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Bored of storytime? 5 ways to make reading to your baby more interactive

Break out of that board book rut and make storytime more engaging—for you and your baby

5 interactive ways to read to your baby

We've all been there: It's storytime, and you're about to pull out another book that you've read to your child so many times (sigh) that you can probably recite the whole book from memory without even opening it. Even though you know reading and re-reading helps your little one learn (and the younger you start reading to your baby, the better), sometimes it's hard to bring the energy. How do you make storytime exciting yet again?

Here are five ways to make reading to your baby engaging and fun—for both of you:

1. Give choices.

Every morning, I pull out five or six different books to read at some point during the day and stack them in a pile. When it comes time for us to actually read one, I put my 5-month-old baby on my lap, and then pull out two books and put them directly in front of my her.

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When I ask which one she would like to read, she will usually reach her hand out and touch one. We've done this so many times, she's learning how to select. If she doesn't touch one, I go to the one that her gaze is on. Sometimes I will switch them around (just so that I can make sure I've picked the one she's really focused on and not just going for what's at her right hand side), and then read the one her gaze stays on the most.

Giving your baby a choice helps convey the message that she's an active part of the reading and not just listening in. It also allows her to use her sense of touch and start learning about cause and consequence (similar to banging on a drum or using a shaker). It may even encourage grasping as your baby's fine motor skills develop.

2. Let your baby turn the pages.

Babies need to engage all their senses when learning. How many times have you seen your little one play "this goes in my mouth"? By allowing your baby to touch the book and turn the pages, you are helping them to learn what we often call "pre-literacy skills" that they will develop further in preschool and pre-k. By turning the pages on their own, they are not only building their grasp, but also learning valuable skills, like which direction books open and that English print goes from left to right.

3. Add songs + movement.

Studies have shown that music helps kids learn. Adding songs while you read to your baby keeps them engaged, and repetition helps them associate meaning with the words. For example, while reading the book Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni, you can sing the song "Ring Around the Rosie" when it's mentioned in the text. Or you can make up a silly "days of the week" song while reading Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I like to think of it as "Books: The Musical!" And it's also more fun for you both.

Add some gentle dance moves to make storytime even more interactive. Movements that incorporate what's called "cross-body patterning"—basically, using opposite limbs or sides of the body at the same time—help spark both sides of baby's brain. As you sing "Ring Around the Rosie," lift their left arm and touch it to their right foot, then do the same with the right arm and left foot. Plus, it's so cute to see your little one boogying down (even if you're the one making it happen)!

4. Use silly voices

Time to brush off your animal impersonations. Folktales like Goldilocks and the Three Bears readily lend themselves to gruff, growly bear voices, but a silly voice or noise effect can liven up storytime with any book.

While I love Deborah Diesen's The Pout Pout Fish as much as my kiddo does, after the ten-thousandth read it was starting to lose some of its appeal. But when French Pout Pout Fish turned into Kiss Kiss Fish, complete with an over-the-top Pepe Le Pew-inspired accent, my daughter and I were both giggling.

5. Incorporate food.

As an educator, I teach young learners new vocabulary by showing them the actual object and giving them the name for that thing. In a similar way, letting your baby get their hands on food while reading about it is a great way to make associations and start developing those neural pathways.

Next time you're serving up a pea puree, why not read Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Little Pea? Books like Terry Border's Peanut Butter and Cupcake are great to read if your little one is eating solids, and it's also full of repeating language that helps kids learn. Even if your child isn't eating solids yet, you can show her a carrot that she can see, touch and smell while reading Ruth Krauss' The Carrot Seed.

Most of us associate reading stories with bedtime, but an interactive and engaging storytime can happen any time or any place when you're together. Try switching things up a bit and see if the experience changes for the both of you.

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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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.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 supporting 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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