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Am I loved and cared for? Why every child should be able to answer ‘yes’

To help our children rest in our care we will need to give them more attention than they demand and more connection than they seek.

Am I loved and cared for? Why every child should be able to answer ‘yes’

The greatest gift we have to offer a child is an invitation to rest in our care. This isn’t the type of rest that comes from sleeping, but from an enduring invitation for contact and closeness, a sense of significance and mattering, as well as sense of belonging and being known by the people a child is most attached to.


To invite a child to rest is about inspiring them to depend on us to meet their relational needs. As creatures of attachment we crave connection and should seek relationships in which we can become rooted and nourished. To bring a child to rest relationally is to assure them that their hunger for connection will be satiated.

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It means they can take our relationship for granted and that it is unwavering across context and conduct.

To bring a child to rest means they will not be driven to pursue an answer to the question, “Am I loved and cared for?” It means we have become the answer to their greatest hunger by assuring them our caretaking has no expiration date.

Why is relational rest important? When kids are at rest they grow. Just as arms and legs grow while sleeping, selfhood unfolds when a child is in right relationship to their adults. Research in neuroscience and attachment science are unequivocal in their findings that the brain is wired for attachment and will pursue this need above all else. When these needs are met, the energy and bias in a person will move away from seeking attachment and towards developing a separate self through play, discovery, learning, trial and error.

Rest matters because it frees our attention. When we don’t have to look for love, we can start to figure out who we are.

The challenge is we cannot grow if we are not first rooted in healthy relationships. The unfolding of healthy personhood is firmly grounded and sprouts from relational rest. As Gordon Neufeld states, “We liberate children not by making them work for our love, but by letting them rest in it.”

We cannot make a child rest in our care, but we can work to create the conditions that will foster this. There are three things we can do to give our kids an invitation they cannot refuse.

1. Accept the work of the relationship

When we accept that the person in charge of the parent/child relationship is us, we won’t hold a child accountable for preserving a sense of contact and closeness. It isn’t their job to mend fences or to cross bridges, but for us to hold onto them across conduct and in the face of immature emotional expression. To hold onto a relationship with our children means we can’t outsource all of their caretaking to others, we need to actively engage with our role. We need to convey to them a sense that they are valued, desired and wanted.

Working at keeping our relationship strong means we will also find ways to hold onto them by bridging the distance when separation happens. It means we work to give them a sense of security in our relationship and convey that it is enduring.

To accept the work of the relationship is to keep our fingers on the pulse of whether our children feel close to us, depend on us and trust us. If our relationship feels strained or weakened, we need to move to repair and protect it.

To take care of our relationship means we make it safe for a child to depend on us and refrain from using separation based discipline methods. We aim to use our relationship to influence a child and not to control them. When we understand that a child’s desire to obey, follow, attend, listen and share the same values as us all come from having a strong relationship, we will take the lead in preserving and protecting it.

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2. Assume the alpha role in the child’s life

To assume an alpha role means we vulnerably accept our position as the one to lead and assume responsibility for caring for a child. We see it as our work to ensure a child has a secure home base to grow in and to keep them safe. We aim to preserve their dignity when their behavior is difficult.

To claim an alpha role in a child’s life is to act as their compass point and to help them make sense of the world around them. It means we don’t simply meet their demands—but take the lead in answering their needs. It means we don’t turn them into consultants when it comes to their caretaking by asking them too many questions.

We need to seize the lead in nurturing our kids and to comfort them when they are facing all the things that cannot change. It means we sometimes have to help them accept the futilities that are part of life, such as no cookies for breakfast or why we need to limit technology use.

To invite a child to rest in our care we need to portray a strong alpha presence so that they feel we are in charge and can handle whatever comes our way. From their tantrums, to resistance, to emotional outbursts–there is a sense that we are holding onto them and will find a way through the impasse. To claim an alpha position in a child’s life is not about having all the answers, but communicating we are the answer.

3. Provide more than the child is pursuing

To fill a child’s relational needs we will need to do more than just give them what they ask for–we need to give them more. The only way rest can be achieved is through knowing there is more there than you could possibly consume. Like a banquet or buffet table brimming with food, it is generosity that puts one at rest because you can take the invitation for granted.

To help our children rest in our care we will need to give them more attention than they demand and more connection than they seek. If they ask us for a hug we can hold onto them and give them a swirl and a kiss, too. We need to give more approval than they are looking for and more significance than they deserve. At every turn we need to communicate we are generous with everything they need, and they can take it all for granted. Even when we have to say no, we can be generous by giving them space to express their feelings.

Wendell Berry writes in his poem, The Peace of Wild Things, “For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” It is this freedom, this sense of security, this idea that one can rest in someone else’s care taking that is transcendent like in nature.

The reason it matters for kids is when they are at rest they are free to play. It is in the relational playgrounds we create for them where they steadily morph and shapeshift into the mature forms we long for.

We cannot control our children’s growth; we can only provide the rest they need to flourish. We cannot make our children depend on us, we can only invite them into relationship with us. We cannot make our children become their own person, we can only ensure they are at rest in the relational roots we nourish and cultivate.

To rest in another person’s care is a vulnerable place. We can get hurt, mistreated or ignored. It is much easier to be the one to lead and to care for another than to be the recipient of that caretaking.

Our fulfillment as parents lies in inviting our children to rest in our care and having them take us up on our offer. For both caretakers and the ones cared for–this dance of relationship is where true rest lies.

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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.

$30

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!

$75

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.

$40

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.

$120

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.

$30

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.

$100

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.

$40

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.

$121

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.

$100

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.

$45

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.

$179

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.

$100

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.

$33

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.

$88

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.



Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

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

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Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

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