20 indoor boredom busters (that don’t involve screen time)

Stressed out, mama? Kids climbing the walls? When the going gets tough, the tough do a conga line.

indoor boredom busters that don't involve screen time

Social distancing can mean kids aren't getting as much physical exercise as they used to, but getting the kids outside to play or a walk is easier said than done for parents who are juggling working from home and other responsibilities. Add in the public health restrictions that may be in place where you live (something I know well as a parent currently living in Italy during the nationwide lockdown), and you've got a potent recipe for cabin fever.

For those times when your kids are climbing the walls, here are 20 ways to turn stressful moments into lightness and fun. A few tips:

The more laughter you can generate the better (without tickling—which can make children feel powerless). Laughter is a great tension release and also promotes endorphins, the body's feel-good hormone, so these games are a holistic way to make your child feel good both physically and emotionally.

Some of these games have a competitive element. The best way to play them is to let kids win! But put up a bit of resistance so they get to feel their own strength and power. Dealing with sibling struggles? Let the kids play against the adults, which helps them feel like a team again. Playing games can help build your children's confidence and let them feel a bit more control—a welcome message for kids who may still be trying to understand why so much has changed in their world.

Here are 20 tried-and-tested boredom busters for stressful moments with kids that have worked for our family during self-quarantine:

Physical games

1. Pillow fights
Nothing beats a good old-fashioned pillow fight. Play on a large bed or with mattresses on the floor so everyone has a soft landing.

2. Adults-only sofa
Tell your children in a playful, inviting way that the sofa is adults only, no children allowed. Then let them fight and wrestle their way on. Act all playfully annoyed and get them off again, then repeat.

3. Push me off the sofa
Invite your children to test their strength by pushing you off the sofa.

4. Sock toss
Roll socks into balls and position two teams at opposite ends of the room. Try to throw socks into the 'goals' of each other's team. The winner is the one who gets the most socks to the other end.

5. Test your strength
One parent kneels on a bed. The child stands opposite. Both people stretch out their arms and put their hands palm to palm. Now it's a competition to see who can knock the other person over.

6. One-meter distance running
This can be a fun game to help process feelings about social distancing: Children run around a table or the couch (or in circles on the living room rug) trying to keep a 1-meter distance away from each other.

7. Stay in your house
A fun family game to play on a double bed: The pillows are the "houses" and children are playfully told they must stay "home" (on the pillows). When the children try to escape, the adult chases them and tries to bring them back home. Children love the fun of escaping and evading capture, and this game is also great for releasing any tensions or fears about self-isolation or lockdown.

8. Limit chase
If your child runs a mile when you tell them to tidy their room or lay the table, then here's a fun way to respond: Chase them, but let them escape. Keep bringing the limit in a light, playful way that lets them know it's a game. Chase them, and act playfully annoyed that they won't cooperate. You may find that after a while they are happy to end the game, and actually do the thing you've asked them to do.

9. Dogs on the sofa
Gather 5-7 plush toys for this game, in which the toys and children are the "dogs," and the adults are the "catchers." Everyone starts on the living room floor, and when the game begins the adult must catch as many of the dogs as they can and put them in "jail" (a chair). The sofa is the safe zone where they can't be caught, but the dogs must try to rescue the rest of their team from the chair.

10. Roughhousing
Physical rough and tumble play not only helps to burn off excess energy, it's also great for building social skills and empathy. Children who are able to channel their aggression through positive physical play are less likely to be aggressive in real life. Follow your child's lead, or read The Art of Roughhousing by Lawrence J. Cohen and Anthony T. DeBenedet to brush up on your roughhousing moves.

11. My precious object
Take an old piece of clothing or a blanket (the sillier and more worn out the better—like a gym sock or a kitchen towel), and tell your child in a playful way that it's your most valued possession. Let them wrestle you to take it away, as you hold on tight but eventually let go.

More mellow games + ideas

12. Hide and seek
This traditional game can even provide you with a few moments of peace and alone time while counting and searching!

13. Treasure hunt
Draw pictures on small bits of paper and hide them around the house to make a trail for your child to follow. Leave something exciting at the end, like a new activity or toy to keep them entertained.

14. Animal charades
Everyone gets to act out an animal while other members of the family guess. Kids can get moving, in a fun way. This can also be played on video calls with friends or extended family members.

15. Blindfold leading
An adult puts on a blindfold and then is led around one part of your living space. When they have been led somewhere they have to guess where they are before removing the blindfold.

16. Yoga
Our family's favorite yoga to do together is Cosmic Kids Yoga, lovely videos that incorporate yoga and stories for children. But even doing a few basic moves together, such as cat-cow stretches on hands and knees, or tree pose with hands reaching up to the sky while breathing deeply, can be surprisingly restorative.

17. Dance party
Turn on some tunes and get everybody dancing—find a silly song, a funky song, or even an opera station to encourage dramatic lip-syncing. Our family likes the app Just Dance (you can also find the videos on YouTube), where you dance along to songs and are scored on your moves.

18. Follow-my-lead roller coaster
One child or adult is the leader and everyone has to follow in a train behind with hands on waists of shoulders. Pretend to be a roller coaster with slow uphill inclines and then fast zooming downhills.

19. Step challenge
Use your smartwatch or an app like Stepz (for iPhone) or Step (for Android) to see how many steps your child can do in a day.

20. Conga line
Sometimes you just have to conga it out—come up with a funny song or chant to cha-cha to and conga in a line around the house.

10 must-have registry items that will change your life, mama

The baby gear heavy hitters that should be top of your list

Calling all mamas-to-be! It's a fundamental truth of (impending) motherhood that your prepping-for-baby To Do list can feel a mile long, but really the best way to feel organized is to sort out the most important item at the top of your list: your registry. Sure the items you choose to include will end up running the gamut from nice-to-haves to absolutely essential game-changers, but mamas in the know quickly learn one thing: Not all baby gear is created equal.

So while you can and should pepper your registry with adorable inclusions that aren't necessarily can't-live-withouts (go ahead, add 'em!), you should make sure you're ticking the boxes on those pieces of baby gear that can be absolute life savers once you're in full-blown mama mode. From car seats to bouncers and playmats, your play and travel gear will be some of the most obvious important items on your list, but so can unexpected things, like a super comfy baby carrier and a snooze-inducing white noise machine. So to help you sort through the must-have options, we turned to the holy grail of motherhood that is buybuy BABY and handpicked 10 of the very best essential pieces that will change your life, we promise.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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