Simplify Parenting

Spicing Up an Under-Scheduled Day

Life moves so fast sometimes. Everyone is busy, busy, busy. When Mountain Papa and I are both working full time, it seems like every moment of our day is structured. We’re either getting ready for work, working, making food or eating it, or cleaning. Or sleeping.

Feeling Spicy

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I had an unexpected day off on Monday. Baby Bear and I got to enjoy a leisurely day at home, just the two of us, the first day like this in a long time.

Baby Bear recently discovered our “pantry”. Now our kitchen is nice, but small, with very little cabinet space. Last year Mountain Papa and I added a “pantry” (AKA shelving) to the wall of our furnace room, which is next to our kitchen. We store our kitchen appliances, pots and pans, and some food in glass containers.

Our 16-month old cherub thinks it is just the bee’s knees to play around this death trap of a room. Because, well, she’s a budding toddler, don’t you know?


So, on Monday, when she started to go into this room and started to pull out my all of my spices out of their rack, my first instinct was to pull her out of there and set up the gate we have to block it off.

Spicing it up

But I didn’t. I stopped myself.

We were lucky enough to have a day with no obligations. I had the unusual freedom to sit and watch her every move.

So I let her go.

Left to her own devices, without a hurried, tired or nervous mama, Baby Bear proceeded to pull all the spices from the spice rack.

She then placed them neatly on the bin we use to store birdseed.

Spices on bin

After she lined them up just how she wanted them, she moved each container, one by one, to our entrance mat by the backdoor.

Stacked Spices

She was careful to get them just so.

Once she finished arranging the spices to her liking, she got out the salad spinner and gave them a spin.

Spinning spices

This girl loves a good spin.

After they finished spinning, it was time to smell them.

Smelling spices

Oh, this dried rosemary smells good!

Sniffing spices

Even Dog-Dog got in on the action.

Under-scheduled dog-dog

She wasn’t as captivated by the spices as Baby Bear was, though.

Bored Dog-dog

Baby Bear entertained herself with those spices for 45 minutes.

45 minutes!

But I thought kids had short attention spans?

As a teacher who worked in early childhood, I received a lot of training about the teeny-tiny, itty bitty attention spans of young children. I learned numerous methods to teach children how to sit still and become engaged in an activity. In fact, I spent most of my teaching time the first few weeks each school year teaching children how to increase their attention span.

If I knew I could engage a child for 45 minutes by letting them explore whatever is interesting to them, I could have saved myself a whole lot of time and energy in my years as a teacher.

It always amazes me to see what happens when life is under-scheduled. When natural curiosities are fully explored. When this mama lets go a little, puts chores and work off for a bit, and just sits with her daughter.

In Praise of Under-Scheduled Time

The hidden cost of our numerous time commitments, including the time we give to our full time job in exchange for a salary, is that very little (if any) of our time ends up being “free time.” We’re always getting this or that done, doing homework or chores or rushing to get food on the table, that we hardly ever have time to just sit back and see what happens.

To let our kids explore as they choose.

To allow them to build their attention spans naturally and become completely engrossed in an activity.

I dream of a day when Mountain Papa and I work less and have more under-scheduled time as a family.

Until then, we’ll to try let go and enjoy these little moments as much as we can.

[Only one bottle of spice was injured in the documenting of this post; coincidentally it was a container of Basil I dropped while cleaning up… oops!]

When's the last time you stopped to smell the, well, spices? Slow down and enjoy life a little at

What spontaneous, awesome things have happened in your unscheduled time lately?

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