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15 Montessori-inspired road trip games to play with your kids

Try these activities as an alternative to handing over the iPad to make the long car ride a meaningful part of your vacation.

15 Montessori-inspired road trip games to play with your kids

One of the things that set the Montessori approach apart is its focus on engagement, rather than simply entertaining children. All Montessori classroom work is designed to be child-led. After being shown how to use something, the kids are the ones completing the work on their own, which encourages active, not passive, participation. They are active, rather than passive participants.

While there's no need to turn your car into a classroom, the Montessori principle of engaging children with purposeful, hands-on activities can be applied to your summer road trip to keep everyone learning and having fun on the go.

Try these activities as an alternative to handing over the iPad to make the long car ride a meaningful part of your vacation.

1. I spy

This classic game is a great one for road trips because it requires no materials and can be adapted for children of all ages. Keep it simple ("I spy something red") for your youngest and make it more challenging ("I spy something shaped like an octagon") for older children.

If your child is enjoying learning their letter sounds, the car is also a great place to practice I spy with sounds ("I spy something that starts with b").

2. Lacing Cards

Lacing cards are a pre-sewing work included in many Montessori classes for 3-6-year-olds. They are great for building fine motor skills and concentration. Young children often concentrate on this activity for long periods of time, but it has very few pieces, making it a good one for long car trips. There are many fun options, making it easy to find one that matches your child's interests.

3. Read out loud from a book about your destination

Books are always a great road trip option, but it's even more special if you can find a book about the place you're visiting.

  • Going to the beach? Try this one.
  • Traveling to a forest? one is great
  • Traveling to a big city? We love this.

4. Etch a sketch

Art supplies are great to bring for the hotel room but can be a bit messy in the car. Try giving your child an Etch a Sketch for the backseat instead. This will allow them to unleash their creativity without filling your car with melted crayons and paper scraps.

It is also great for practicing control of the hand. Alternatively, try this Magnatab magnetic drawing toy.

5. Meaningful music

Try giving everyone in the car a turn to choose the music selection. Both Frank Leto and Growing Sound make wonderful Montessori-friendly children's music.

6. Audiobooks

Audiobooks are another great way to keep children happy and engaged in the car and many are available through the public library for free.

7. Tell me a story

Tell your child you're going to make up your very own story together. You say the first couple of lines of the story and then ask someone else in the car to continue it. Keep taking turns, letting everyone in the car participate in the game until the story comes to a conclusion. Try setting the story in a car or in your destination help get your child excited about the trip.

8. Scavenger hunt

Before your trip, ask your child to help you make a list of all of the interesting things they'd like to see along the way. This might include certain animals, a fancy car they like, or different types of trees or flowers.

Make a list with little checkboxes and ask them to keep a lookout and check off what they find on your journey. Don't feel like making a list? Try this one.

9. Make a map

Draw or print a simple map of your travel route. Let your child draw or write things they see or things that happen along the route. This makes a great free souvenir of your journey!

10. Road trip bingo

If your child already knows their letters and numbers, try license plate bingo or another travel bingo game. This is not only entertaining, but it's also great for visual depiction and practicing reading as your child tries to decipher the different license plates.

Activities for rest stops

Try to view rest stops as more than a quick potty break, especially on a longer trip. While it's tempting to push through and get where you're going, doing so can often backfire with young children. Allot just 15 to 20 minutes for one of these easy activities, or some simple free play time.

11. Nature hunt

Set a time limit of five minutes and task everyone with finding the most interesting nature item they can. Ask everyone to place their item on a small blanket and share what they liked about it.

12. Sidewalk chalk

Bring a small container of sidewalk chalk and tell your children they have 15 minutes to decorate the rest stop sidewalk and make it beautiful for all of the travelers coming through.

13. Bubbles

Bring a small bottle of bubbles for your child to blow and chase while they stretches their legs.

