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I've seen some amazing preschools… and getting in isn't always easy. Some require you to get on their registration page at midnight on January 1st to snag your spot. Others essentially require you to get on a waiting list upon your child's birth. Not kidding.

The preschool selection scene can get pretty intense. We know the early years matter, but will getting into the "right" preschool really determine the trajectory of your child's remaining decades?

Between my own personal and professional experience and a fantastic podcast conversation I had recently with my friend Deborah Stewart, a phenomenal teacher and mentor at Teach Preschool, I've found that considering a preschool is more about finding the best fit for your child than about finding the one "perfect" school.

For every neonatal waiting list, I've also seen amazing things happening in small preschools with no waiting list at all. There are certainly things to consider to gauge overall quality, but the biggest thing to remember is that it's more important to follow your child's lead than to follow the crowd.

In choosing a preschool for your child, I recommend paying attention to these five aspects:

1. Your child

First and foremost, spend some time thinking about your child. What kind of environment do they thrive in? What makes them nervous, excited, uncomfortable, or at ease?

Do they need more structure or more freedom? More opportunity for big body movement like climbing, jumping, and running, or for long spans of quiet creativity?

What will be most challenging about preschool? Will it be the separation from you? Will it be making friends? Will it be following directions? In what areas would you like to see the most growth in your child after a year of preschool?

Thinking about your child's personality and tendencies help you recognize when the school everyone else is raving about might not actually match up with what your child needs most.

2. The teachers

If you're able to observe the teachers at work, watch to see how they interact with the kids. Hopefully, you see a teacher who is warm and enthusiastic about teaching. Someone who doesn't just stand to the side and play lifeguard, but who gets low to make eye contact and connect with the children. Look for a teacher who is engaging and creates a language-rich environment, but not because they're the ones doing all the talking!

Consider your own child's personality, and observe how this teacher approaches them. Keep in mind that a teacher you may love to have as a friend yourself may not be the best connection for your child.

3. The environment

If you look around the classroom and school, they should obviously be clean and orderly. But I would bristle at an environment that looked TOO perfect.

It should look like small children actually play there. You want to see materials that children can access and put away themselves (even if that means the place doesn't look like a perfect magazine spread).

Find areas of the room where you can sit on the floor or low to the ground and see the environment from your child's perspective. Are items easy to reach? Is the furniture and the decoration of the room oriented to a child's view or an adult's?

You want to see signs that the children have taken some ownership of their environment by creating items displayed in the room and building. That art shouldn't look like it was mass-produced with every piece looking the same. They also shouldn't appear like they've been "fixed" by adults who made them look "right."

Above all, classrooms should look like one big invitation to play!

See whether there are spots for hands-on sensory exploration, block building, dress up, art, and an irresistible book area. There should ideally be a balance of quiet areas and louder areas as well as space for big movements (like a playspace outside) and times and spaces for calm stillness.

Further, check out the bathroom facilities. The preschool years run right along the same timeline for most children to be newly potty-trained and as a newbie, using a public toilet can present a whole new challenge. Are the bathrooms close to the classroom (or ideally IN it)? Can the sink and toilet be used independently by a small child? Are children able to use the bathroom whenever they need to?

Pay attention to your other senses beyond sight as well. Particularly, how does the environment sound? A room or building full of children shouldn't be silent—you should notice a happy, busy buzz of children interacting. At the same time, thinking back to what you considered about your child, make a note as to whether it's too loud or too quiet for your child's comfort level.

Again, there's no perfect answer here, but particularly if you have a child with sound sensitivities, that "ideal" play-based classroom everyone's lining up for may have the ideal "happy hum" for many children, but be a constant roar to your own child.

4. The other children

If you're able to observe a classroom in action, watch the children and observe how they interact with one another.

Mild conflict is normal (and how the teacher addresses that will be very helpful to observe) but generally, you would hope to see children who are building their social skills. They're practicing sharing and taking turns and inviting each other to play with them.

The way that the children interact (and the way they're supported when they struggle) can tell you a lot about how social skills are promoted. While the early academic skills gained in preschool are important, the number one, most important task for preschool is building solid social skills.

Additionally, see if other children seem to feel at ease or on edge. Do they avoid the teacher or comply out of fear? Do they have an active role in the classroom or are they expected to sit for long periods as passive listeners? Paying attention to these behaviors can shed light on discipline, expectations and the overall culture of the classroom.

5. The location

As parents, we would go to the end of the earth for our children, but you don't want that to be your commute twice a day for preschool drop off and pick up.

Choosing a location that is reasonable for you isn't a selfish consideration. Since practicing social skills and making friends is one of your child's top priorities in preschool, you'll want to find a school where you're more likely to be able to get together with those new friends and possibly continue those friendships on into kindergarten and elementary school.

