Getting your children to understand and enjoy simple or minimal living is not an easy feat, especially in today’s consumerist environment. However, it is possible. And one way to get there is to give your children projects and presentations to do. This method requires that your children research ideas and then, process them. Instead of forcing your children to agree with your opinions, you are educating them.
I remember when I was a kid, my mom used to come up with creative ideas that my brother, cousins, and I could do to make sure we did not spend the entire summer in unintelligent activity. One summer she paid us several cents for each book we read and wrote a report on. Of course we all were excited at the prospect of making money. It meant more ice cream from the ice cream truck. Unfortunately, it did not last long. I had a cousin who was a speed reader and he quickly divested my mom of her extra money. But the dye was set. That summer, I learned to love reading and I have continued to love it to this day.
My mom’s idea was an ingenious way to get us kids reading when we would have rather been playing. And this is my inspiration for this article. I welcome you to tweak my mom’s idea even more, so that it best fits you, your children and your situation. For example, you do not need to pay your kids money to do projects. You can offer them a different incentive, like a picnic, skating in the park, a day at the beach or their favorite home-cooked meal.
The point is: there are many ways to go about this teaching method. Be creative. Think outside the box. And most importantly, have fun. Laugh! Smile! Bring fun back into learning.
(If you are a minimalist, change “simple living” to “minimal living”. )
1. What does simple living mean to you? Ask your children to research what simple living means and then write a short essay on it. If you haven’t simplified your life yet, this is a great way to introduce your children to the idea.
2. What are the different ways a parent can live simply? This can be a fun and thought-provoking project for both parents and kids. Your kids will enjoy following you around and critiquing you. This will allow them to feel like they too, have a say in this life-changing decision. And parents… You will get to hear not only your kids opinions on you, but also on what simple living means from a kid’s point-of-view. This can be a powerful exercise because kids do say the darndest thing.
3. What are the different ways kids can live simply? This is another powerful exercise for your children. Have your children create an illustrative presentation on this topic. It can be as simple as gluing pictures to a board or as difficult as a PowerPoint presentation. The point here is to get your children to understand simple living from personal and practical perspective.
4. How does simple living affect the environment? This topic is important for tying simple living to green living. It can be presented as an essay, a speech, an informative short film, or a PowerPoint presentation. If you have older children, I recommend that the presentation be done digitally. This will add one more educational tool to the mix.
5. In what ways does and should simple living affect life at home? This is an easy topic. It will require some research and processing from your children. But the presentation can be as simple as a conversation with you.
6. What benefits do parents receive from simple living? This topic will force your children to think from a parent’s point-of-view. You can make the project even more interesting by turning it into parent-child role reversal exercise. There’s a lot of opportunity for laughter with this one.
7. What benefits do children receive from simple living? Let’s face it: we all want to know what’s in it for us. And kids are not an exception. With this project, your kids will need to interview you. The interview should be about what you think a simple lifestyle would mean for your kids, what you think will be different, and what you think will remain the same.
8. Name and describe simple living concepts. This project can be as basic as outlining general beliefs of people who practice a simple lifestyle. Or it can be as complex as collecting stories of what simple practitioners are doing around the world to make a positive difference. Interviews can be included in the presentation. And if you choose this topic for an older kid, a short docu-film would be a creative and inspirational way to present this information.
9. Name the advantages and disadvantages to simple living. This essay topic would be a great way to teach your children both sides to a movement. As we all know, there are advantages and disadvantages to every decision. Seeing both sides from a child’s point-of-view can also be educational for you.
10. If God were to talk to you, what would he or she say about simple living? This idea is inspired by the book, Conversations with God. If you do not believe in God, you can substitute “God” with “Universal Consciousness” or “your high-self”. The point is to get your children to think from an above or 3rd person perspective. For those that are open to this type of research, you’ll find that this is a freer method of thinking and learning. All the things that influence your opinion on Earth can be forgotten for that short moment. Toys no longer matter, nor do trips to the playground. This is a great way to begin teaching your children how to think outside of the box, from a higher-self standpoint and unbiasedly. You can present this topic in a variety of ways – as an essay, short video, play, fictional book, song…
11. If Mother Earth were to talk to you, what would she say about simple living? This is similar to the topic above. And like the topic above, you can present this in a variety of ways. I recommend something visual since Mother Earth is so beautiful. This would be the perfect opportunity to take your children on a field trip outdoors. You can even have them take photos of the various moments that inspired them throughout the day. These photos can be added to their presentation or essay.
12. How is green living related to simple living? What do these two movements have in common? This is a great way to get your children to tie the two movements together in their heads.
13. Draw and design a house that fits the concepts of simple or green living — exterior and/or interior. This is a creative project for kids interested in design, architecture, engineering, or construction. The older the kid, the more you should expect from him. This can be a very detailed and innovative project. For example, you can request a 3-D mock-up, house plan, brochure, video commercial, and/or informational booklet. At the end of the presentation, you should be allowed to ask questions on key elements. Who knows, this project may inspire the answer to our country’s architectural woes.
14. Design a clothing line that fits the concepts of simple living. This can be really fun. So, tell your children to be crazy and create something that will make them smile.
15. Write a letter to a congressman about simple living. If you want to teach your children about their role in politics, this is a great way to start. Who knows, this letter may inspire your congressman to make a positive difference or it may inspire your own children to become politicians in the future.
16. Create and design new technologies that can help the environment, like an alternative to solar and wind power. This project is perfect for creative kids who are interested in engineering, computer technology, and futuristic concepts. There’s nothing like getting your child to think like an inventor early on.
17. Design programs and solutions that can be implemented by businesses, governments or the public to foster interest in simple living. This can be as basic as naming 5 solutions in an essay format. Or it can be as detailed as writing a business proposal which would include a mission statement and sections on values, overall issues, goals, strategies to reach those goals and financial planning. This topic would be a wonderful way to introduce your children to entrepreneurship.
18. Create and design a video game based off of the concepts of simple, green, or organic living. This topic is for the kids that eat and sleep video games. It’s a great way to tie something they really love to do to something that’s educational in nature.
19. Create a play that discusses simple living under a genre (suspense, mystery, drama, romance or inspirational). This can be an entertaining way for the whole family to spend time together. A lot of bonding can happen during a project like this.
20. Write a short book or story that discusses simple living under a genre (suspense, mystery, romance or inspirational). This is straightforward. If you have young tots who can read and write sentences, keep in mind they too can tackle this project.
21. Develop a new philosophy and movement that focuses on healing the environment. This topic strays away from simple living, but at the same time it can emphasize the need for more simplicity on earth. This can be presented in an essay or professional proposal format.
22. Develop a new philosophy and movement that focuses on personal well-being. Like the topic above, this presentation has the potential to be very thought-provoking and inspirational.
If you want to share an idea or story with us, please do so by leaving a comment below.
Revised: May 22, 2013