14. Bucket and shovel

A bucket is multi-purpose so it's a great item to bring on any road trip. If the rest stop is rocky, they can collect their favorite rocks to sort or show you before putting them back. If it's sandy, they can dig in the sand a bit before hopping back in the car

15. Bird watching

Bring some child-sized binoculars and see how many types of birds your little one can spot. These can be great to use at your destination as well.

While all of these activities are fun and engaging for children, a Montessori road trip is more about attitude than any one activity. Be open to exploration, focus on the experience, and find little ways for your child to be independent and active along the way.

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Ara Katz/Seed

We spoke to Ara Katz, co-founder and co-CEO of Seed, who shared her journey to (and through) motherhood—and gave us the lowdown on how probiotics can benefit mamas and children alike.

Chances are, you're aware that probiotics can help us digest the food we eat, keep inflammation at bay, synthesize essential vitamins and more. But here's the thing: When it comes to probiotics, there's a lot of misinformation… and because of that, it's hard to know what's actually a probiotic and which is the right one for you.

That's why we chatted with Ara Katz, who is a mama to son Pax and the co-founder of Seed, a company disrupting the probiotics industry. The entrepreneur told us about her motherhood journey, what led her to start her company and what she wants other parents to know about probiotics.

Q. What was life like for you before you became a mama?

I was bi-coastal after co-founding a mobile tech company in New York City with a partner in LA. My life was, for as long as I can remember, consumed by creating and work. I was fairly nomadic, loved to travel, spent many hours reading and practicing yoga, being with friends [and] waking up at the crack of dawn. [I] was fairly sure I would never marry or have children. And then something shifted.

Q. What were some pivotal moments that defined your journey to motherhood?

Ha, that makes it sound like motherhood is a destination when at this very moment, more than ever, it evolves daily. I lost my mom when I was 17 and spent most of my life believing I didn't want to be a mother. I had a lot of wiring about its limitations and constraints—I'm sure relics of grief and the fear of loss.

My journey started with a physiological wanting to be pregnant and have a baby. There was a kind of visceral sense that my body wanted to know what that was like and a strange curiosity that, at least for that period of time, usurped my ambivalence about motherhood.

Then I had a miscarriage—a beautiful inflection point in my story. I resigned from my company, chose a coast, committed to be more committed to my (then) boyfriend, now husband, and tried again. I got pregnant shortly after that and found pregnancy to be a profound journey within, a reshaping of my life and the tiniest glimpse of how motherhood would unfold.

In the 55 months since giving birth (and I like to use months because I have learned in the moments that I am most frustrated as a mom that he has only been on this planet for less than 14 fiscal quarters), I have realized and surrendered to a definition of motherhood that is a process. One of cultivating, creating, recreating, shapeshifting, learning, feeling, healing, hurting and experiencing the most potent form of presence I have ever experienced—and an aching, expansive love I didn't know possible—not just for my son, but for all living things.

Q. How did motherhood change your approach to your career?

Becoming a mother is certainly a persistent lens on all of my choices, but it was really my miscarriage that recalibrated my path. My pregnancy rekindled my love of biology and health and led me to my co-founder and the microbiome. My breastfeeding experience incepted our first product focus, and the newfound accountability for a human inspired our brand.

Q. What inspired you to co-found Seed?

I met my co-founder, Raja, during my pregnancy with Pax. [I] was immediately awestruck by his ability to both deeply understand science and to methodically break down a product, dietary question or piece of advice in a way that's educational (you actually learn something about your body), actionable (you understand what to do with the information) and foundational (you can build on that knowledge in the future to continue to make better choices).

As we spent more time, our combined passion for microbes, their potential impact on both human health and the environment, and how to set up a child for a healthy life became increasingly clear. And through birth, seeding (the process by which we get our foundational microbes and the inspiration for the name of our company) Pax and my struggles with breastfeeding, my entrepreneurial spirit was lit to build something with Raja. His deep experience in translating science to product, and mine in consumer, community-building and translating through storytelling, culminated in a shared vision to set a new standard in health through bacteria.

Q. Probiotics have been trending in recent years, but they're nothing new—can you talk a bit about the importance of probiotics?