There are many things to consider as you select a preschool, but it helps to brainstorm your own questions ahead of your school visits. The greatest tool you have in this process is your attunement with your own child and your willingness to choose a school that best fits those individual needs and unique goals.

There's no one, right answer, and there are no perfect preschools., but there are many great preschools out there that can be "just right" for your child.

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I'm usually that girl who shells out for premium leggings, and I still think they're fun as a treat, but I've now bought these so-called "compression" leggings in multiple colors. And since 74% of you told us in a recent Instagram poll that you live in leggings, we hope this practical hot tip can help make #momlife a little easier for you, too.

So why compression? While we'd never advise going to extremes, we're not opposed to a little help keeping everything in place. To be clear, this isn't about hiding—we're all for celebrating our bodies (and especially our bellies) at every stage. But adapting to an ever-changing shape can be distracting, and a little extra support around the stomach and hips can feel amazing after birth and help you focus on what's important.

What these $20 leggings have on even my most expensive pairs is that they are thickmeaning they don't snag in the wash, sheer out when I squat, or (heaven forbid) rip when I bend over. Their durability makes them perfect for both household chores and high-intensity workouts. They're also warm, making them well-suited for transitioning between seasons. And once your wardrobe fully changes over, the same brand makes compression shorts that are equally comfy.

Homma Premium Thick High Waist Tummy Compression Slimming Leggings

amazon leggings

As for the whole compression thing? Once they're on, I honestly don't notice anything but how flattering they are when I catch my reflection in the mirror. The 88% Nylon, 12% Spandex blend keeps it tight without feeling, well, too tight. Think of the compression like a gentle hug, or a guardian angel that just wants to bless your curves all day long. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to order another pair.

$19.95

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Mornings can be so rough making sure everyone has what they need for the day and managing to get out the door on time. A recent survey by Indeed found that 60% of new moms say managing a morning routine is a significant challenge, and another new survey reveals just why that is.

The survey, by snack brand Nutri-Grain, suggests that all the various tasks and child herding parents take on when getting the family out the door in the morning adds up to basically an extra workday every week!

Many parents will tell you that it can take a couple of hours to get out of the house each morning person, and as the survey found, most of us need to remind the kids "at least twice in the morning to get dressed, brush their teeth, or put on their shoes."

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According to Nutri-Grain, by the end of the school year, the average parent will have asked their children to hurry up almost 540 times across the weekday mornings.

We totally get it. It's hard to wait on little ones when we have a very grown-up schedule to get on with, but maybe the world needs to realize that kids just aren't made to be fast.

As Rachel Macy Stafford, the author of Hands Free Mama, Hands Free Life, writes, having a child who wants to enjoy and marvel at the world while mama is trying to rush through it is hard.

"Whenever my child caused me to deviate from my master schedule, I thought to myself, 'We don't have time for this.' Consequently, the two words I most commonly spoke to my little lover of life were: 'Hurry up.'" she explains.

We're always telling our kids to hurry up, but maybe, maybe, we should be telling ourselves—and society—to slow down.

That's what Stafford did. She took "hurry up" out of her vocabulary and in doing so made that extra workday worth of time into quality time with her daughter, instead of crunch time. She worked on her patience, and let her daughter marvel at the world or slow down when she had to.

"To help us both, I began giving her a little more time to prepare if we had to go somewhere. And sometimes, even then, we were still late. Those were the times I assured myself that I will be late only for a few years, if that, while she is young."

It's great advice, but unless we mamas can get the wider world on board, it's hard to put into practice. When the school bus comes at 7:30 am and you've gotta be at the office at 8 am, when the emails start coming before you're out of bed or your pay gets docked if you punch in five minutes late, it is hard to slow down.

So to those who are making the schedules the rest of us have to live by, to the employers and the school boards and the wider culture, we ask: Can we slow down?

Indeed's survey suggests that the majority of moms would benefit from a more flexible start time at work and the CDC suggests that starting school later would help students.

Mornings are tough for parents, but they don't have to be as hard as they are.

[This post was originally published May 17, 2019.]

News

Teaching science to your child can sound kind of daunting. Don't be put off by memories of high school physics, though—science for little kids should be fun!

Science activities for toddlers and preschoolers are all about exploration and supporting the natural curiosity within each child. Children are born curious. All we have to do is provide the tools to explore the world around them, and encourage them to ask questions and follow their interests.

While science for little kids is all about fun, there is no reason to dumb it down. Feel free to use real scientific terminology wherever you can (kids are surprisingly receptive to it), and introduce the scientific method by asking kids for their hypothesis before you do an experiment together: What do they think will happen? Why?

