book is truly applicable for all families regardless of their perse faiths, backgrounds and values. It is completely free from dogma and instead, offers practical and adaptable advice to all.

Chapter Two : Soul Fever

  • parents know their children intimately well but sometimes they do not quite pay as much attention as they’d like to their child or the connection between them isn’t as strong
  • the act of simplification is a way of minimizing distractions and clutter so that parent and child can connect – children become more at ease and parents can more easily pay attention
  • with connection and attention, we can “recognize when a child is overwhelmed”
  • Kim John Payne uses the example of a literal fever to bring to light the concept of “soul fever”.
  • he describes how a parent can tell when our child is getting sick- a touch of the forehead, fussiness, dull eyes and how we respond immediately going into caretaking mode
  • “soul fever” is much the same, “something is not right, they’re upset, overwhelmed, at odds with the world.”
  • we can tell if our child has soul fever if we follow our “instincts”
  • we can soothe and calm soul fever through simplification

Simplification, gives children the ease they need to realign with their trues selves, there real age, and with their own world rather than the stress and pressures of the adult world.


Steps to Identifying and Tending to Soul Fever

  1. Noticing – inner turmoil beyond a bad mood, anger, blaming or avoidance of physical affection, more sensitive physically and emotionally, acting “out of character” Noticing alone will be enough to help soothe symptoms- feeling read, understood and supported is something enough
  2. Quieting Things Down – stop normal routines, a break from after-school activities, they might even need to stay home from school. Most children can reset their emotional clock in just a few days. This break will “help your child to maintain the resiliency they need to address the [real problem]” p. 44
  3. Bring Them Close – create a time that feels different than everyday life. Bring out paints, tell stories, start a building project… one-on-one time with a parent is the emphasis here. Find a place where children feel the safest and at peace. This is usually home or in nature. Nature calms and focuses the mind. “Neurologically, time in nature can bring a child out of the amygdala-based fight-or-flight response and into the higher functions of thought that are based in the limbic system (creative) and the frontal lobes (cognition).” p.49
  4. Running Its Course– We cannot control a child’s emotions or put a timeframe on them. “your support doesn’t ‘fix’ anything, just provides a loving container for them to process the things that are bothering them.” p.50
  5. A Slow Strong Return– Ease back into normal life- consider making some of the simplification you’ve worked on more permanent.

Chapter Three : Environment

  • the issue of having too much “stuff” strikes a universal chord whenever Kim lectures
  • parents usually like to start with simplifying a child’s environment
  • too many things can cause a sense of entitlement, to too many choices and can also push children to grow up too quickly (eg. Barbies for young girls)
  • it’s only been in the past “fifty years that inexpensive, mass-produced (overwhelmingly plastic) toys have flooded onto the market” p. 57
  • toys are not just in toy stores but in the supermarket, the gas station, etc.
  • advertisements teach us to be dissatisfied with what we have, immediate gratification is valued, products can solve our problems
  • Carl Jung said “children do not distinguish between ritual and reality”
  • toys are ritual objects with powerful meaning
  • Kim John Payne gives some examples of parents who simplified their children’s environment and the positive impact it had such as less sibling rivalry, more focused play and more imagination.

The Discard Pile

Kim has a list of things to consider when decreasing the number of toys a child has

  1. Discard broken toys
  2. Discard developmentally inappropriate toys (toys that are either too old or too young for your child)
  3. Discard conceptually “fixed” toys – eg. toys derived from TV characters
  4. Discard toys that “do” or break to easily – battery operated toys
  5. Discard high stimulation toys- video games, flashing lights, mechanical voices etc.
  6. Discard annoying or offensive toys- ugly, loud, inappropriate
  7. Discard gimicky “educational” toys- baby einstein DVDs, language apps
  8. Discard toys that your child convinced you he/she “needed” but you didn’t want to buy
  9. Discard toys that inspired corrosive play- guns, weapons
  10. Discard toys multiples- eg. you only need one of each animal, one set of blocks,

Organizing What Remains

  • some toys you may like to keep but not have out all the time- keep these in storage boxes in the basement, garage or attic
  • have beloved toys at hand and visible (a teddy bear, doll and some silks)
  • use bins or bookshelves or play stands to neatly store/present the remaining toys

Simplified Play

Children’s play flourishes when we “let it” rather than “make it” happen

  • play isn’t just about toys other experiences and sensations are just as important to healthy play
  • digging, kneading, stirring, stacking, nesting- these are all forms of play for young children

Pretending, Imaginary Play

  • make-believe play helps children develop critical cognitive skills known as executive function
  • props and costumes should be simple so that they are open to imaginary interpretation


  • toys for “primal exploration” include buckets and spades, nets, kites, scooped, bubbles, baskets and containers

Purpose and Industry

  • preparing for festivals, holidays and birthdays gives a child a sense of purpose and usefulness


  • nature stimulus the senses, is restorative and an ideal environment for play
  • nature provides an ideal “special place” for a child to hide away- a cubby house, a little tent

Social Interaction

  • need physical interaction with others, not virtual alternative
  • parents who are physically affectionate with three babies are building the foundation of feelings associated with socialization later on
  • toddler want to see and play near others


  • children need to move- run, skip, hop, jump, climb and twirl
  • they build balance and coordination

Art and Music

  • children need to create
  • art opens up the imagination and makes for “playful purpose and industry”
  • paper, crayons, beeswax fabric, scissors and glue should all be a part of a child’s simplified room
  • music such as lullabies and nursery rhymes should be present in a child’s life from the beginning


  • stories nurture children
  • but books should still be limited in number and chosen carefully according to age, stage and storyline
  • repetition is an essential part of reading- this is how children incorporate what they learn


  • reduce the number of clothes available
  • store or give away clothes that are too big or too small
  • leave off logos, cartoon characters and “cute” sayings


  • the amygdala is the ancient part of the brain and is associated with smell
  • too many smells can overwhelm the amygdala and increase cortical and adrenaline in a child’s body
  • minimize sounds in the home by using rugs and carpets on hardwood floors
  • consider the lighting in your home – turn off screens well before bedtime, use candlelight when it is bedtime

Meagan Wilson is a parent educator and author of the now-retired seasonal series of Whole Family Rhythms. After finishing a BA, she went on to complete her Foundations in Steiner Education and Anthroposophy at Sydney Steiner College, as well as her Waldorf Early Childhood Certification at the Rudolf Steiner Centre in Toronto. She has received her certification as a Simplicity Parenting Family Life Coach and has supported hundreds of parents to create a strong family rhythm unique to their own values and culture. She has four young children. Meagan provides resources, support and information to parents who are looking for a bridge to cross between their unique family life and their children’s (often but not always) Waldorf schools.


  1. […] If you’re interested in reading specifically about creating an Intentional and Beautiful Playspace for your children please you’ll love this post. If you’d like to remind yourself of what the benefits are to living in a clutter-free environment (for both children and adults) head to my post summarizing Chapter Two and Three of Kim John Payne’s Simplicity Parenting. […]

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