Interest in gut health and probiotics increases month by month. However, despite the quickly growing number of "probiotic" supplements, foods and beverages out there, there's still a lot of consumer confusion—particularly around what they are, how they work and why we should take them. Probiotics have been studied extensively across various life stages, body sites and for many benefits. Digestion is an obvious and immediate one (and the primary reason most people currently take probiotics). But other strains have also been studied for skin health, heart health and gut health (including gut immune function and gut barrier integrity). But this doesn't mean that any and all probiotics can do these things—this is the importance of 'strain specificity.' In other words, ensuring that the specific strains in your probiotic have been studied for the benefit you desire is critical.

Seed Daily Synbiotic

Seed

Seed's Daily Synbiotic is a 24-strain probiotic + prebiotic formulated for whole-body benefits, including gut, skin and heart health.


Q. How do probiotics play a role in your life?

I mean, I take them, I develop them and I work with some of the leading scientists from around the world advancing the field—so they play a big role. As for my personal health, I take our Daily Synbiotic daily and my son also takes specific strains for gastrointestinal health and gut immune function. Beyond that, it's the re-orientation around my microbiome that guides many of my choices: how important fiber is, specific compounds like polyphenols found in berries, green tea and other foods, avoiding the use of NSAIDS like ibuprofen and antibiotics when not needed, exercise, sleep and time in nature [are] all aspects of our daily life that impact our microbiome and our health.

Q. What are some misconceptions about probiotics that you would like to set straight?

There's one main myth on from which all the other stem: that probiotics aren't considered a serious science. On the contrary, it's a field of inquiry that demands incredible rigor and extensive research. And when anything and everything from chocolate to ice cream to fermented food and kombucha to mattresses can call itself "probiotic" due to underregulation in the category, that grossly undermines the science and their potential.

The term 'probiotic' has a globally-accepted scientific definition that was actually co-authored by our Chief Scientist, Dr. Gregor Reid ,for the United Nations/World Health Organization.

At Seed, we work to reclaim the term for science, through the development of next-generation probiotics that include clinically validated strains and undergo the most rigorous safety, purity and efficacy testing procedures. Because why would you invite billions of unknown microbes into your body without asking "what's in here, is it the correct dosage that was studied, and has that strain in that amount been studied in human clinical trials to do something beneficial for my body"?

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about what product you plan to launch next?

We are developing a pipeline of consumer probiotics to target specific ecosystems of the body and life stages, including a synbiotic for children. Our next product will reflect a unique breakthrough in the field of pediatric probiotics, which we are excited to announce soon.

This article was sponsored by Seed. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

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Happiest Baby: Baby sleep solutions designed by the experts

Created by renowned pediatrician, baby sleep expert and (as some might say) lifesaver Dr. Harvey Karp, Happiest Baby has been helping new parents understand and nurture their infants for close to two decades. Building on the success of his celebrated books and video The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block he's developed groundbreaking, science-based product solutions that conquer a new parent's top stressor—exhaustion.

WSEL Bags: Dad-designed diaper bags that think of everything

WSEL stands for work smart, enjoy life—an ethos we couldn't agree with more. Founded by a stay at home dad who struggled to find a diaper bag that he not only wanted to use, but one that would last far beyond the baby years, these premium, adventure-ready backpacks are ideal for everything from errands to week-long getaways.

Codex Beauty: Exceptionally effective sustainable skin care

Codex Beauty's line of sustainable plant-based skin care blends the science of plant biology with biotech innovations, to create clinically proven, state-of-the-art products for all skin types. They're all vegan, EWG and Leaping Bunny verified and created in collaboration with Herbal Scientist Tracy Ryan who uses concepts dating back to the 8th century leveraging plants like sea buckthorn and calendula flower. Not only are we totally crushing on the innovative formulas that are in the packaging but we're in love with the sustainable sugarcane-derived tubes as well.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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"The only pressure for me now is I have to live to be, like, 107, you know? No pressure!"

This is the decade that saw the face of first-time motherhood change. The number of first-time mamas under 30 is shrinking, while more and more women are becoming moms after 40.

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