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Whether you're interested in STEM-based projects to do at home or just need ideas for helping kids explore their world, these activities can help your family incorporate science education into your everyday life.

Here are 9 easy science activities and experiments to do with preschoolers and toddlers.

1. Observe a life cycle


science activities for preschoolers


Butterflies are fascinating to children, and not only because they're beautiful. The process of transforming from a caterpillar to a butterfly can seem pretty magical.

Butterfly kits let your child watch the process of a life cycle up close. For toddlers, just observing the caterpillar, looking closely at the chrysalis and watching the beautiful butterflies that (eventually) emerge is enough. For preschoolers, you may want to prompt them to draw what they see at each stage, or to write a few words about the process.

A book about butterflies (or this one for toddlers) can further support their interest.

Take this activity a step further by creating a butterfly garden in your backyard, or finding a local butterfly garden where you can release the butterflies.

2. Create a habitat


science activities for preschoolers


Is your child fascinated by roly polies, ladybugs or snails? Creating an insect habitat, whether in a bug box or just a corner of your backyard, is a great way to stoke that interest.

What do ladybugs eat? Where do they like to sleep? These kinds of questions can really inspire a child to think like a scientist and are super easy to answer, either though a trip to the library or a quick Google search.

3. Sink + float


science activities for preschoolers Plastic animals in bath Getty Images


This is the simplest possible experiment, but that doesn't make it any less fun. Fill a container (or the bathtub) with water, gather some objects, and ask your child which objects they think will sink, and which they think will float.

Then let them experiment! A toddler will most likely just play in the water with the objects, and you can point out that some sink to the bottom and some float on top.

For a preschooler, you may want to encourage them to categorize which items sink and which float. They can make a list, or simply divide the objects into two piles. Then you can compare the categories and talk about why some things sink and others float.

You can do "sink and float" again and again with different themes. Try using objects you find in nature or using items from the kitchen.

4. Build a marble run


science activities for preschoolers Getty Images/iStockphoto


Using simple materials such as paper towel tubes, cardboard, yarn, tape and glue, challenge your preschooler to make a ramp for a marble to go down. (Toddlers can do a version of this experiment using a rubber ball in place of a marble.) Your child can experiment to see what slopes and what materials make the marble travel the fastest!

5. Watch the weather


science activities for preschoolers


Observing the weather is something even young toddlers enjoy. Talk to them about the vocabulary for different types of weather and invite them to help you check the weather before getting dressed each day. If they enjoy this, try setting up a weather station they can be in charge of, and let them play mini meteorologist.

6. Stargaze


science activities for preschoolers Getty Images/Tetra images RF


If your goal is to ignite your child's curiosity in science and the world around them, anything outer space-related is a pretty good bet.

Try reading a book about space (this one is great!) to inspire some real-world stargazing. You can invest in a telescope if they're really into it, or you can also enjoy a special stargazing time with your child using no equipment other than a blanket for the backyard—and maybe a cozy snack or some hot cocoa.

Look up into the night sky together and talk about what you see. You don't need to be a NASA scientist or know the names for all the constellations: The moon and the big dipper are plenty fascinating for a little kid.

With regular stargazing sessions, your child will start to notice things like the phases of the moon, the movement of the moon across the sky, and the way that stars form "pictures" in the sky. They might even see a shooting star! That is the kind of experience that will not only spark their interest in science, but that will stay with them as a special memory forever.

7. Study animals


science activities for preschoolers


Have you ever known a 3-year-old who can name every player on the Yankees, or can rattle off the names of more dinosaurs than you've ever heard of? Young children can absorb so many words—why not put that skill to good use?

This science activity comes straight from the Montessori classroom and encourages young children's desire to absorb precise and rich language.

Choose an animal they're interested in and help them learn the scientific names for the body parts. It's extra fun to choose an animal your child has real life experience with, like a dog or a squirrel. You can use the Montessori parts of an animal puzzle and labels, or simply use a drawing or photograph of the animal and label the parts for your child.

8. Experiment with ice


science activities for preschoolers


Fill two ice cube trays, one with water and one with salt water. Put them in the freezer (or outside, if it's cold enough where you live!) and observe to see which freezes faster.

Freeze some small toys (like these Toob animals) in ice and ask your child for ideas on how to get them out.

There are tons of easy experiments you can do with ice whether it's winter or summer—in winter, watch things freeze outside, and in summer you can watch them melt!

9. Make a rainbow


science activities for preschoolers


Few scientific activities are simpler than making a rainbow with a prism and sunny window, which really does bring the science of rainbows alive for children. Place the prism in a basket by a window, along with a book about rainbows (and maybe rainbow-colored crayons and paper) to inspire your child to explore independently.

10. Catalog a collection


science activities for preschoolers

Does your child collect little bits and bobs everywhere? Do they come home with pockets full of rocks or feathers?

Instead of lamenting the small piles of pebbles you find all over your house, show your child how to organize their collection in a scientific way. Help them come up with a system of sorting their treasures however they like (size? color? type?) and provide a certain spot in the house or backyard where the objects belong.

11. Plant a seed


science activities for preschoolers


For toddlers and preschoolers, something as simple as planting a seed is a perfect scientific activity. To increase their interest, choose a seed or pit from something you're eating, like an apple, avocado or peach. Choose something that grows in your area and invite your child to help you plant the seed. They will be fascinated watching it sprout and grow.

12. Read science books together

There are so many wonderful science books out there for kids. Books like Ada Twist, Scientist, What Do You Do With an idea? and The Most Magnificent Thing celebrate children's curiosity and introduce the scientific method.

Of course you can also find countless books at the library on various aspects of science to encourage your child's interests, whether that's snails or volcanoes!

Whatever kind of scientific activity you choose to do, just remember to let your child lead the way. It might not turn out how you expect, but the goal is really just to encourage your child to explore with curiosity.

Learn + Play

Wouldn't it be nice to throw on mascara and instantly look well-rested? Let's set the scene: You've been up all night caring for your sick toddler and you look extremely tired. You quickly apply a waterproof, lengthening and volumizing mascara and poof—tired eyes begone. Sounds like a magic trick, right? But we have a few mascaras in our makeup bag that can do just that, mama.

These are our favorite mascaras to use that make us look well-rested and ready to conquer the day, even if we're running on just a few hours:

Tarte surfer curl mascara

Tarte surfer curl mascara

Whether you're prepping for hot yoga, a day at the beach, or just keeping up with the kiddos, Tarte's latest mascara is perfect for a mamas active lifestyle. It's a vitamin E- based mascara that delivers sweatproof, weightless volume without the clumps. Pro tip: Just do the top lashes for a more natural look.

$23

Fenty Beauty by Rihanna full frontal volume, lift + curl mascara

Fenty Beauty by Rihanna full frontal volume, lift + curl mascara

This popular mascara was designed to deliver Rihanna's full lash look, and we must admit, after three applications, our lashes turned out thicker and fuller than ever. The key to this formula is that it's paired with aflat-to-fat brush that customizes what you need. The fat side holds lots of product to quickly load and lift lashes, while the flat side defines and curls each lash.

$24

Maybelline lash sensational mascara

Maybelline lash sensational mascara

Not ready to spend loads of money on a beauty product? We hear you. That's why we love this liquid ink formula from Maybelline. It coats from all sides for full coverage with a featherlight feel. Just be careful with your application—it requires a good makeup remover to remove.

$9.99

L'Oréal voluminous lash paradise mascara

L'Or\u00e9al voluminous lash paradise mascara

If a deep black color is what you're after, this mascara will get you there in the best way possible. The soft wavy bristle brush gives lots of volume and the 200 bristles catch every lash for a full fringe effect. No, seriously—get the results you crave in only two coats!

$10.99

Stila Cosmetics magnum xxx mascara

Stila Cosmetics magnum xxx mascara

Suffer from thin, straight lashes that never seem to curl? This creamy, non-clumping formula is buildable and gives instant volume. It's also pretty cool that the blossom-shaped fiber wand is carved in a curved silhouette that dispenses just the right amount of formula on each individual lash for lots of volume.

$23

Marc Jacobs velvet noir major volume mascara

Marc Jacobs velvet noir major volume mascara

When we heard that this mascara was inspired by Marc Jacobs' first beauty memory of his mother shaving fibers from a velvet ribbon to create her own faux lashes, we knew this was something special. This mascara gives smudge-proof length and volume in three strokes or less.

$27

IT Cosmetics superhero mascara

 IT Cosmetics superhero mascara

If black mascara leaves you with raccoon eyes by the end of the day, this mascara might be your new bestie. Developed with plastic surgeons, and clinically tested, it provides both length and volume in one coat. Also, the formula contains collagen, biotin and peptides to condition your lashes as you coat.

$24

Too Faced better than sex waterproof mascara

Too Faced better than sex waterproof mascara

Without question, the original better than sex mascara lives up to its name, and the waterproof feature on this one is an added bonus. The hourglass-shaped brush was designed with extra stiff bristles to maximize the performance of this super black, collagen-fueled formula. But, once on your lashes, prepare to rub for a long time to get it off.

$25

Lancôme monsieur big mascara

Lanc\u00f4me Monsieur big mascara

This is one of Lancôme's bestselling mascaras and we get why. For starters, it's a creamy formula with a gel-like texture that does not require touch-ups. It also brings a ton of volume, without the flaking.

$25

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